Baja Beach Fest Founders Aaron Ampudia And Chris Den Uijl Discuss Their Reggaetón Festival’s Cross-Border Business

Aaron Ampudia and Chris Den Uijl
– Aaron Ampudia and Chris Den Uijl

For the second year in a row, a lineup of reggaetón and Latin hip-hop artists including Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Ozuna will descend upon Rosarito, Mexico, less than an hour’s drive from San Diego, for the second edition of Baja Beach Fest Aug. 16-17.

The festival took over Rosarito last year, with 15,000 attendees arriving in a town with a population of 70,000 for a lineup that included Farruko and Bad Bunny. That required coordination with “every hotel in the city,” co-founder Aaron Ampudia told Pollstar, claiming all available rooms were sold within four hours. 
With so many festivals crowding the landscape, BBF’s independent co-founders Ampudia and Chris Den Uijl said they saw a gap in the market for a destination festival dedicated to reggaetón and chose the Baja locale of Rosarito largely because Ampudia had family and business connections to it.
“The fans were really calling for reggaetón, so Aaron and I took a deep dive into the opportunity cost and what it would take to do a 100% reggaetón Latin festival,” Den Uijl said. 
“We put it 100% on the line, self-funded it and put our heart and soul into it the first year. Our goal was for people to walk away and tell every friend what they experienced and we bet on the fact that the genre was gonna continue to grow with the numbers of streams we were seeing.”
Ampudia told Pollstar that 90% of Baja Beach Fest’s audience was third-generation Latino-Americans from the U.S. The lineup is comprised of Spanish-speaking artists (Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Ozuna), though some have songs in English. 
“Something we really strive for is to create an inclusive event for Latinos, not to say Latinos don’t listen to other genres of music, but we wanted to cultivate something that was [hyper-targeted] for one genre,” Den Uijl said. 
“I think our community was asking for something like this and there’s nothing really like it in North America,” Ampudia added.
“That’s what Chris and I saw, and that’s why we kept it as a reggaetón fest.”
This jives with comments made by Cárdenas Marketing Network CEO and founder Henry Cárdenas, who promotes Bad Bunny’s head line tours, about the expansion of the Hispanic audience in the U.S. in recent years. 

“Ten, 15 years ago there were maybe 20,000 Latinos, mainly Mexicans, blue-collar workers [in markets like Seattle, Kentucky, Omaha, North Carolina],” Cárdenas told Pollstar. “Since then, those 20,000 raised a family, had kids, so now there’s 60,000. And these Latinos are bilingual, and they love guys like Bad Bunny, so we can take him there… that’s why we can do 45,000 with Bad Bunny and Maluma.”

With the rapid ascent of reggaetón over the last several years, curating the perfect lineup when there isn’t always lots of hard ticket history is a balancing act, Ampudia said. But a unique dynamic of this year’s Baja Beach Fest artists is that many of them have collaborated on songs and a sizeable audience is very familiar with those collaborations. 

Den Uijl and Ampudia said existing demand for reggaetón continues to be underserved, and with such a large audience itching for a place to watch its favorite acts, organizers credit excellent customer service and the ability to create a culture and community as successes in execution. 

Hotel options, primarily in Rosarito and nearby Tijuana, are listed on the festival’s website, with some offering up to a 40% discount for festival attendees, and fans are pointed to convenient Airbnb and VRBO locations. The fest also partners with Lyte for easy ticket resale and refund options. 

“We really believe in creating culture and creating conversation within our own channels that our fans can really trust,” Ampudia said. “Explaining how you can get there, where you can stay, what do you want to eat.”

This year, Baja Beach Fest doubled its capacity to 30,000, well beyond the Rosarito’s hospitality capabilities, so the event is trying to make the experience as smooth as possible for attendees by facilitating trip coordination from the point of purchase.

The initial allotment has already sold out, with tickets going for more than $540 on the secondary market. 

The festival’s site, located right off Highway 101, is only an hour from San Diego – a relatively short drive for those preferring to stay stateside. But organizers wanted an experience that was not only great for fans, but also for Rosarito, given Ampudia’s ties to the town. 

“We have some U.S.-based staff that come in as support layers, but our production partners are most, if not all, based in Mexico,” Den Uijl said. “They have helped us develop this. We had to bring production partners out of Mexico City, since Baja hasn’t done anything like this.”

After a successful first year and what will surely be a good second year, Ampudia said the duo is reinvesting all of their capital back into the business, with the goal of finding other amazing beaches to expand to for Baja Beach Fest’s third year.