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Pollen teams up with Justin Bieber for Vegas weekender

Pollen, a UK-based startup that develops an ‘influencer marketplace’ for events, has announced its latest artist-curated weekender with Justin Bieber.

The startup, founded in 2014 and previously called Verve, works with organisers, promoters and ticketing platforms to negotiate a certain amount of tickets to an event that will be marketed through the members of Pollen (anyone who books a group experience), according to Tech Crunch.

The members, in turn, decide which events they want to promote to their networks. Those who manage to shift tickets (which are not sold by Pollen but by ticketing partners), get rewards including free trips, VIP upgrades, and private group events. Pollen generates revenue by taking a cut on each sale.

The startup, which raised $60 million in funding in October 2019, has worked with the likes of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, StubHub and SeeTickets.

The startup has worked with the likes of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, StubHub and SeeTickets.

Pollen Presents’ Justin Bieber & Friends will take place between 7–10 October 2021 in Las Vegas, with festivities split between the Wynn Las Vegas’ XS Nightclub and Encore Beach Club.

The weekender will kick off with an opening party at XS on Thursday night, followed by a pool party on Friday, and a ‘skate park takeover’ and headline set from Bieber on Saturday.

The first wave of artists for the weekender include The Kid Laroi, Jaden Smith, David Guetta, Kehlani, TroyBoi and Eddie Benjamin – all of whom were selected by Bieber.

Passes for the weekender are on sale via Pollen in three tiers, each of which includes three-night accommodation and event access for two punters, priced between $1,099 (€941) and $1,399 (€1,197).

Other artist-curated weekenders organised by Pollen Presents include Diplo’s Higher Ground festival in Cabo (Mexico), the Kurupt FM Weekender in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and J Balvin’s Neon Weekender in Las Vegas, US.

 


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Ariana Grande to headline Fortnite’s Rift Tour

Ariana Grande will be the next artist to perform an in-game concert for the hugely popular multiplayer video game, Fortnite.

The Grammy award-winning artist is set to headline the forthcoming Rift Tour, a virtual ‘musical experience’ that will take place within the online game.

The Rift Tour comprises five shows in early August: Friday 6 August at 18:00 ET, Saturday 7 August at 14:00 ET and Sunday 6 August at 00:00 ET, 10:00 ET and 18:00 ET.

“Working with Epic and the Fortnite team to bring my music to life inside the game has been so fun and such an honour,” says Grande. “I can’t wait to join my fans and see all of your reactions to such an unforgettable, magical journey to new realities.”

“Fortnite is a place for the imagination and the impossible”

Fortnite is a place for the imagination and the impossible. With the Rift Tour, we’re bringing a musical journey to life that players can experience, feel, and join alongside their friends,” says Phil Rampulla, head of brand for Fortnite developer Epic Games.

“We’re so grateful to have an iconic superstar like Ariana Grande and her team join us for a musical experience at metaverse scale, and for players and fans alike to experience the Rift Tour!”

Republic Records-signed Ariana Grande is the latest artist to perform within Fortnite, after the likes of Marshmello, Travis Scott, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, Easy Life and J. Balvin.

The singer’s performance follows a virtual show at the in-game O2 in June, which was performed by the UK act Easy Life.

The iconic London venue became the first real-world arena to get its own venue in Fortnite. 

Watch a teaser for Ariana Grande’s appearance on the Rift Tour below.


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High-profile artists invest in virtual live gigs company

A raft of high-profile artists including Justin Bieber, the Weeknd and J Balvin have invested in Wave, the world’s first multi-million dollar virtual entertainment platform for live concerts.

The platform transforms artists into animated characters via live motion capture technology that records their movements in real-time, while they perform on a virtual stage, customised to their style.

Fans can also create an avatar to join the free-of-game-play concerts shared via TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and other gaming channels, social networks, livestreaming platforms.

The Weeknd invested in the company shortly after his first concert on the platform, dubbed The Weeknd Experience, which aired on TikTok on 7 August.

