How Maluma Is Leading The Return To Touring: ‘Let’s Be The First Ones’

“Papi Juancho” arena tour,
Alexander Tamargo / Getty Images / Michelob ULTRA
– Maluma’s “Papi Juancho” arena tour,
which kicks off in September, leads the way for reopening the indoor live business, with help from promoter Cárdenas Marketing Network.
If you don’t immediately recognize his name, you are already late to the fiesta. When Maluma –  the 27-year-old reggaeton phenom out of Medellín, Colombia – announced he would be taking his “Papi Juancho Tour” to 23 cities in the U.S. beginning Sept. 2 – including stops at L.A.’s The Forum, NYC’s Madison Square Garden, Atlanta’s State Farm Arena and Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center – it was the first major tour to put tickets on sale in 2021.
The announcement gave new life to the question on everyone in the concert industry’s mind: ‘Will arena shows even be back in 2021?’ The answer appears to be yes, as Maluma and his power Latin team – which includes Walter Kolm Entertainment as management and which also handles in-house booking, record label Sony Music Latin and promoter Cárdenas Marketing Network (CMN) – are ready to put the tour on in whatever manner it can safely happen.
“We wanted to activate the industry, that’s why we went first,” said Henry Cárdenas, CEO of CMN, who despite uncertainty surrounding some specifics like capacity and local regulations, said the decision to be the first to announce was actually not a hard one. “We have been out for a year and I was sure people are [longing] to go out to see a live concert and enjoy life again after COVID-19. And we were right, as we’re very happy with the sales so far.”
The power promoter, however, noted that these days keeping the latest information flowing between team members is more important than ever. “I kept in close communications with Walter Kolm Entertainment during the pandemic. One of the first conversations I had with Walter was about this. I said, ‘As soon as we see some type of green light or a light at the end of the tunnel, we have got to go and be the first ones.’ And thank God he was on the same page; he said ‘Let’s go.’ So [once it looked possible] management talked to Maluma and he was eager to go out, work and see his fans. So it was an easy decision, we said ‘Let’s try it. Why not? Let’s be the first ones.’”
Xavi Torrent/WireImage
– Cover of Pollstar’s April 26, 2021 issue:
Maluma is pictured performing at Palau Sant Jordi on September 17, 2017, in Barcelona, Spain.
It is fitting Maluma would be the first artist to return to major touring, as he was hitting box office home runs before the pandemic. His $668,000 average show gross, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports from the last 36 months is impressive. But that pales next to his largest hauls, which include a gargantuan $2.9 million over two nights of his “11:11 Tour” at the Forum in September 2019; over $1.7 million at Madrid’s Wizink Center a year earlier and nearly $1.6 million at Madison Square Garden in October 2019. 
While his presence in both recorded and live has been substantial, as is his massive presence on Instagram and YouTube, it’s worth noting that his catalogue is entirely in Spanish. Maluma is one of the leaders in the wave of Latin artists sweeping the globe, alongside other global stars like J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna.
And it is safe to say that Latin artists are among those leading the return to live. Los Ángeles Azules and Alejandro Fernández have announced full runs of arena dates starting in late August/early September, Zoé has announced a full run of theater and club dates starting in August, and Bad Bunny has plotted a massive tour starting in February 2022. And Marc Anthony just announced a tour launching in late August.  
“I think it’s safe to say Latin Music is the driving force on the global charts and reggaetón/urbano is what has been driving this Latin music phenomenon all over the world,” says Kolm – whose roster includes Carlos Vives, Wisin, CNCO and Emilia. “Latin Music is here to stay [and just as] Latin music is dominating on the charts in the U.S. and globally, touring is a reflection of that.”
Cárdenas – who is also promoting Bad Bunny and Marc Anthony’s tours – said Spanish speaking artists are undoubtedly rising to the occasion and finally taking a central role in the country’s live business. “The Latino [audiences] are showing up, thank God. And it’s not just [CMN], it’s managers, producers and performers. They are saying, ‘We want to go out and be pioneers. We want to tell people the live industry is still alive and we are ready to go.’”
Return Of Papi Juancho
Maluma’s “Papi Juancho Tour” is named for his 2020 album, released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the tour will mark the first time fans will be able to hear the songs live, it will also feature a slew of music from his latest album #7DJ. Maluma has also been releasing singles over the past year, including his latest track “Rumba (Puro Oro Anthem),” a song released in partnership with the beer Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold to commemorate Earth Day. The song features actual recorded sounds emitted by the sun and the release was used as an opportunity to spotlight the fact that Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold is brewed with 100% renewable electricity from solar power. Weaving in music from two full albums, standalone singles, and slew of hits like “Corazón,” “11 PM,” “HP,” and “El Préstamo” will make for a wonderful evening for fans and Maluma is up to the task as something of a well-seasoned touring veteran.
“We were the first ones to do a national tour with him, at a very small scale,” says Cárdenas, whose CMN worked with Maluma since 2015 and says the burgeoning superstar took to increasingly larger shows like a fish to water. “I remember we did rooms of 1,500 to 3,000 people [around 2015]. After that we jumped right into arena tours and he’s been doing totally great and has a great audience. Now he’s affecting the U.S, I think, more than even Latin America.”
The challenges the “Papi Juancho Tour” could face may be far beyond anyone’s control. “We are basing every single decision on the vaccine,” Cárdenas said. “We project by July, 70% of the U.S. population will be fully vaccinated, that’s what we’re looking for. We know anything can happen. If we don’t get the people vaccinated, we may not be able to do 100 percent, we may have to go to 75-50 percent in some markets.”
