Argentina’s emerging Coldplay dollar

While inflation is increasing, several parallel markets of dollar exchange have emerged in Argentina. In addition to the official dollar or the Blue dollar, an unprecedented phenomenon has been ongoing for weeks: the emergence of the Coldplay dollar.

Samia Tawil

By Samia Tawil08 décembre 2022

The Coldplay dollar refers to the exchange rate that has officially applied since 14 October 2022 to tickets for Coldplay's ten concerts in Buenos Aires (Shutterstock)

As flights to Argentina have resumed, the country is experiencing an unprecedented emergence of domestic tourism or from neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Brazil and Bolivia. Building on this observation, the capital is multiplying events of scale, answering the need for tourism, for too long slowed down, in need of lightness and entertainment. The huge Lollapalooza festival at the Hippodrome de San Isidro in the province of Buenos Aires almost matched the attendance of the giant Rock in Rio, and far surpassed North American festivals such as Burning Man. A form of entertainment that is measured in dollars. But which dollar?



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The birth of the Coldplay dollar

The Lollapalooza festival at the Hippodrome de San Isidro in the province of Buenos Aires (Clarìn)

For a while now, several parallel markets of dollar exchange have emerged in Argentina. In addition to the official dollar or the Blue dollar, which is a form of disguised black market, a new phenomenon has been occurring for a few weeks: the emergence of the Coldplay dollar. This British pop-rock band has taken the capital by storm with an ambitious series of ten concerts spread over two weeks at the Monumental Stadium. With 61,000 seats per night, no less than 600,000 people gathered to sing along to the famous hooks of the song "Sky full of stars" or the chorus of the airy "Paradise". This phenomenon, which has set the region abuzz, has even created a whole parallel economy around these shows, based on a dollar adjusted to the exchange rate required by the production of international groups. The Coldplay dollar is the exchange rate that has been officially applied since October 14, 2022 to tickets for Coldplay concerts, as well as for other international artists. With the peso now worth around R$200 to US$1, an additional 30% must be added. The reason: to maintain Argentina's attractiveness to international productions despite the devaluation of the peso.  The arrival of world stars of Hispanic or Latin music also encourages this trend. This is the case of Ricky Martin who arrived in force for three dates at 16,000 seats per night, at the end of November at the Movistar Arena.

The British pop-rock band has taken the capital by storm and is causing a stir in the region, even creating a whole parallel economy around its shows (Original TrigoGerardi)

New tourism that rejuvenates local economy

The launch of two collector Converse models in the colours of the Gay Pride was a great success in the country's capital (Samia Tawil)

It seems that the country had foreseen the rise of these shows, considering the beneficial effects on luxury trade in the stores of the Soho district. For the past two weeks, queues have formed in front of stores, encouraged by advertising campaigns targeting a young public that does not shy away from spending money. And everything is a pretext for promotion: Black Friday at Jackie Smith or a DJette in the store for the launch of two models of Converse collectors in the colors of the Gay Pride, the neighborhood is sizzling. The leather goods manufacturer Prüne is also emulating a younger population, thanks to its outlet on Gurruchaga Street, or Lacoste, which is expanding its target clientele, not only thanks to the influx of music-loving tourists looking to spend money, but also following the establishment of a factory in San Juan in 2011. The brand takes advantage of its strategic position to leverage its partnership with Peruvian cotton producers. Its extensive line of pants and other clothing made of Pima cotton allows Lacoste to charge more affordable prices in Argentina than in Europe. For some time now, the brand has been focusing its production on the regional specificities of its production centers. In its last management report, Lacoste said: "This period (...) has reminded us of the urgency of finding collective responses to the major social and environmental challenges of our time (...) This is why we have selected four countries from which the spinners working for Lacoste source exclusively: the United States, Australia, Peru and Turkey. In these four countries, Lacoste is pursuing its ambition to get closer to traceability at the ultimate level: the cotton field (...) Concerning our organic cotton, it only comes from Peru or Turkey, countries that ban the cultivation of GMO cotton."

Peruvian cotton allows Lacoste to offer more affordable prices in Argentina than in Europe (Shutterstock)

As for the level of household spending, the near impossibility of importing foreign currency encourages short-termism. There is no question of waiting for the next vacation in the United States to get dollars out of the safe. The high cost of flights and the difference in living standards - not to mention the disadvantage of the Turista dollar in overcharging the credit cards of Argentines traveling abroad - leads to the desire for a different, more immediate type of escape. Nor does the gradual devaluation of the peso encourage savings. Quite the contrary. The idea is to spend what is available now, before it is worthless. A lesson in practical philosophy - admittedly, somewhat dictated by circumstances - of Horace's famous Carpe diem.

What about culture?

To this effervescence is added the attraction of large exhibitions of federative artists such as Banksy or Frida Kahlo. These are exhibitions that are talked about less for the originality of their content than for the enthusiasm generated by the fame of the artists in question. These are "easy", commercial exhibitions that do not always support the message promoted by the artist, like the current exhibition entitled "Banksy: Genius or Vandal?", which prides itself on being unauthorized, thereby surfing on the illusion of subversion. Nevertheless, they represent additional reasons for visitors to extend their stay in the capital, which is becoming the epicenter of a current event that is more pop than cultural, expanding the desire to embrace the present.

The exhibition entitled "Banksy: Genius or Vandal?" is currently on display in Buenos Aires (Banksy Expo Argentina)

Guillermo Oliveto, a consumer specialist and columnist for La Nación, sees the post-pandemic context as decisive in this phenomenon, which he says is driven by a life impulse: "As opposed to what psychiatrist José Eduardo Abadi called the death impulse, referring to confinement, this is a revenge of life. Human beings covet what they lack (...). People want to escape, whether it's by going on a three-day vacation or spending three hours at a concert, even if it doesn't make sense from a rational point of view to pay in twelve-month settlements for a three-hour concert. But from an emotional point of view, it's understandable given the context."

It should be noted that in the current economic climate, only 30% of the Argentine population can really afford to attend this type of show. Nevertheless, it is a high percentage of the population that rushes from one event to another, more by curiosity than by artistic interest. More by desire to be part of it than by passion for the group... Coldplay becomes the vector of a collective and transgenerational liberation.

Can we then blame these fervent visitors for falling into the trap of a gregarious circuit? Does the "Coldplay-sales, luxury-stores, exhibition-tourist " route harm culture by this substitution to trade? From Ricky Martin to Frida Kahlo, the federative ambition has turned into demagogy. But one can also see the affirmation of the Argentine people's need to live, despite the economic and political obstacles. 

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