Rock en Espanol acts score on the road, despite their absence on radio and the charts.
As the live performance industry worries about the health of U.S. Latin concerts, several veteran rock en Espanol bands are touring at a brisk clip, playing sold-out shows nationwide-even though their music isn't on the radio, is rarely found on the charts and has few tour sponsors to subsidize costs.
Current acts on the road include Argentine trio Enanitos Verdes, currently in the midst of a 25-date theater/club tour, including many House of Blues and Fillmore locations; Spanish rocker Enrique Bunbury, who begins a 14-date tour on Nov. 17; Mexican alt-rock band Cafe Tacvba, which just finished 13 U.S. dates; and Spanish pop-rock group Hombres G, which is slated to tour the United States in November.
While all of these acts came to prominence in the '80s and '90s, other, newer acts are following suit.
It's not a negligible circuit. Most of Enanitos Verdes' dates are held at 1,000- to 2,000-capacity venues, including two sold-out shows at the 1,800-capacity House of Blues in Anaheim, Calif. With HOB tickets averaging $40-$45, it's a win-win for everyone, including the fans.
"There are showcases by alternative acts everywhere in the country," Live Nation VP of Latin programming Manuel Moran says. "We constantly see new groups presenting music, and every year there are between 15 and 20 tours, with 20-25 dates each. That makes me think there's an incredibly large group of people working in this genre."
A lot of the work is under the radar. Because these groups aren't on the charts and often don't have labels -- as is the case with Enanitos Verdes -- many sponsors aren't aware of their pull.
And yet, they're able to sell out tours in the United States every year, sometimes twice a year. At a place like HOB, Enanitos Verdes' manager Juan Carlos Mendiry says, there isn't room for LED screens or fancy props.
"It's just us: rock'n'roll," he says, although costs for such items as props will increase for venues like the arenas or stadiums the group can play in Latin America.
Keeping costs down, promoter John Frias says, ensures that the artist and the promoter both make money, even without a sponsor and even after paying marketing costs.
As for the marketing, Frias does whatever he needs to, pushing heavily online and on social sites, but relying primarily on radio. Even if stations don't play the act in their rotation, if the music is remotely compatible, Frias will buy advertising. If there isn't any radio or TV, he'll do grass-roots marketing at a club and event level.
But the groups seem to have irresistible appeal. For example, the recent Reventon Superestrella at the 14,000-seat Staples Center in Los Angeles -- a multi-act show put together by KSSE (Superestrella), the one major radio station that supports the genre-sold out in just four hours.
Even newer bands like Zoe and La Vida Boheme are starting to make inroads. "It's easier for an alternative group to gain a following than a pop group," Live Nation's Moran says. "With pop acts, you need to see and hear them many times to believe in them. See an alternative act a single time, and you can become a fan. We're doing well with them. This division is growing noticeably, thanks in large part to rock en Espanol acts."