The concert and radio promoter expands the reach of SBS' live division.
Lucas Pina thinks big. Since taking over as senior VP of SBS Entertainment-the live entertainment division of Spanish Broadcasting System-three years ago, he has been creating one-of-a-kind events, including Puerto Rico's Music Electronic Fest, the island's first electronica mega-concert; Los Angeles' wildly popular urban Latin festival Calibash; and, on Sept. 30, El Megaton Mundial de Polito Vega, the first Latin show at New York's Citi Field, featuring more than 20 acts and celebrating New York radio programmer/DJ Polito Vega.
As head of the live event division at major Spanish-language radio network SBS, much of Pina's work is intrinsically linked with that broadcast medium. Although SBS has a TV network and portal LaMusica.com, its backbone is its radio operation, and much of Pina's work is intrinsically linked with the medium. He has advanced his firm beyond other Latin radio companies by creating unique live events, forging strategic alliances with AEG Live and Live Nation, launching a new management division and generating concert grosses of more than $42 million, with nearly 700,000 tickets sold in the past three years.
A native of Colombia, Pina came to the United States in 1992, started working as a radio and concert promoter "from the ground up" and went on to head promotion at various Latin labels. He joined SBS in 2003 as head of artist relations and, supported by the "vision" of CEO Raul Alarcon Jr., grew his department. "We have radio, TV, access to artists, sponsors and online and interactive," Pina says. "We are a unique, 360 platform."
Billboard: While there has always been radio sponsorship of concerts, there's been some skepticism about a radio firm actually producing and promoting live shows. What exactly does SBS bring to the table in this regard?
Pina: Knowledge of the market. We also treat our audience with respect in a devastated economy by offering low-priced tickets. For example, when Ricardo Arjona played in Puerto Rico, our cheapest ticket was $15 and our most expensive seat was $99. Same thing in Miami. We do make money, but perhaps not as much as others would want. Sometimes our percentage is lower, but the events are sold out. Because we understand the market, we know what's out there and what's viable. It's not so much about lowering ticket prices, but scaling shows in a different way so there's equal opportunity to attend.
You claim your major strength is a knowledge of Latin culture in America. How would you describe the U.S. Hispanic music market?
On one hand, we have a more homogenous, third-generation marketplace and, overwhelmingly, we're living in a rhythmic era. We're also entertaining a heterogeneous Latin marketplace that consumes artists who, today, are between 40 and 50 years old. These are the artists our audience grew up listening to, and they're very different from each other.
As a result, we're trying to put together multi-act events in which we can appeal to all markets. The problem is, the touring market today is reduced to 20 artists. Because labels don't have the resources to develop new acts, promoters and live event producers now depend on a few names that bring revenue. That's why we're so keen on this multi-act show platform-to develop acts. We put together established names with developing names.
The U.S. Latin touring industry has a couple of strong tours out right now: Gigant3s-with Marc Anthony, Marco Antonio SolÃis and Chayanne-and Enrique Iglesias/Jennifer Lopez. Yet, everyone seems to indicate that it's been a difficult year for most other Latin tours. Is that true?
The market is very complicated, precisely because there's [a small amount of] content and, what little there is, is expensive. Managers are asking for sums of money that are impossible to reconcile with reality. The problem in the U.S. is very simple: We're overpaying our Latin acts. The promoters are in competition, and the only one who truly benefits is the artist.
One of your events featuring multiple acts is the upcoming El Megaton de Polito Vega at New York's Citi Field. What's the significance of this particular show?
It's an event we're co-producing with Felix Cabrera in New York, and it features countless genres: pop, reggaeton, bachata, merengue. It's the first time a New York stadium hosts a lineup like this, bringing together all of the Latins in New York. New York is the city everyone aspires to arrive at when they set foot in the U.S., and El Megaton is all about that, compounded with [programmer] Polito Vega's personality. There is a community of 3.8 million Latins in New York City who deserve an event like this, to show the world how big the community is.
What other new music projects are you working on?
The Calibash world tour-it's an offshoot of Calibash, a successful, multi-act urban show we've held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the past five years that's always been a sellout. The Calibash world tour will feature 21 reggaeton acts, with over 50 dates in more than 15 countries.
People claim that you have an edge when it comes to bidding for shows because you have a big radio network backing you up. What is your response to that?
[All promoters have] radio. Everyone has TV. Everyone has the same resources. All promoters have to present a marketing plan to their artists. We have to do that, just like anyone else. Radio's objective is to get an audience, while my objective is to get you out of your house. My use of radio depends on the show. The difference is, we are also experts in producing concerts. Our expertise is live entertainment and management because we come from that world.
The secret of this business lies in knowing what the audience wants. The reason I can break into a market is simply that there's a need for new experiences, and we provide that.
Can you give an example?
The Mega Electronic Fest in Puerto Rico, which is an electronica and dance music festival. We launched the event in 2010, and it's totally youth-focused. We did it in Puerto Rico because, unlike the U.S., it's a young Latin demographic that's not disparate. An event like this, specifically geared for a youth audience, didn't exist.
Puerto Rico has a steady stream of major shows, and audiences are demanding when it comes to live entertainment. We fulfilled the requirements of the biggest DJs in the world-Tiesto, Deadmau5, Martin Solveig-and developed an entire performance platform around them filled with special effects and ambience, or what I call "the magic" of an event. We created an experience that showed we are at the forefront of what young audiences today look for.
Can you take some risks that others cannot pursue because SBS is a multimedia company?
It's more complicated than that, because when you work for a multimedia company you have to be far more careful. We have a captive audience that believes in us, so when we do a major event, we have to deliver. We can deliver because we have a team of people who are experts in concert promoting, marketing, online. We do everything in-house, and that lets us develop our brand. Audiences know we put together shows that are affordable, have high production values, take place on time and feature top acts from every genre. Because we focus on multi-act shows, we can do all kinds of events.