Live Nation’s Director of Latin Music in Canada, Ricky Taco, discusses the genre’s recent growth and where it could go next

Billboard – Ricky Taco, Live Nation’s Director of Latin Music in Canada, discusses the genre’s recent growth and where it could go next.

This week, Live Nation announced that Shakira’s Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran Tour will be coming to Canada in December. It’ll only be the third time in the Colombian superstar’s illustrious 33-year career that two tour dates are scheduled in Canada, and her first time back since 2018.

In the six years since she last played for a Canadian crowd, the country’s Latin music scene has grown bigger than she might have expected. It’s an expanded market that Live Nation has been focusing on in recent years.

In 2022, Live Nation hired Ricky Taco as Director of Latin Music in Canada, with a mandate to grow the genre at venues in the country and focus in on one of the fastest-expanding markets in North America.

“Basically, what I do is select the Latin artists to come perform anywhere in Canada,” Taco tells Billboard Canada.

Latin music’s explosion in recent years was aided by the international success of songs like 2017’s “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, which got a subsequent assist from Justin Bieber. Though Latin music had waves of popularity before that, including the late-’90s popularity of bilingual artists like Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, Spanish-language music has made an even bigger chart and touring impact in North America. Streaming and airplay in Canada has seen measurable growth, even in just the last year.

Taco gives some numbers. “The Latin genre as a whole, in Canada, is up 48% from last year [in online streams]. When it comes to airplay, Latin music across Canada has increased by 2,100% in the last year. You’re now playing to 37.5 million Canadians as opposed to 2.5 million last year…Over the last five years, it’s been insane. I mean, the growth has been [big].”

What was once reserved for specific clubs in metropolitan cities has since migrated to the biggest venues in Canada, with tens of thousands of fans screaming lyrics in Spanish. Only four months into 2024, Canadians have already seen several highly anticipated Latin tours across many genres: Pitbull, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias’ Trilogy Tour, Bad Bunny’s Most Wanted Tour and Los Angeles Azules’ El amor de mi vida Tour.

“We’ve done anywhere between 15 to 20 shows last year, and we’re gonna be doing likely over 40 Latin shows across Canada this year,” Taco says. “We’re trying to cater to every little genre, not trying to focus on the younger demographic.”

Even though they haven’t had the same chart impact in Canada as in the United States, the newest generation of Latin musicians is seeing success on tour. Bad Bunny sold out Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena this April, a far cry from his 2018 stint at REBEL nightclub. Peso Pluma, a 24-year-old Mexican artist making waves globally, made his first Canadian stops just a year ago at Place Bell in Laval, Québec and Toronto’s Budweiser Stage. In 2024, however, he’ll be playing “LADY GAGA” in front of sold-out crowds at Scotiabank Arena and Montreal’s Bell Centre.

Although Latin music has seen incredible progress in the past years, there’s still much work to be done, as Live Nation Canada plans to bring the genre to more ears, and build an even stronger fanbase. Compared to Punjabi music, which has seen a similar explosion in recent years and a similar focused strategy at Live Nation in Canada, Taco says Latin music has a steeper hill to climb.

“In Toronto, there’s only one Latin FM radio [station],” says Taco. “If we compare it to an English artist, or a Punjabi artist, their communities are bigger, they have more resources to play with. Although we’ve grown a lot in the last three to five years, we’re still very limited, we’re still growing.”

The Canadian market has been receptive to an increase in Latin concerts, with shows selling out faster than ever, and new festivals such as Montreal’s Fuego Fuego, which is promoted by Evenko in partnership with Live Nation. The third edition of the festival is set for Olympic Park on May 25 and 26, 2024 with a lineup including Maluma, Rauw Alejandro, Young Miko and more. And it’s opening up a bigger door for Canadian artists. While Fuego Fuego’s headliners are international, the festival also features homegrown Spanish-language artists like Isabella Lovestory and Jace Carillo.

“I think [festivals] are tremendously important,” Taco says. “I mean, Fuego Fuego, the first year was just one date, but now there are two, and the lineup has grown. Ten years ago you never would have expected this. They’re still new, you can only imagine how it’ll be in the next couple of years.”

Beyond festivals and radio stations, Live Nation plans to bring Latin music outside the cities Canadian fans have grown accustomed to seeing regular tour announcements.

“At this point, the primary markets definitely are Montreal and Toronto, but our plan is to keep growing. We’ve already tried doing a few different concerts in different cities.”

The Trilogy Tour electrified Vancouver’s Rogers Arena late last year, and Taco hopes to bring concerts to more cities across the country.

“The goal [is to] bring as many concerts as we can in places like Calgary, Vancouver and even potentially places like Ottawa,” he says.

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