This story is part of Billboard‘s The Year in Touring package — read more stories about the top acts, tours and venues of 2022 here.
At some point during Daddy Yankee’s ongoing La Ultima Vuelta tour, which kicked off this summer, publicist Mayna Nevarez looked around and took stock of what was happening around her.
“I was with him at sold out arenas in Seattle, Denver, Sacramento and, I swear, it brought tears to my eyes,” says Nevarez, who owns Nevarez PR in Miami and has been Yankee’s publicist for over 15 years. “For so long it was cities like Miami, Los Angeles, New York — big Latin hubs — and we forget that the United States is so much more than that.”
Daddy Yankee is no stranger to big tours; in 2007, for example, he played 17 U.S. shows, and in 2019, he played a fabled 12 sold-out dates at Puerto Rico’s Coliseo de Puerto Rico. But La Ultima Vuelta (The Last Tour) has been his biggest trek by far, selling over 1.1 million tickets for a $125.3 million in gross ticket sales during the tracking period, from Nov. 1, 2021-Oct. 31, 2022, landing him at No. 13 on Billboard’s Top Tours tally.
Yankee’s numbers point to Latin music’s potential for big touring success beyond Bad Bunny and beyond the cities that were long considered Latino strongholds. In 2022, Latin artists of all sizes and genres filled arenas, theaters and festivals, underscoring the huge potential and growing presence of Latin music across the country.
The fray, of course, is led by Bad Bunny, who tops this year’s Top Tours chart with a $373.5 million gross across 65 shows in arenas and stadiums with a combined attendance of nearly 2 million. Bunny’s World’s Hottest Tour broke venue revenue records in 12 of the 15 U.S. markets that it played, including Yankee Stadium, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The North American leg of tour averaged $11.1 million per show — the biggest per-show average gross by any artist in any genre in Boxscore history (dating back to the late 1980s).
At this moment in time at least, Bad Bunny is “a unicorn,” says Henry Cardenas, de CEO of CMN, which promoted Bunny’s U.S. tour in partnership with Live Nation. “No one does what he does.” But at a touring level, “What Bad Bunny really did is take Latin music to industry execs who aren’t Latin, and make them realize there was a viable market,” says Nelson Albareda, founder and CEO of marketing and promotion company Loud and Live.
Loud and Live, which is owned by Albareda, is a prime example of Latin’s growth in touring. The entertainment, marketing and promotion company was launched four years ago and in 2019, pre-pandemic, produced around 50 shows. This year, it came in at No. 14 on the Top Promoters chart, with $96.5 million in gross ticket sales for 386 shows.
“Overall, touring is definitely stronger, and shows are doing better, including in emerging markets like Seattle, Salt Lake City,” says Albareda. “Secondary markets are here to stay and it’s not just the A acts. It’s not a fluke. I think you’ll see the Kansas City, Minneapolis, Nashville, Raleigh, Salt Lakes also do well. The Latino population is now much greater and definitely they’re in every city.”
This allows for vertical growth that may not be always visible on the touring charts. Loud and Live’s roster, for example, includes touring stalwarts like Ricardo Arjona, who ends the year at No. 63 on the Top Tours list ($31.5 million gross on 32 shows), but it also includes rising star Camilo, who just fell short of the Top 100, grossing $11.4 million and selling 149,000 tickets in 28 shows.
Tours by smaller acts, says Jorge Juarez, co-founder of management and promotion company Westwood Entertainment, can still yield impressive margins. Rising Mexican rapper Santa Fe Klan, for example, played 23 markets on his first U.S. tour, selling some 7,000 tickets per market at an average $100 ticket price, per Juarez. And regional Mexican acts have seen a surge in ticket sales as well.
“There’s been a general tendency of growth here for the last two years. Certainly, a lot of factors post-pandemic that gave a surge, but we were already on a trend of growth,” says Hans Schafer, senior vp of Latin touring for Live Nation. “It was inevitable that we would reach this point one way or the other […] The sort of evolution that we’re seeing in different genres within Latin is all adding to that. More music, more new artists. Better production at all levels. Connectivity with multigenerational fans.”
On top of that, the growth of the U.S. Latino population and its middle class cannot be discounted as a factor in the overall growth of touring and consumption. According to Nielsen’s “The Evolving Hispanic Consumer” study from 2021, in the next 40 years Latinos will contribute more growth than any other U.S. population segment, contributing 53% of population growth in the next five years and 58% of the growth to 2060. In terms of buying power, from 2010 to 2019, Hispanic buying power increased by 69%, outpacing non Hispanics (41%).
According to a Pew Research Center Statistical Portrait of Hispanics published in July 2022, Latino demographics have grown “in just about every corner of the nation. While California, Texas and Florida hold about half of the U.S. Latino population, the fastest growth rates are in states like North Dakota (up 148% between 2010 and 2020) and South Dakota (up 75% over the same period).”
The growth has profound impact at many levels. In the last decade, for example, Latinos became the largest racial or ethnic group in California for the first time, a fact that explains why cities like Sacramento and San José are now major touring destinations for Latin artists of all stripes.
The direct result of a Latin population with acquisition power can be seen at the new SoFi Stadium, which opened in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic and hosted its first full stadium shows with Los Bukis, the romantic Mexican group that had its heyday in the 1990s, on Aug. 27 and 28, 2021. The stadium also hosted two nights of Bad Bunny this last September.
“The way we position ourselves is, we’re in Los Angeles, we’re in Inglewood, we’re 50% Latino,” says Adolfo Romero vp of programming for SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park and YouTube Theater, which has held sold out shows by the likes of Rosalía and Mexican rockers Caifanes this year. “We looked at many different artists [for SoFi opening night] and when we saw this opportunity with Los Bukis, we were very aggressive. I think it kind of opened the eyes to the industry to see that Latin acts could do stadiums. That led us to do two nights of Grupo Firme in 2022, and now we have two nights of Bad Bunny.”
Romero says that when he booked Los Bukis for what would be their first-ever U.S. stadiums, the prospect of selling over 70,000 tickets for a Mexican nostalgia act didn’t make him loose sleep. “I come from [major league] soccer. If we can sell 70,000 plus for soccer here, what’s the difference?” he says. “It’s the same demographic. We have disposable income. A lot of our community was working in the service industry. Now, many of their kids are college grads.”