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The New Generation of Latin Artists Who Can Fill US Arenas

A wave of young Latin artists like Bad Bunny are filling the giant venues once dominated by veteran acts, using strategies connecting technology and demographics to entice a new generation of fans.

A wave of young Latin artists like Bad Bunny are filling the giant venues once dominated by veteran acts, using strategies connecting technology and demographics to entice a new generation of fans.

Skip The Album, Hit The Road

Artists often plan tours around album launches, but Bad Bunny had been playing arenas for over a year before surprise-dropping his debut, X100PRE, on Dec. 23, 2018. One key strategy: releasing a steady stream of singles in tandem with a string of concerts, allowing him to immediately start building to bigger venues in major markets like New York. In February 2018, he sold out three shows and over 9,900 tickets at the United Palace in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood; he returned six months later to sell out the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., playing to 10,830 fans. In April he’ll play a Madison Square Garden show entirely in the round — “the largest capacity we do for concerts, and very rare for someone just starting out in arenas,” says Laurie Jacoby, senior vp at the Garden, noting that typically, only huge hip-hop artists like Jay-Z and Drake perform in that format.

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Mine The Metadata

“We know there are fans in cities that aren’t getting the shows,” says Henry Cárdenas, founder/CEO of Cárdenas Marketing Network, who’s producing the X100PRE tour and is North America’s highest-grossing Latin promoter. His company cross-checks Ticketmaster sales data with song charts and demographic information from Spanish-language radio and streaming numbers to find out where the largest pockets of Bad Bunny fans live, then establishes which venues they’re more likely to spend money attending. “A lot of these kids have never seen a reggaetón show before,” says Cárdenas, “or even a Latin concert.” In fact, he says, about 30 percent of Bad Bunny’s fans are exclusively English-speaking.

Expand Your Map

Spanish-language tours in North America used to play only cities with large Hispanic populations, but demographic shifts in the past decade have helped artists like Bad Bunny establish bases in new places like Minneapolis and Detroit. “We’re bringing Bad Bunny to Canada. He’s playing Seattle. He’s playing these markets that we don’t do,” says Cárdenas.

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Focus On Young Fans

Booking agent John Pantle of Sound Talent Group, whose clients include Puerto Rican rapper Residente and Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade, attributes the rapid growth of arena-level young Latin acts to the increased spending power of Latino music fans who grew up listening to legacy acts and are now embracing artists their own age. “The fans see themselves in this new generation of artists,” says Pantle. According to Cárdenas, Bad Bunny’s fans grew up seeing acts like Marc Anthony, Maná and Chayanne. “They’re great guys, but most of them are in their 50s,” he says. “Millennials were waiting for a new generation of artists who are more relatable to their lives.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 16 issue of Billboard.