Last week, three Latin artists played sold out or nearly sold out dates in Miami within a five-day span: Colombian pop/rock band Morat sold 1,900 tickets at the Fillmore; Spanish singer/songwriter Melendi sold out the James L. Knight Center (capacity 4,518); and Chayanne sold out the Miami Arena. That three Latin shows would do so well in major venues within a 5-mile radius is already remarkable. What’s most remarkable, however, is that these were all pop acts and two of them — Melendi and Morat — hav little to no airplay in the U.S.
"How do they know all the words?" one veteran industry exec asked me in wonderment as everyone around us along to Melendi.
The question had as much to do with limited airplay as with the fact that our current Latin music landscape is so dominated by urban music.
And yet, last week highlighted the existence of a diverse and growing Latin audience that is hungry for other genres as well, and are consuming them in myriad ways that may not be reflected on the Billboard charts but are profitable and even massive.
Take Melendi. At 40 years old, the singer songwriter is one of the biggest stars in his native Spain. But he only started touring the U.S. two years ago, after painstakingly laying the groundwork in Latin America.
"We’ve been promoting his shows for 15 years," says Juan José Leandro, founder of concert promotion company Emporio Group. It started with shows in Leandro’s native Venezuela, and then expanded into Ecuador and Mexico. When the Venezuelan crisis struck, Leandro figured a lot Melendi’s fans had moved to Miami. He was right. Melendi sold the Fillmore on his second round there in 2018, bolstered also by a big crop of Cuban fans. For his third run, Leandro booked the far larger James L Knight and sold that out after just a month on sale. In other words, diasporas feed many music genres beyond reggaetón.
"We worked it almost as if we were an ad agency," says Leandro, who did almost artisanal promotion with Melendi, placing billboards throughout the city, doing digital promotion on social media, taking the artist to the few radio shows that still play romantic music and focusing too on specific pockets of population.
In the end, during Melendi's show on a Friday night, the audience was a mix of men and women, ranging in age from early 20s to 50s.
But earlier that week, the fans that went to see the younger members of Morat were largely in their teens. And although one may think Morat did well in Miami because they're Colombian and Miami is a Colombian hub, keep in mind this was the next to last stop of a tour — their first in the U.S. — that began in the West Coast. In other words, Morat's fanbase is nationwide, and it's young.
The fact that the audience for related music is so fragmented is in itself telling.
"There is an audience for pop, but you have to find them," says Leandro.