Months After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's Music Industry Is 'Open for Business'

BB5 2018 - DO NOT REUSE!!!
Gladys Vega/Getty Images
Sabina performed the first post-hurricane concert there on Feb. 4.

This past September, Ozuna played two sold-out shows at San Juan’s state-of-the-art Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot -- the last concerts held there before Hurricane Maria hit four days later. During the next few months, Puerto Rico’s largest venue morphed into ground zero for major aid and housing relief efforts.

Barely four months later, “we are now open for business,” says Noelia Garcia, subdirector of the District Authority of the Convention Center, which oversees the Coliseo. On Feb. 4, Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina performed the first concert there since the hurricane; Ricardo Arjona’s Feb. 14 show was sold out; and Tommy Torres, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Isabel Pantoja will perform soon after. On Feb. 10, the city’s Centro de Bellas Artes reopened as well.

"Continuing with music and musical activities was a priority," says Garcia. "More than 95 percent of the events that had been canceled have now been rescheduled." She adds that there's a plan to invest more than $10 million in the Coliseo over the next five years.

“Entertainment will recover quicker than other industries,” says José “Pompi” Vallejo, CEO of management/concert promotion firm Mr. & Mrs. Entertainment. “People are looking for things to do.” Case in point: Gloria Trevi and Alejandra Guzmán’s joint Coliseo show, originally slated for December, sold out once its new March 2 date was announced, says SBS Entertainment senior vp Lucas Piña. “I’m surprised, because the island is not fully recuperated,” he adds.

Promoting shows remains a challenge. But radio has emerged a winner: With power still out in many parts of the island, battery-powered and car radios have become lifelines, and ad revenue remains strong. “Right after the hurricane we were much more talk,” says Jesus Salas, executive vp programming/multiplatform coordinator for Spanish Broadcasting System, which has 11 stations on the island. “But now, people want music. They’re back to their listening habits. It’s getting back to normal.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of Billboard.