The show was the company’s highest-profile project to date, drawing in two million viewers and leading to $350,000 in charitable merchandise sales, according to TikTok.

It was recently revealed that the Weeknd isn’t the only artist to invest in Wave this year and is joined by Justin Bieber, Jillionaire and J Balvin, who is set to headline Fornite’s Halloween event.

This year, the company has also secured content partnerships with Warner Music Group and Roc Nation and has locked in $30 million in funding from business moguls including artist manager Scooter Braun.

The company has hosted over fifty concerts and worked with more than twenty artists to date, including John Legend, Tinashe, Imogen Heap and Lindsey Stirling.

While many VR platforms stream pre-recorded concerts, the LA-based company, which was founded in 2016 and originally called TheWaveVR, is differentiated by its live performance and interaction.

 


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J Balvin to headline Fortnite’s in-game Halloween event

Reggaeton superstar J Balvin is set to deliver a special performance as part of Fortnite’s Halloween-themed event, Fortnitemares 2020: Midas’ Revenge.

The online video game, developed by Epic Games, hosts Fortnitemares every spooky season in the free-to-play Battle Royale mode in which weapons are disabled.

Each year, players have the chance to complete Fortnitemares challenges which provide players with season XP and different cosmetics including sprays and loading screens.

This year’s Fortnitemares will take place between 21 October and 3 November and will feature a performance from J Balvin on Battle Royale’s main stage on Halloween.

The Afterlife Party will take place on 31 October at 9 pm ET, with rebroadcasts available to watch the next day on main stage or with friends on Houseparty, the group video app.

Since launching last year, Fortnite Battle Royale has become the most successful free-to-play video game of all time

Users who attend any of the Afterlife Party showings in a Party Trooper outfit, available to buy in the item shop, will unlock an exclusive J Balvin style.

Fans can also drop into Fornite Creative from 25 October to 31 October to visit La Familia, an island made by community members Iscariote and Davidpkami where you can play minigames based on songs from J Balvin’s latest album.

Fortnite hosted its first-ever in-game concert with RCA-signed DJ Marshmello in February – a ten-minute show which reportedly became the most-attended ‘concert’ in history to date, with more than ten million people tuning in.

Since launching last year, Fortnite Battle Royale has become the most successful free-to-play video game of all time, pushing developer Epic Games’ valuation to nearly US$15bn as the number of Fortnite players – most of whom pay real money (or ask their parents) to buy in-game skins and other cosmetic items – soars over 200 million.

In May 2020, Epic announced that Fortnite had 350 million registered accounts with players spending 3.3 billion hours in-game during the month of April 2020.

 


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MDL Beast festival to debut in Saudi Arabia

David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki are among acts confirmed for electronic dance music (EDM) festival MDL Beast, the latest addition to Saudi Arabia’s flourishing festival scene.

The inaugural MDL Beast festival is taking place from 19 to 21 December 2019 in Riyadh, home to the 70,000-capacity King Fahd Stadium which recently hosted k-pop stars BTS.

The multi-stage festival will feature 18 international headliners and 28 global dance acts including Afrojack, Camelphat, J Balvin and Tiësto, as well as 24 local and regional performers, such as EDM DJ Cosmicat and local DJ duo Dish Dash.

Steve Aoki, who this summer performed at Roqu Media’s Jeddah World Fest – the first, major, ticketed music festival in the country – comments: “When I got the offer to play at the three-day MDL Beast festival, I was thrilled to become part of it and be back in the region again. It’s go[ing to] be an incredible event with tons of acts and lots of new names.”

“We’re confident MDL Beast will be like nothing seen before and we cannot wait to experience this transformative musical milestone”

Ahmad Alammary, DJ and member of the festival team, adds: “More than just a music festival, MDL Beast is also a platform with multiple [projects] including ongoing seasonal local and global events, online and radio channels, recording studios, and a non-profit foundation promoting music education and therapy.

“We’re confident MDL Beast will be like nothing seen before and we cannot wait to experience this transformative musical milestone.”

