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Juanes: The Billboard Cover Story

Juanes: The Billboard Cover Story

A week had passed since Colombian star

In Juanes' case, Twitter has increasingly evolved into a sophisticated marketing tool that integrates his followers into his projects in unprecedented ways. Still, save for the occasional news update -- on new videos or tracks, say -- Juanes' Twitter account is handled by Juanes alone.

This has sometimes placed him in hot water. In February, he jokingly tweeted that he had Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's BlackBerry Messenger PIN, with which anyone could reach Chavez through the instant-messaging service.

"Here it goes: H1J0D3PU7A," Juanes tweeted, which roughly spells out "son of a whore," a common Latin American insult. The tweet unleashed a maelstrom of commentary, positive and negative, which Juanes initially confronted by saying it was only a joke. But finally, he sent an exasperated follow-up: "I say whatever I want on my Twitter," he wrote. "I speak with you guys like I do with my friends at home and on the street and I'm not going to change that."

"I've learned how to listen to everything calmly," he says nearly a year later. "Everyone is tossing something out there. But getting feedback from your fans is fundamental."

Compared with Juanes' Twitter account, his Facebook page is less personal, more promotion-driven. "The label focuses on developing platforms to execute retail and direct-to-consumer campaigns," Universal Music Latin Entertainment director of product development Horacio Rodriguez says, while Juanes concentrates "on communicating these to his fans and keeping the conversation alive."

"And Juanes always breaks news," Rodriguez adds. "That's why his [social network accounts] do so well."

They're now also intrinsic in the final product. The cover art of "P.A.R.C.E." is a picture of Juanes that appears to be made up of tiny dots. But they're actually a montage of fan images, the result of a campaign borne out of the album's title -- "parce" -- which is Colombian slang for "friend" and a term Juanes uses frequently in everyday conversation.

Juanes initiated the concept with a Twitter message he sent in early October. In a week, Rodriguez says, "we had over 50,000 images from 93 different countries." The first 5,000 of those made it onto the cover, and all the others are part of a second photo that's posted on a "fan wall" at Juanes' official website. There, fans can still upload their pictures in exchange for a code that allows them to look for their photograph within the image.

Those fan connections enable Universal to build a targeted mailing list to promote its artists' activities and sell everything from albums to merchandise -- a capability particularly valuable now that Juanes' deal with Universal not only encompasses a publishing agreement but also a profit-sharing pact that his manager Martinez says gives the label 10% of all sponsorship and merchandising revenue.

But Universal is negotiating with individual markets to include the sale of music and other exclusive content as part of a ticket purchase. In the United States, for example, ticket buyers will have the option to buy a digital download of Juanes' album after they purchase their concert tickets.

In addition, Kolm says, throughout the tour Universal will film and record new content to include in future editions of the album.
"It's a new way of doing business," Martinez says, explaining that the revenue share extends to sponsors obtained both by management and the label. And because Juanes is a global artist, Martinez says, it's often more lucrative to strike separate deals in each country or territory, as opposed to developing a major deal for an entire continent.

With the release of "P.A.R.C.E.," for example, deals included a sponsorship with beer company Bavaria in Colombia and with AT&T for the United States and Puerto Rico.

The AT&T campaign in particular, which was brokered by Universal Music Latino, is massive and encompasses both the album release and the U.S. leg of Juanes' tour, titled AT&T Presents Juanes P.A.R.C.E. Tour.

Album-wise, the campaign has afforded Juanes an unprecedented TV presence through a series of TV ads for a new Windows 7 phone that used the single "Y No Regresas" and featured Juanes himself. The spots began airing Nov. 21 on Spanish-language TV nationwide and run through Feb. 28.

A second leg of the campaign to promote AT&T's new digital platform Uverse will feature new single "Regalito," as will a Valentine's Day campaign. AT&T is also the sponsor behind a Juanes special filmed during an album launch party and live show that took place Dec. 8 at New York's Irving Plaza venue. The special will air later this year and will then be accessible exclusively on Uverse through 2011.

"It's the biggest television presence Juanes has had for any album release," Universal Music Latino managing director Luis Estrada says. "It's hard to think of any other Latin act that's had so many simultaneous campaigns running."

As presenting sponsor of the tour, AT&T will also air promotional spots for the tour on Spanish-language TV and host promotions and activities in all tour markets.

The stint of mostly arenas kicks off March 10 at the WAMU Theater in Seattle and winds down through the West Coast and Texas before hitting New York's Madison Square Garden on April 8, then wrapping at Miami's American Airlines Arena on April 15.

Although details of the tour's international legs are still in flux, Juanes will likely continue to Spain, then Mexico and the remainder of Latin America in July, beginning with Argentina. A second U.S. leg is planned for the fall.

With 22 dates confirmed as of press time, the U.S. leg parallels Juanes' 24-city trek in 2008 -- a sign of Juanes' status as one of only perhaps a dozen Latin artists who can play nearly two-dozen major U.S. shows in six weeks. Still, production has been scaled back since 2008 to ease travel costs and ticket prices lowered to accommodate the distressed economy -- at Juanes' insistence, pricing in many cities will go as low as $20.

But the demand's still out there. For example, promoter Lazaro Megret, CEO of Latino Events in Texas, launched a presale for shows in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston without any publicity other than the information on Juanes' social sites and the awareness created from the album release campaign, which includes national AT&T TV spots.

"We've sold 25% more than we did when we put the last tour on sale, with full-fledged publicity," Megret says.

AEG Live, which is presenting four shows -- Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Las Vegas -- will help promote with a series of unique social network actions. These include a "Follow Juanes & He'll Follow You" Twitter contest in which one fan will be chosen to be followed by the artist and will win a trip and tickets to the Los Angeles show. A second Facebook promotion will ask one Juanes trivia question per day on his Facebook page, with a winner selected in each market to see the show.

"In terms of touring, there's nothing more important for an artist than developing his social network, because it really connects you with your fans," AEG Live/Goldenvoice VP of Latin talent Rebeca Leon says. "So we're trying to engage those fans with very specialized promotions that lead to grow fan bases even more and translate to ticket sales."

"An artist like Juanes is easier to promote today," Universal CEO Lopez adds, "because he has become -- in a natural fashion and through social networks -- his best promoter, and has managed to achieve great communication with his followers."