In a ground-breaking artist-development move, AEG Live will bankroll the touring efforts of Columbia artist Robi Draco Rosa in exchange for exclusive representation in the United States and Latin Amer

In a ground-breaking artist-development move, AEG Live will bankroll the touring efforts of Columbia artist Robi Draco Rosa in exchange for exclusive representation in the United States and Latin America.

The deal, which covers two albums and subsequent tours, provides support for performances and showcases by Rosa, whose album "Mad Love" is due March 30. The agreement guarantees that Rosa will tour for his next album as well. In return for investing in Rosa's career, AEG participates financially in all tour-related activities, including performance CDs and DVDs, TV specials, live broadcasts and merchandise.

The first AEG-produced showcases were Feb. 18-19 at the El Rey in Los Angeles. Showcases will also be held Feb. 24-25 at the Supper Club in New York.

The deal is designed to leave the tour support to those that know touring, freeing up label dollars to market the act in other ways. "We're putting up what would traditionally be record-company tour support," explains Randy Phillips, chairman of AEG Live. He says his company is essentially "buying an option to be involved with Robi."

"AEG believes in long-term careers and artist development, and after they heard [Rosa's] music, they wanted to become part of it," says Ricardo Cordero, Rosa's manager at Phantom Vox. "For Columbia, this is gravy. They can allocate their financial investment to other sources other than spending a lot of money on tour support."

Sources say AEG is investing more than $1 million in Rosa during the first year. Phillips would not confirm this figure.

In addition to exclusive promoter rights in the Americas, AEG Live will have right of refusal to promote Rosa in other territories, Cordero says.

The deal was put together by AEG senior VPs Debra Rathwell and Susan Rosenbluth, as well as Phillips, Cordero and Rob Light, Rosa's agent at Creative Artists Agency.

An obvious question in analyzing the deal is: Why Robi Draco Rosa? At 34, he is no newcomer. In addition to four solo releases on Sony Discos, he is known for fronting the band Maggie's Dream in the early '90s, as well as writing and producing such hits as "Living La Vida Loca" for Ricky Martin, who once sang alongside Rosa in the group Menudo. Rosa's top-selling record is 1996's "Vagabundo," which sold 21,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"What makes this artist attractive to us is he has two markets to go to, the Latin base and the pop market," Phillips says. "[We all] agree that if there is an act worth betting on to break through the current morass at radio and retail, it's Robi."

The deal is similar to a previously announced AEG Live partnership with Queen Latifah, wherein AEG and its subsidiary Creative Battery partner directly with the artist for a variety of record projects, live performances and other opportunities (Billboard, Oct. 11, 2003).

"The difference in the Queen Latifah deal [is that AEG is] partnering in all aspects of her career," Phillips says, adding that Queen Latifah was unsigned at the time, while Rosa has a current label contract.