“I’m so proud of the fact that we’re hosting this festival in Saudi; it’s a great reflection of the Saudi audience being able to experience the music they love,” comments Cosmicat. “As one of the first female EDM DJs here, I’m excited to be flying the flag and representing women on the scene.”

As Saudi Arabia continues to boost its live entertainment offering and cement its place on the international touring map, criticism is still levelled at artists who opt to play in the kingdom. Nicki Minaj pulled out of Jeddah World Fest following pressure from human rights organisations and BTS’ appearance in the country sparked a mixed reaction from fans.

Fans can register for tickets to the MDL Beast here.

 


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¡Olé! Industry experts on Latin music’s inexorable rise

Madison Square Garden, NYC’s legendary venue, has borne witness to just about everything over the years: debauchery, madness and all manner of weird and wonderful stage shows. But until J Balvin rocked up this September for an eagerly anticipated sold-out show, it had never played host to enormous, inflatable, pop-art sculptures, a squadron of puffy, bouncy mascots that looked like sentient clouds, or a singer riding across the stage on a huge yellow duck.

¡Por la cultura!” (“for culture!”), he declared, before departing, raucous applause and calls for another encore ringing in his ears. It was yet another milestone in the reggaetonero’s meteoric rise to arenas and the top of the charts, and something of a dream for the Colombian star. But then Latin music – música urbana – is enjoying a surge in popularity all over the globe and giving birth to a new generation of superstars.

Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican rapper, sold out MSG back in April; Rosalía, the Spanish singer who combines flamenco with pop, has taken Europe by storm. “I believe we are experiencing the best time for Latin music ever,” says Dody Sirena, a founding partner of DC Set Group, one of Brazil’s biggest promoters.

“If you look at the 2019 RIAA mid-year report, you’ll see that Latin music is continuing to grow at a double-digit pace.”

Henry Cárdenas, CEO of the Cárdenas Marketing Network and the recently crowned Billboard Latin Power Player Executive of the Year for 2019, agrees. “Latin American music is the fastest-growing genre in the world, and it has a tremendous commercial force,” he says. “We have witnessed general market artists venturing into the Latin American market, which continues to expand and pique mass appeal.”

música urbana is enjoying a surge in popularity all over the globe and giving birth to a new generation of superstars

That’s an observation echoed by Nelson Albareda, CEO of Miami-based sports and entertainment operation Loud and Live: “Latin music has quickly become the fastest-growing genre in the global market,” he says. “As it pertains to Latin America, genres such as reggaeton, cumbia, bachata and merengue dominate in major markets including Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.”

That mass appeal means that the genre is “more popular globally than ever before,” according to booking agent Jeremy Norkin of United Talent Agency (UTA). UTA is home to both longstanding Latin music stars such as Pitbull and Sean Paul, and break-out artists like Lali, and Norkin notes that “Latin music has gained a strong presence among multi-genre events that previously haven’t featured the genre.

“For example, Spanish-speaking talent had a significantly larger footprint at 2019’s Lollapalooza festivals in South America.”

The absolute biggest artists remain those who came to prominence during the late-nineties ‘Latin explosion’ – household names who long ago crossed over to ubiquity (think Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias). But a new generation of musical talent is selling out arenas in Latin America and beyond while racking up staggering streaming numbers and video views; J Balvin and Bad Bunny are just the tip of the iceberg.

Ozuna, Maluma, Luis Fonsi, Becky G, Manuel Turizo and Sech are the most common names cited as representing the future.

A new generation of musical talent is selling out arenas while racking up staggering streaming numbers and video views

“They have tremendous talent,” says Cárdenas, of the latter three in particular, “and they are leading the way for a new generation of stars.”

“Ozuna, Lunay, and Rosalía” are Phil Rodríguez’s choice regarding those ready to ascend to the next level internationally. But Rodríguez, founder of Move Concerts, also notes that it can vary from country to country; in Puerto Rico, for example, trap and reggaeton stars top the charts, while in the USA it’s a more balanced mix of urban acts.

