Ozuna doesn’t have an agent. He doesn’t have major sponsorships. He doesn’t have deals in place with AEG Live or Live Nation. And although his music is distributed and marketed by Sony Music U.S. Latin, he is signed to Dimelo Vi, the independent label owned by his manager, Vicente Saavedra.
Yet right now, the 26-year-old artist from Puerto Rico is the top-selling Latin act in the market, and his Aura Tour may finish 2018 as the highest-grossing U.S. Latin tour, with over 30 arena dates scheduled until December.
For the week ending Aug. 30, Ozuna’s second studio album, Aura, scored the year’s biggest week for a Latin album, with 49,000 equivalent album units, and the largest streaming week ever for a Latin release, according to Nielsen Music. Aura arrived at No. 7 on the all-genre Billboard 200 and became Ozuna’s second No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums list, bumping his first LP, Odisea, from No. 1 to No. 2. The Aura Tour — booked, produced and promoted by indie company Elite Media & Marketing — kicked off with sold-out shows in Atlanta and at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, where Ozuna moved 18,139 tickets, the top-selling Latin concert ever at the venue.
But despite Ozuna’s indie strategy, his success also highlights the current power of major-label clout. “We signed a more serious deal with Sony and The Orchard, and they gave us a plan that was like putting Ozuna on steroids,” recalls Saavedra, noting that his previous distribution deal with Sony excluded YouTube rights, for example. The extra muscle that Sony applied this time helped produce an average of 300 percent more streams for Aura on Ozuna’s top three streaming platforms than for Odisea, says Jose Cedeno, senior vp growth and innovation for Sony Music U.S. Latin, despite Ozuna delivering his album 24 hours before its release — another Latin first.
Ozuna was already a streaming phenom before Aura. His debut album Odisea, released in August 2017 and distributed by Sony, is the second longest running No. 1 on Top Latin Albums history, thanks largely to streaming.
The success led Saavedra to prepare even more for the follow-up, expanding his deal with Sony so it encompassed digital marketing and working with the label in what he calls a “joint” effort.
According to Cedeño, Sony pushed with social media engagement, strong partner support and a major digital marketing campaign. Planning was so tight that the results were there, despite the fact that Ozuna invited bachata star Romeo Santos to the project literally the week of release, delaying delivery of the final masters until the night before.
“We put it in God’s hands,” says Saavedra. “If it’s ready it’s ready. Ozuna and I felt super certain. So certain, I told him my goal was to have the No. 1 and No. 2 album simultaneously on the chart.”
For the new tour, which he negotiated at the end of last year, Saavedra contemplated several offers but turned to Pablo Casals, the founder of EMM, and the first promoter to book Ozuna in the U.S., for a Miami club show in 2016.
Although Casals has had EMM for many years, his expertise was mostly in festivals, and he had never booked and promoted a tour of this magnitude.
“We’re different because we cater to our business, we don’t want to lose that mom and pop sitaution” says Casals, who’s from Brooklyn. “For another promoter, it’d be just one more tour; for me, it’s the biggest thing happening in my life.” says Casals.
Dealing directly with Casals means Saavedra’s rev share is bigger, and because most of the shows are sell-outs, “I know what I have coming. So I don’t owe anyone anything [in terms of advances].
As far as major sponsors, there are none. Yet.
“I’ve had offers, but sometimes people think, ‘Oh, these are just two Puerto Ricans and we can pitch anything. No. I know what Ozuna’s value is, and whoever wants to come in has to understand that as well. I like to give opportunities to new people, people who share our vision. There are many names but few men in this business. And for me, your word is everything.”