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Executive of the Week: UTA Music Agent Jbeau Lewis

"I think I speak for all agents in the business when I say the past two years have been a case of 'plot and pray.'"

Last Spring, Bad Bunny announced a 2022 arena tour across North America, an outing that became Ticketmaster’s fastest-selling tour since 2018, moving 480,000 tickets in less than a week and selling out each of its 35 dates. So what did Bunny’s team do this week, a full 15 days before the first show of that El Último Tour del Mundo even began? Announce a second, even larger stadium tour set to begin later this year, called The World’s Hottest Tour, with 15 dates in the U.S. that will take the Puerto Rican superstar to such massive venues as Yankee Stadium in New York and Fenway Park in Boston, followed by another 14 stops in Latin America at the likes of Estadio Velez in Buenos Aires and Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

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It’s an ambitious plan for Bad Bunny, not least because of the two outings are laid out during an uncertain period with the U.S., and the world, still grappling with the omicron variant of the COVID pandemic. But it also underscores the leap in popularity that the artist has made over the past several years, wherein he’s been the top-selling Latin artist for three consecutive years, according to MRC Data, as well as Spotify’s most-streamed global act for two years running. For charting such a bold live strategy, his agent, UTA’s Jbeau Lewis, earns the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.

Here, Lewis discusses the strategy behind the twin outings, as well as the tough position that Bad Bunny — real name Benito Ocasio Martínez — was put in when his arena tour shattered records by selling out almost instantly, and how different the two tours will be. As Lewis puts it: “We wanted to make a big splash.” Mission accomplished.

Bad Bunny just announced a new stadium tour set to kick off right after the end of his previously-announced arena tour. Why announce a second, larger tour before the first even starts?

Bad Bunny has defined himself as one of the most ground-breaking, innovative and fearless artists in the world. He and his manager Noah Assad always think five steps ahead. While El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo the tour still hasn’t begun, El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo the album was released in November 2020 and the tour was announced in April 2021. Creatively, that was a lifetime ago. Benito constantly seeks new outlets — adding the World’s Hottest Tour in stadiums this summer and simultaneously announcing his forthcoming album allows him to stay steps ahead and bring his fans along with him.

What key decision did you make to help make this happen?

Simply put, the demand for tickets on El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo was unprecedented. We initially announced 25 arenas and almost immediately expanded to 35 arenas — adding second and even third nights in some cities. Everything sold out instantly. If we had more nights to add, it would have been the fastest-selling tour of all time. So many of Bad Bunny’s fans were unable to purchase tickets. And while that is an amazing accomplishment, it also put Benito in a compromised position, with the only available tickets going for thousands of dollars on the secondary market. Hopefully the summer tour provides an opportunity for everyone who wants to come see Bad Bunny to have the chance.

Has this been done before? How did the idea come about?

It may have been done before, but not in recent memory. I think our first conversation with Noah about stadiums happened the day after the arena tour sold out, back in April. Bad Bunny wanted to do something bigger for the fans and he wanted to support a new album in 2022. In December 2021, he mounted the two biggest stadium shows in the history of Puerto Rico, which were absolutely thrilling. It was the biggest production I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the world. At that point, we all knew for sure that stadiums were the way to go in 2022.

What were the challenges in putting together this second trek, given the existence of the first?

Whenever anyone attempts to mount a tour of this scale, there are always logistical challenges — chiefly negotiating schedules with the NFL, MLB and prominent soccer teams in Latin America whose stadiums Bad Bunny is playing. Thankfully we started early enough that our routing was mostly in place months ago and the buildings have been excellent partners. The challenge of when to announce the stadium tour was persistent as well. We wanted to announce the stadiums as far in advance of the arena tour kickoff as possible, to avoid confusion. We wanted to make a big splash. We wanted to make sure fans understood that the tours were different. We didn’t want to announce at the peak of the Omicron surge. And given the initial sales, it feels like the response has been incredibly positive.

What metrics gave you the confidence to upgrade like this?

As a team, we paid very careful attention to the data around El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo arena tour. On the day of on-sale, in some cases there were over 200,000 fans still in the virtual ticketing queue for an individual show when it sold out. Ticketmaster told us we could have sold out the entire tour four times over on the first day. And Bad Bunny’s star has only grown in the nine months since — most streamed artist on the planet two years running, first Spanish-speaking album to debut at No. 1, his own shoe with Adidas, an omnipresent Corona campaign, a brilliant role in NARCOS: MEXICO, performing on Saturday Night Live, magazine covers, you name it. The whole team at Rimas and UTA felt confident about the decision to upgrade, and the data supported it.

How different will the two tours be?

Other than Bad Bunny being on stage, the two tours will be entirely different. Completely new production, much bigger venues, incredible special guests with Alesso and Diplo joining. I can’t wait to see what Benito’s creative genius brings to the stadium every night this summer.

Does this set a precedent of sorts, or is Bad Bunny a singular artist to be able to pull this off?

Bad Bunny is singular in setting the precedent that rules are made to be broken. He didn’t call an album Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana (which translates roughly to “I Do What I Want”) for nothing. It’s his vision and our job to execute it.

How difficult has it been to plot something like this given the challenges of the pandemic?

I think I speak for all agents in the business when I say the past two years have been a case of “plot and pray.” We’ve never been forced to be more cognizant of when we route and how we announce tours, relative to pandemic conditions. We’ve been asked to see around such unpredictable corners. This is a tour that spans two continents and 14 countries, all of which have their own rules, restrictions, economic and market conditions to take into account. We all think the worst is behind us, but we also admit we cannot predict the future. Let’s hope everything goes as planned.