Albareda, whose company recently agreed a deal with Rodríguez’s promoting powerhouse Move Concerts, cites Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Pitbull, Maluma, Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, Romeo Santos, Karol G, Nicky Jam, Farruko, Becky G and Natti Natasha as some of the genre’s biggest stars.

Fernando Moya, of Buenos Aires-based Ozono Producciones cites Maluma, Sebastian Yatra and Tini as his picks, but states, “Paulo Londra, Duki, Wos, Louta and other trap artists are pushing and changing the music charts, having more listeners than pop, reggaeton and Latin music.”

While Latin music has always enjoyed a certain level of popularity – Bruno Del Granado, an agent at Creative Artists Agency, points to Julio Iglesias and Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine “blowing the door wide open globally” in the 70s and 80s – Cárdenas points to successes by “the Godfathers, Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam” as opening the floodgates more recently.

“I believe we are experiencing the best time for Latin music ever”

Bad Bunny, too. “You could say he is a poster child for the movement,” says Cárdenas.

And then there’s ‘Despacito’ (which, ironically, translates to “slowly” in English). The song, released in January 2017, was a phenomenon; the official video now has over 6.4 billion views on YouTube, and over 2bn streams on Spotify. It was also the first track primarily sung in a language other than English to pass the billion mark, a game changer that signified a paradigm shift – no longer was an English-language version a necessity for artists looking for hits abroad.

‘Despacito’ also underscored a change in consumer and listening habits. In this brave new world, streams outrank sales and power a model where singles, or a constant flow of new material, matter way more than the narrative and commercial build-up around traditional album campaigns.

Much like in the world of rap and hip-hop, Latin music’s rise has mirrored that of technology and social media, platforms that today’s savvy stars know how to game to their advantage.

“YouTube is the platform of choice for consumers of Latin music,” argues Michel Vega, CEO and founder of Magnus Media, a global management and representative company. “If you look at the top 25 videos globally on any given week, a disproportionate amount will be Latin music.”

“Look at Nicky Jam or Bad Bunny – before, it would have taken an artist years to gain that kind of traction”

Moya believes that radio’s local language format historically held back Latin repertoire. “Digital platforms changed the market, as the audience started to choose what to listening and not just what the radio plays,” he says.

“Before, radio [stations] only played music in English and the native language of the country – they did not experiment with new varieties or styles of music or artists of different countries, regions or cultures. Now, there are no limits. On the contrary, consumers are able to reach random options based on their tastes and have the possibility to discover new types of music, new artist, whatever they want.”

Cárdenas agrees. “Streaming has changed the landscape of the industry for new artists, as these methods of distribution make for easier consumption for the listener. Look at Nicky Jam or Bad Bunny – before, it would have taken an artist years to gain that kind of traction.”

And, as Norkin notes, while word of mouth has always been key, “the difference is that today there are a wide variety of platforms that allow recommendations to be communicated instantaneously and on a massive scale.”

“They have more options than ever to become very popular as an independent”

Such a shift has also seen the new breed of stars ripping up the rulebook and essentially creating new norms as they go. Traditional routes to the top are not as relevant, and artists know their worth.

“Most of them are not interested in advances, 360 deals or traditional media,” says Sirena. “They have more options than ever to become very popular as an independent through distributors or with a major.”

Norkin notes that within this brave new world, some artists got their start – and continue to operate – as their own publishers, record labels and producers. “Many of them even own their own masters,” he says.

A DIY ethic is also strong. While bigger stars still tap into traditional record label systems, Del Granado believes that many new talents “are cognisant that we’re living in a DIY world and so need to do things themselves. From recording to shooting videos to handling social media, they have become masters of their domain.”

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 86, or subscribe to the magazine here.


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Managing the Latin explosion: Rebeca León Q&A

Update: the quotation “I am the only female executive I know” appeared in a previous edition of this article. Rebeca León did not use these words, IQ apologises for the misunderstanding.

With over 20 years in the business, Rebeca León is a pioneer in the Latin music space, initiating the career of hit reggaeton artist J Balvin and managing fast-rising Spanish star Rosalía.

