Several of the country's biggest acts refuse to play in a row over billing...

Several of BRAZIL’s biggest bands are boycotting the ROCK IN RIO festival in protest at less-popular acts from BRITAIN and AMERICA getting higher bill placings.

The massive six-day festival, which kicks off tomorrow (January 12), is spread over two weekends and is expected to attract between 1.5 and two million music fans to see headliners REM, Guns N’Roses, *N Sync, Iron Maiden, Sting and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But Brazilian acts O Rappa, Skank, Charlie Brown Jr, Jota Quest, Cidade Negra and Raimundos have refused to play.

Skank sold around 700,000 copies of their last album ‘Maquinarama’ and Jota Quest shifted half a million copies of their last record, ‘Oxigenio’. Meanwhile those bands’ Sony labelmates Oasis – who are second-top of the Main Stage bill on Sunday night (January 14) – sold less than 100,000 copies of ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’ in Brazil.

Similarly, Charlie Brown Jr have sold more than a million albums in their career, while Foo Fighters, who are second-top of the bill on Saturday (January 13), have sold less than 500,000 in Brazil.

The discrepancies are not only in the rock arena.

The Brazilian pop group Sandy & Junior sold more than a million copies of their last album, outstripping Britney Spears, whose ‘Oops…I Did It Again’ sold less than quarter of a million, and *N Sync, whose last album sold 150,000. Yet both US pop acts are above Sandy & Junior on the bill on January 18.

NME.COM is already out in Rio, where the excitement is building as REM, Beck and the Foo Fighters arrive for the first press events today (Thursday, January 11).

The climate has been typically unpredictable for a festival – from searing 38-degrees heat to torrential downpours.

We will be bringing you daily updates throughout the weekend, with the most up-to-date news, reviews and gossip, plus an exclusive picture gallery of all the action on Monday.

So click back regularly for our on-the-spot coverage of the first big festival of the 2001.