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  • Writer's pictureLucas Lima

Women in Music: Mari Ribeiro

Interview series sheds light on inspiring women in the music industry





Amidst the plethora of concerts and festivals, few know that there are many people behind the scenes making it all happen. And one of the big names in this market is Mariana Ribeiro, CEO of B’Water, a company responsible for providing quick and effective solutions in the production of these events.


The entertainment market in the country grossed over R$290 billion in 2023, according to data from Aprape, and employed over 6.6 million people in the industry. Being involved in the midst of all this can be a tireless task, especially for Mari, who also teaches at On Stage Lab, the first school focused on training professionals in the showbusiness market of Latin America, with the Entertainment Management course. "It's gratifying to look back and see everything I've done. It has shaped me for all the adversities I face today. I think about the next generations and want professionals capable of working in the current market, committed, just as I feel," she reflects.


Check out the complete interview, which concludes our series of conversations with inspiring women in the music industry:


WP: You've worked on more than 2100 shows in your career. What do you believe was crucial for not only entering the music market but reaching this number and being recognized as one of the great professionals in the market?

Mari: Without a doubt, from the beginning, I decided not to let the opportunity slip away. As soon as I realized it was what I wanted, I fixed in my mind that I would do everything to achieve my goal. Not only believing in myself, but also paying attention and learning from the people I was lucky and honored to share that initial moment with, were extremely generous, teaching me incredibly. I chased after it, I strived, I didn't skip steps, I didn't cut corners. From the start, I decided to follow step by step to get where I wanted. This method made me go from being just a producer at a concert venue to becoming a stage manager, a woman in a predominantly male environment, which continues to be the case today, although at that time it was almost exclusively male.


I understood the mindset of the stagehand, of the person who is there pushing the box, so that one day I could lead a project and understand the difficulties of each area. I learned gradually, without skipping steps, like someone who decides to take a driving course to learn to drive, instead of picking up someone else's bad habits. I decided to build my own habits. That was one of the determining factors. I always knew how to express my opinion, I never kept quiet in complicated situations. I could be outvoted, but I never stopped expressing my opinion, suggesting alternatives. I didn't stop learning, specializing, and seeking other alternatives. Truly listening is essential. When we listen with the eyes of the soul, we absorb the content and take it with us forever.


WP: If you were to mention a special moment in your career, what would it be?

Mari: I am extremely privileged. I fought hard to achieve this privilege because I believe that luck accompanies us at various moments in life, but it also accompanies those who seek opportunities. A special moment in my career was continuing to work during my two pregnancies, with Ian and Livy. Ian was six to seven months old when I worked at Rock in Rio in 2001. It was incredible to see my body changing while I could perform my professional duties, preparing myself at the same time to become a mother for the first time.


Livy came during a wonderful phase of my life, at five or six months of gestation, while I was working at Free Jazz, which later became the TIM Festival. I understood that I could reconcile motherhood and career. I didn't have to give up being a mother to build a solid career, nor give up my career because I was becoming a mother. It is possible to do both, and that is very meaningful to me. Even today, I hear people questioning whether a woman can be chosen for a position out of fear of pregnancy, but that shouldn't be an obstacle. Pregnancy is not an illness; on the contrary, it brings even more motivation. Of course, there are exceptions, women who face complicated pregnancies. But for me, realizing that I could change, become a mother, and continue working was wonderful.


WP: Today you are the CEO of B’Water. What exactly does B’Water do within the music industry?

Mari: B'Water is incredible! It's more than just an agency; it's like a toolbox for experience marketing. Currently, B'Water operates in various ways: developing its own projects, offering consultancy for the growth of products such as concerts, artists, festivals, and eSports competitions. We operate in various areas, from event production to management. Many companies hire us for this purpose, not only final clients but also other agencies. We don't see other agencies as competitors; on the contrary, we adapt to the environment in which we are working.


If we are serving another agency, we align ourselves with their values and goals, ensuring the satisfaction of the end customer. We offer a flexible approach, adjusting to the specific needs of each project. It's not just about showcasing our brand, but being genuine in our actions. We believe that authenticity is crucial for maintaining long-term relationships.


Our goal is to bring innovative proposals to the market, providing tailored solutions for each client. Why spend resources on a complete structure for a one-off event? Come talk to us at B'Water, and we'll find a suitable solution for your needs. What excites me the most is that B'Water is a true storyteller, from its essence to its structure.