Having served as senior vice president of Latin talent at AEG, León is now chief executive of her own management company, Lionfish Entertainment, which she founded along with Colombian musician Juanes.

As Latin music continues to gain more traction across the globe, IQ catches up with León to find out the secrets behind her success, discuss the sometimes male-dominated Latin music business and gain insight into the potential of Rosalía’s Flamenco-infused rhythms.

 


IQ: Why Latin music?
RL: I think it was a combination of my own cultural background – I was born to Cuban parents in Miami and grew up with the culture – and good timing. I moved back to Miami after college and there were lots of Latin labels around. I started working at Sony Music Latin in 1998 in the midst of a crossover track explosion, so it was a really exciting time to be involved in Latin music.

You really grew the profile of Latin music in LA and across the US during your tenure at AEG, can you tell us a bit more about your time there?
I was at AEG for eleven years. I was hired to book the then Nokia Theatre (now 7,100-cap. Microsoft Theatre) at entertainment complex LA Live.

The idea was to bring Latin shows to that venue. Before, Latin artists were only really playing New York and Miami and I was asking myself why. We became the headquarters for Latin music in LA and I was the only promoter in the company that could really book Latin shows around the whole country.

AEG were really great to me, they gave me huge wings and plenty of opportunities to grow. Latin music and, in particular, reggaeton music, began reaching new markets across the whole of the United States.

“Latin artists were only really playing New York and Miami and I was asking myself why”

Why did you decide to make the move to setting up your own management company?
I think going into management was the natural next step for me. I was lucky to have had experience with record labels, promoters and management previously, so I was able to see the whole thing and apply all that knowledge through being a manager. It seemed like an amazing opportunity to be up close to people I really respected – the artists – it was always something that I wanted to do and it felt like a privilege to do so.

I really love being creative and managing allowed me to be in a more collaborative relationship with the artist, rather than just inheriting something. I could be on the inside of the long term strategy – setting goals and creating paths – and that was very attractive for me.

It reminds me of when I started working with J Balvin and we both believed he would be a global superstar. We put a strategy together from the very beginning in order to make it happen. That was a very exciting time.

You’re now managing Spanish singer Rosalía who has a very different sound to other Latin artists – is this signalling a new direction for Latin music?
I think Rosalía is super special. An artist like that only comes around once every 50 years. What people are responding to is the authenticity of her very unique take on music. She produces and writes at least in part all her own songs – it’s all her. This is difficult to replicate, so I can’t say this type of music will become a trend. This is more about finding a truly unique and talented artist.

In general, there are still more male than female artists having more success industry-wide and particularly in Latin music, how can this be tackled?
The Latin world is notoriously machista, just as every culture has its challenges, one way or another. It’s not going to happen from one day to the next, but we do have more female artists in the Latin music space now – Becky G, Greeicy [Rendón], Anitta.

All of a sudden there’s a whole bunch of girls appearing, but I know it’s not enough. However, I do feel that people are aware and conscious of the imbalance and are starting to make strategic decision to create more opportunities for women in general.

“An artist like Rosalía only comes around once every 50 years”

What has your own experience been like as a female executive in the industry?
I am happy to be a woman in the industry – even if sometimes I am the only girl in the room. I try to be smart about the way I do business and it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, this is the most important thing.

I’m 100% aware that we need more positions for women. Professor Stacy Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, has put together a study of women across the industry as a whole, and the numbers are really astounding.

We need to inform ourselves of these imbalances and shine a light on the women who are having success in the industry and make sure they get the recognition they deserve. The conversation needs to be about empowering and educating women on how to talk about money and power, and how to handle difficult situations. We need to give women the tools they need to succeed.

What’s next for Lionfish Entertainment?
Rosalía is one of the most incredible artists I have ever encountered. It’s so exciting and beautiful what’s happening there, so I want to make sure we support her as much as possible.

Aside from that, I’m working on some film and TV projects. That’s the focus for us really in 2020 – not letting this cultural movement be just about music – I want to make Latin content across all media.


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