Calibash Festival Heads to Las Vegas With 14 Trucks, 21 Latin Urban Acts & Plenty of Risk (Q&A)

Courtesy of SBS Entertainment
Lucas Pina

"Competition is fierce," says SBS Entertainment SVP Lucas Piña. "And everything here is at a higher level."

Calibash the annual mega Latin urban music festival put together by Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS), had its 10th anniversary bash Los Angeles this past weekend, a major accomplishment for a Latin subgenre many thought would be a passing fad. 

Instead, reggaetón and “urban” Latin music -- the term used to identify anything that includes rap, hip hop, R&B or reggaetón in the Latin realm -- now dominate Billboard’s Latin charts. 

And so successful has the Calibash brand become, that this year a reprise concert will be staged in Las Vegas tonight (Jan 26).

A roster of 21 artists, including Nicky Jam, Ricky Martin, Don Omar, Wisin, Farruko, Plan B and Gente de Zona will perform at the new T-Mobile Arena, in what will be the second Latin show (the first was the Latin Grammys last November) to take place at the venue. 

We caught up with Lucas Piña, SVP of SBS Entertainment, hours before the show.

Calibash was born in Los Angeles in September, tied to Mexican independence. Why now in January and why in Vegas? 

We thought a massive urban show was ideal to kick off the year in Los Angeles. And we also decided to go to Las Vegas because we wanted to debunk that urban myth that Vegas can only successfully host Latin shows in September. A lot of people have unsuccessfully tried to break that pattern, but it’s been hard to do, especially in the strip. So we approached MGM with a plan to bring the Calibash 10-year anniversary to the biggest arena, T-Mobile. The capacity in the 360 format we have planned is 20,000 people. 

It’s a risk. Why take it?

Vegas is the capital of live entertainment. I wanted to prove to people in Las Vegas that Latins do support good content. We’re a little marginalized and sometimes people are afraid to compete with the general market. Our mentality is, the Latin community wants a good show. That's’ what we’re here for. That’s why we staged a concert at Marlins Stadium in Miami [in 2016]. We feel there’s room to have more Latin shows in Vegas more months of the year. 

What’s the difference between Calibash Vegas and Calibash Los Angeles? 

Vegas is much harder. It’s the only city where nearly 470,000 tickets are sold per day and there are over 150 daily shows. Competition is fierce. And everything here is at a higher level. I have 14 trucks, 21 artists. But there isn’t a 100% Latin element. We want to bring more live events there.

What will people see tonight? 

We have established acts, plus developing acts, plus superstars. We have Don Omar, Ricky Martin, Wisin. We also have Farruko, Plan B, Arkangel and developing acts like CNCO. It’s a kind of festival inside an arena, where you have a spectacle of light and sound that lasts four hours. 

SBS doesn’t have a radio station in Las Vegas. How did you promote the show? 

Like any other promoter that knows the business. We bought advertising, we did strategic marketing, guerilla marketing and we designed a 360 marketing strategy which is what works today. I also got Michael Buffer, the voice of “ready to rumble!” to do the voice over for our spots. One looks to market to the city.