WP: We have seen the number of Brazilian festivals grow more and more. How do you see the production and organization of these festivals?

Mari: I believe there have been significant improvements, but we still have a long way to go. Since the 90s, I have observed that we learn from our mistakes and seek to improve with each event. There has been progress in professionalization, regulations, and legislation, but there are still gaps to be filled.


There is a lack of a deeper and more personalized management vision for each type of festival. It's not just about structure; it's necessary to understand the profile of the audience, their habits, preferences, and behaviors. Building an operation without taking these aspects into account is ineffective. People don't adapt to something that is not suitable for them.

Each festival segment has its peculiarities. We cannot apply a generic approach. For example, the audience of a rock festival is not the same as that of an electronic music festival. We need to recognize and respect these differences to provide a positive experience for participants.


I am committed to discussing and seeking ways to improve the audience experience. I believe that by recognizing these gaps and working to fill them, we can raise the quality of events and provide more rewarding experiences for everyone involved.


WP: Access to culture, which of course includes concerts, is still very exclusionary due to high ticket prices. Do you believe there is a solution to this problem?

Mari: Well, we need to divide it into two moments, right? When it comes to international shows and events, we're dealing with a huge tax burden and high exchange costs. Breaking even is essential. Tickets tend to be expensive because promoters already consider the half-price tickets, which often serve as the financial balance point.


Now, for national events, although the tax burden is high, it's not as heavy as for international ones. We have laws like the half-price ticket law, which is positive, but it can burden promoters. Revenue is fully taxed, even with discounts, limiting the flexibility to adjust prices due to the high risk involved.


When it comes to ticket sales, many see it as a big revenue, but it's actually a big uncertainty. Even when betting on renowned artists, there's always a risk of loss. It's common to see big international names struggling with ticket sales.


We need more suitable legislation for the entertainment market, not just regarding tickets but also for event operation and structure. Currently, we face obstacles from hiring suppliers to setting up structures, which increases costs. Facilitating access to tax incentives would also be crucial to make events more accessible and financially viable.


WP: We've been talking about the role of women in the music industry. How have you seen this issue up close?

Mari: We're starting to occupy more space, which makes me happy. I'm still one of the few women in boardrooms, especially in management positions. Before, I didn't notice it as much, but now I've been noticing it more. It seems like it's bothering more, you know? You're there in a room with twenty men, and suddenly, the nearest woman is taking care of the minutes, as if she were just a secretary. Not that the role of secretary isn't important; actually, for smart people, we know that the secretary is often more important than the director. But it's about the position, understand? I think we're improving, we're moving towards changing this situation, but there's still a long way to go. We can't be hypocrites.


WP: You've been a music professional since 1994. What do you see that has changed positively since then?

Mari: What has changed mainly is the format of this delivery. The big names haven't changed much, and the way of negotiating has changed little - which is a pity because there are some areas that we need to improve a lot. But the delivery itself has changed. Conceptually, artists are more open to seeing the concert as a great entertainment experience. The audience is increasingly surprised by the deliveries, surprises, and novelties during the show.


Some interventions are extremely exaggerated and could be avoided most of the time. There are very megalomaniac things. For example, U2's 360 tour had so many technological elements that you hardly paid attention to the band. Although I'm an unconditional fan of U2 and loved the POPART tour, I thought the 360 tour went a bit overboard. I don't see these exaggerations as mistakes but as adjustments. With the advancement of technology and the desire to enchant the audience, it's natural to want to include more and more elements. Gradually, we're getting to more interesting formats.


WP: To conclude, what advice would you give to those who want to enter the music market, especially in the area of concerts and festivals?

Mari: Don't miss any opportunity. If the train is stopped at the station, jump on it; don't waste time. Let it depart and keep moving forward, cabin by cabin, wagon by wagon. Don't try to reach the top quickly because it's not sustainable. The market isn't easy; it's challenging. It's still very closed, with lots of referrals from "friends of friends," but there's room for fresh blood!


Don't be hesitant; act! Truly listen and don't stop questioning. Always ask because no question is stupid. Questioning is important to provoke thoughts and encourage different perspectives.


WePlay is a Brazilian concert streaming platform that believes in the diversity of national music and the importance of information and credits for artists. Learn more about the service at weplaymusic.tv.br.


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