One thing not in question, though is demand, Cárdenas said, as of press time, they were “very happy with sales.” Ticket prices for the “Papi Juancho Tour” run a broad spectrum with the low end running from $50 in markets like Ontario, Calif., and San Antonio to $1,000 for the best seat in the house at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Sept. 3. When purchasing tickets, fans are notified venues may shift seating configurations and increase capacity, depending on local health guidelines at show time. 
Jeff Kravitz / MTV VMAs 2020 / Getty Images / MTV
Maluma accepts the Best Latin award for his song “Qué Pena” with J Balvin at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 30 at the Skyline Drive-In in New York.
Ernie Hahn, GM of Pechanga Arena in San Diego, said his venue, like 325 other ASM Global facilities, will be utilizing VenueShield guidelines to maintain high standards of sanitation and public safety, and he is prepared to enact whatever else makes the show acceptably safe according to public guidelines.
“We will continue to follow all guidelines set forth by public health officials and will work in partnership with CMN should restrictions demand we make changes to the capacity levels at our venue,” Hahn said. “VenueShield will provide the most advanced hygienic safeguards that serve ASM Global’s clients, guests, staff, teams, talent and all other visitors. 
“Rest assured that all policies will be aligned with – and informed by – public health authorities, medical and industry experts.” 
Cárdenas said the show will be configured in the round in most markets, with Maluma performing at the center of the arena, surrounded by fans at every angle. This, he said, will allow them to be flexible in show capacity, while maintaining a high-quality experience. “The 360-setup is around 15,000 for arena,” he said. “But if we can only do 50%, we can go to eight or nine thousand and we can survive with that. Maluma wanted to go on tour and was flexible in the negotiations, so we are planning for that.
“If we have to reduce capacity, we are going to do it,” Cárdenas said, acknowledging the worst-case scenario means postponing to 2022, but he is confident it will not come to that. 
No matter how it goes down, Maluma’s team is investing heavily in the tour’s production to make sure it’s one to remember. “As always it’s going to have great production,” Cárdenas said. “He doesn’t save money when it comes to production, he knows you have to be very competitive in that regard, not only the performer, but the goodies and toys, and he’s got all of that set up. It’s going to be a great concert.” 
“It feels amazing,” Pechanga’s Hahn added about the tours starting to line-up. “We’ve been waiting for this day for over a year and are thrilled to be planning and preparing to welcome back our patrons, players and performers.” 
For his part, Maluma told Pollstar he “can’t wait” to be onstage, performing close to his fans once again. He also said that, once the time is right with the global health situation, he would love to take the “Papi Juancho Tour” around the world to markets even beyond Europe and Latin America.
It will be Maluma’s heartfelt and soaring songs crooned in his native Spanish that in September will ring in the return of some of the U.S.’s most successful arenas as they are filled with Spanish-speaking fans ready to enjoy a night with one of their favorite stars.
John Parra / Getty Images
– Maluma
holds the audience in the palm of his hand at the “11:11 World Tour” stop at AmericanAirlines Arena on Oct. 11, 2019, in Miami.
World Meet Maluma
“I think I don’t need to sing in English for people to like my music,” Maluma told GQ in November. And despite the larger non-Spanish U.S. market and his fluency in English, he prefers to sing in his native language. “I do what I like and if people don’t want to listen, there are millions of options on Spotify, millions of artists, but I have to be real about what I like.”
John Parra / Getty Images
Maluma shares the stage with Wisin Y Yandel at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Oct. 11, 2019, during the 11:11 World Tour.
While conventional wisdom dictates singing only in Spanish will limit the size of your audience, his extensive list of collaborators includes Marc Anthony (for “Felices los 4”), Shakira (“Clandestino”), Becky G (“Mala Mía, La Respuesta”), Madonna (“Medellín”), Ricky Martin (“No Se Me Quita”), J Balvin (“Qué Pena”), Steve Aoki (“Maldad”), The Black Eyed Peas (“Feel The Beat”), The Weeknd (“Hawái”), and Jennifer Lopez (“Pa’ Ti” and “Lonely”). 
His Lopez collabs are of particular significance, as the two are set to co-star in the upcoming film “Marry Me,” his first major motion picture. And the film’s director, Kat Coiro, hinted in a piece written by Billboard’s Latin Industry Lead and VP, Leila Cobo, that Maluma and Lopez may have more music on the way, which could have a “Shallow,” (from “A Star is Born”) type hit to accompany their on-screen chemistry.
While nothing is announced or confirmed, if the two continue to add to their collaborative catalogue, perhaps a co-headline tour could be in the cards.
Maluma’s recorded music game has been wildly successful: His song “Hawái” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Global chart outside the 2020 and he has had six more songs on the same chart in the last year.  In terms of live, his success on the road is impressive (see page 32): He came in at No. 57 on Pollstar’s 2019 Top 200 North American Tours with $22.3 million grossed on 241,549 total tickets reported on the year. Combine those numbers with the fact that he has been on tour every year since 2016, and you begin to get a sense of just how large and in charge the 27-year-old is. 
The Beautiful People:
Craig Barritt / Getty Images / SVEDKA
– The Beautiful People:
Heidi Klum, Tom Kaulitz and Maluma pose in costume during Klum’s 20th Annual Halloween Party presented by Amazon Prime Video and SVEDKA Vodka at Cathédrale New York on Oct. 31, 2019, in New York City. Maluma now stands as a formidable force not only in the music industry, but also in the fashion industry.

