Latin Festival Organizers Talk 2020 Headliners, Growing the Scene & Profitability at Billboard Latin Music Week

Frank Micelotta/Billboard/PictureGroup
Damon Rey, Jeremy Norkin, Max Wagner, Nelson Albareda, Niria Leon, Pablo Pou and Dave Brooks attend the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Week on April 23, 2019 in Las Vegas.

Women will be on top of Latin festival lineups in 2020 according to Goldenvoice & AEG Presents' head of Latin talent Niria Leon.   

Leon fielded the question about next year's headliners from Billboard’s senior correspondent for touring and live entertainment Dave Brooks on Tuesday (April 23) at Billboard’s Latin Music Week in Las Vegas.   

"It is going to be women," said Leon to thunderous applause during the Beyond Translation: Latin Music Festivals on Their Own Terms Panel. "It is going to be the the Anittas, the Rosalias, the Karol Gs of the world."   

With RosalĂ­a’s breakout performance at this year’s Coachella, Anitta’s sensational new album released earlier this month and Karol G’s rising star it seems like a reasonable claim that these women and others in the Latin genre have earned larger font sizes on lineup posters.

Dominican Festival producer Pablo Pau of PAV Events added during the panel that after complex production setups, font size and set times are two of the hardest aspects of his job.

"The billing of the lineup can be the most difficult" part of putting together a festival, Pau said who put on Electric Paradise that hosted Cardi B and J Balvin in 2018. "Everyone wants to play at the same time, the best time. Everyone wants their name higher on the bill."

Where an artist lands on a poster "is a negotiation like everything we do," said panelist and UTA agent Jeremy Norkin. "Obviously, we want the best that we can get for our artists, but these are also festivals that we work with regularly and it is a relationship business."

Norkin added that it is really important to artists, but there are creative ways to get around it such as placing names side by side, separating the lineups by days and more.

This year has been a triumphant year for larger, more established festivals booking Latin artists at the top of their bills, while microfestivals have been introducing audiences to up and coming acts that are helping to grow the Latin scene in the United States.

"It is very difficult for startup festivals to get big names. As the festival grows, big names want to go," said panelist and Loud and Live's Nelson Albareda on Tuesday. "There are also plenty of artists who would show up for near nothing to have that platform because it becomes a platform for exposure for their music."

"In the last couple of years, we have taken it upon ourselves to try and grow the market in Chicago," said panelist and Ruido Fest & Metronome's Max Wagner, adding that half of his festival lineup are new artists. "We want [playing the festival] to be something that the artists strive to do. I am a big believer in not fighting over a piece of the pie. Make the pie big and we all eat. We’ll all have opportunities."

"We book with passion. We book what we could like to see," says Leon of Goldenvoice's new crop of microfestivals in Long Beach, California that have succeeded in the Queen Mary Park.

Smaller niche festivals have a symbiotic relationship with emerging artists, but even with the cooperation of local artists it can be hard to get a new festival to succeed.

When asked if these microfestivals make money, Damon Rey, who books the three-year-old Los Dells festival in Wisconsin, replied, "The reality of producing a festival is that there is a 99 percent chance you’re going to lose money in your first year. I shouldn’t say lose, I should say invest money because the plan is to invest in a long-term brand. It is similar to being an artist. It takes a lot of effort and capital to launch an artist’s career."

Panelists agreed that a lot of money go into production, marketing and the high cost of good talent.

"Realistically, you're going to lose money for several years and as long as it is going in the right direction you can continue and hope that the festival reaches the black and becomes profitable," added Rey.

Festivals 2019