Social Butterfly
Also boding well is that Maluma is intimately connected to his fans and knows how to play the social media game. Earlier this year he posted a caption on Instagram of “#7DJ” written on his girlfriend’s stomach. This inspired a wave of speculation that he was going to have a child, perhaps to be born on the 7th of June or July (as 7DJ could stand for “7 De Junio/Julio”). It was later revealed that he would indeed be a father … to another album of music, whose title stands for 7 Días En Jamaica, where the project was written and recorded.
Kolm told Pollstar that Instagram in particular is a very important part of Maluma’s career as he continues to grow. “It’s extremely important. He’s the most followed Latin singer on Instagram. It’s how he communicates with his fans on a daily basis in a more personal way, its a tool for brands/sponsorships and also one of the best ways to promote all that he’s doing.”
He even sings about Instagram photos being posted by an ex to make him jealous in his biggest song, “Hawái,” the original video of which racked up 717 million views on YouTube in a mere 8 months (and an additional 119 million on the remix).
Cárdenas acknowledged Maluma’s connection to his audience through social media and beyond as being a key element of his success. But he also has a model’s good looks, which never hurts. “[In addition to his music], he’s a fashionista. He works with famous brands, he’s always in the fashion arena and the kids of this day love that, they love the way you portray what you wear every day. What kind of sneakers you wear, what kind of glasses you wear. He is right on it, he is a pioneer in that. 

“There are other guys that like fashion, but I think Maluma is ahead of the game because of the deals he has signed. And he is a great singer, performer, and songwriter; he writes his own material. So he’s a 360 performer, he has all the elements we are looking for.” 

And the fashion world has likewise taken notice of Maluma, as in the last several years he has been featured on the cover of GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Variety, Billboard, VMan and, notably, was the first man to appear on the cover of Elle. 

In this vein, it was announced on April 12 that Maluma is collaborating with Balmain and Olivier Rousteing on a special, limited edition clothing line that “perfectly melds designer’s modern takes on classic French signatures with the singer’s distinctive and Caribbean spirit.” 

Maluma told Pollstar many of the same qualities that have served him well in his music career have also helped him in film and fashion. “Discipline, hard work and passion is what I take into everything I do,” Maluma said. “Film and fashion are no different!”
Alexander Tamargo / Getty Images
Maluma strikes a pose next to a portrait of his likeness at a Wynwood gallery pop-up, where he surprised fans while promoting his album #7DJ on Feb. 2 in Miami.

More Than A Pretty Face
A simple scroll through Maluma’s Instagram page, unsurprisingly, reveals that a large portion of his fanbase are young women who are absolutely enchanted with him. Cárdenas, like any good promoter, laughingly acknowledges that there are plenty of young women who simply want to see Maluma in person. But his connection to his audience goes far deeper than a mastery of social media and a pretty face. 
As Maluma was hitting the road annually before the COVID-19 pandemic, he performed at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena in 2018 and 2019. Pechanga’s Hahn said he remembers those shows well. “Maluma is one of those artists who connects very well with his fans both on stage and off. During his 2019 stop at Pechanga, he hosted a private meet & greet before his show. Instead of just ushering everyone through a quick introduction and photo, he took the time to talk to each fan, ask their name, get to know them a bit and then snap a photo. 
“You can tell he really appreciates the people who appreciate him.” This he says before adding, “[Also] Maluma’s fans are the happiest and nicest people and his team and promoters at CMN are true professionals.”
Walter Kolm, who has been working with Maluma for more than eight years, said from the beginning he was drawn to the young man’s star quality. Maluma grew up as an avid soccer fan, as many young men from his hometown of Medellín, Colombia do, but in his early teens he won a singing competition amongst his peers and, in 2009, at the age of 15, he had written his first song. 
Producers got a hold of that recording and quickly offered him a deal, asking him to come up with a stage name, prompting him to combine the names of his mother, father and sister, Marlli, Luis and Manuela, into Maluma.
His first album, Magia, was released in 2012 when he was 18 through Sony Music Colombia and the following year he was performing alongside fellow upstart Becky G at the 14th annual Latin Grammy Awards for a global audience.
Now, nine years later, Maluma’s star has grown exponentially. He’s sold more than 60,000 tickets in Israel, set an attendance record while performing for more than 200,000 at Mawazine Festival in Morocco, and debuted to 25,000 fans in Saudi Arabia. 
Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that Bruno del Granado was the agent for Maluma. The artist is in fact represented by Carlos Pinilla of Walter Kolm Entertainment, who handles Maluma’s booking, sponsorships and new business in-house.