Yandel Manager Andy Martinez On Wisin & Yandel’s Farewell Tour and Lasting Influence
When Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, the Puerto Rican musician better known as Bad Bunny, was just 11 years old, a slew of reggaeton artists including Ivy Queen, Wisin & Yandel, Zion and Lennox, Julio Voltio and Nina Sky sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden for the La Kalle 105.9 Block Party, moving 15,424 tickets and grossing $962,390 ($1.37 million in today’s dollars) on Sept. 28, 2005.
The following year’s iteration of the event, which included Wisin & Yandel, Tego Calderón, Voltio and more, moved 18,508 tickets and raked in $1.13 million.
Today, the genre’s younger generation, led by Bad Bunny, Maluma and Ozuna, might be tearing up America’s biggest stages, but their success owes partly to the trailblazers, like the ones on those mid-’00s Madison Square Garden bills, who helped introduce and popularize reggaeton music in the U.S.
And some of those genre veterans remain serious live draws. In June 2008, Grammy-winning duo Wisin & Yandel, which released its debut album in 2000, headlined Madison Square Garden, grossing $977,515 and establishing itself as an arena headliner. In 2018, the duo returned from a five-year hiatus, staging a well-received arena tour the following year that hit venues such as AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, and Miami’s FTX Arena, then known as AmericanAirlines Arena.
The revered reggaeton duo is hitting the road again – for a final time – this year, bringing the aptly titled “La Última Misión” tour to 25 North American arenas before doing an eye-popping, record-setting 13 nights at San Juan‘s Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot in its native Puerto Rico. (Notably, another reggaeton pioneer, Daddy Yankee, announced a farewell album and tour in March, just like Wisin & Yandel.)
“God is good,” says Yandel manager Andy Martinez, who has worked with the duo for two decades, when Pollstar connects with him following the tour’s onsale. “We’re super, super, super happy.”
Martinez, who co-founded the firm Jak Entertainment and serves as its vice chairman, shared his thoughts about Wisin & Yandel’s return from its hiatus, booking its 2022 tour and reggaeton’s ever-growing popularity in America.
How did this tour come together?
In 2018, we pulled Wisin & Yandel again back together. Since 2013, they were split; they were doing things as solo artists, not as a group. In 2018, I met with Wisin manager [and WK Entertainment founder] Walter Kolm. We sat down and we started building [their] comeback. We started with a couple of single dates in 2018 … then they sold eight shows [at Coliseo de Puerto Rico] in December 2018. Then we toured the U.S., Canada and Central America, South America in 2019. When we finished 2019, everybody was so happy. Everybody was saying, “Let’s do 2020!” So Walter and me closed a deal with Live Nation for U.S., Canada, we included Puerto Rico. Basically, we were doing the tour in 2020 but, unfortunately, the COVID pandemic put us on hold. … Working together with Wisin and again as a group with Wisin & Yandel, it’s beautiful. The vibe is great.
How long have you worked with Yandel?
I started with Wisin & Yandel in 2001. Then in 2008 I started an independent company and I started working with other artists. I kept having this great relationship with the guys. Then in 2013, Yandel talked to Wisin and they decided to make a pause in their group career so they could [be] solo artists. So, in 2013, I started managing Yandel, the solo artist part.
How did fans receive that reunion tour in 2018? And how did that make you look at doing more touring in 2020, which ultimately became 2022?
It was huge. It was a great tour because they were for six years without touring together, so getting back, it was amazing and it was a great vibe. The chemistry with Walter and his company in 2018, it was great because we were so focused on what’s [best] for the group, and we really work as a team. We love to tour. And these guys, they have a long career and they need to make a statement with this tour and their last mission. We’re coming with a new album this summer, so they want to tour with the new music also. It’s very exciting.
When did it come into the conversation that this would be their last tour? What was that discussion like?
This was really Walter brainstorming. Wisin & Yandel are not kids, they’re in their forties and they’ve been [a group] for more than 20 years. [They’re] pioneers of this reggaeton music, this urban Latin music. They’re producers, they have their own independent labels. Walter came to us and told us, “Listen, we couldn’t execute the extra leg tour [in 2020]. If we come back after this pandemic, we need to really make a statement.” With the pandemic, [Wisin & Yandel] were trapped in their houses with their kids. That opened their eyes. They were like, “Whoa, we spent all these years without really having quality [time with] the family.” Artists are like athletes. You have an expiration date in your professional life so you could retire and really do something more slowly, not too hardcore. We were, for all these years, traveling every week and doing promotion, doing concerts, and Walter brought that idea, like, let’s do the last mission. Let’s do it and let’s really put on the great show that the fans are waiting for.
Tell me about working with your agents to book this tour. How did you settle on how long it would be and the markets that you wanted to play?
Walter has Carlos Pinilla as his in-house agent that does everything for all his artists, including Wisin. And Yandel, he has Juan Toro, that’s his agent for his whole career. They have great chemistry together because they already understand the markets for the history of Wisin & Yandel, the markets [where] they’re good, they’re hot and they really sell tickets. Everybody wants to tour because everybody wants to get back after the pandemic. There’s not a lot of good holes to do a good routing for every concert. We really did things in advance, and I think our routing is beautiful.
You have six Texas tour dates. Can you talk about that state’s strength for Wisin & Yandel?
For all these years, the Texas market is always huge for Wisin & Yandel because there’s a lot of Latin Americans, there’s a lot of Mexicans there. Our main demographic for consumption for our music is Mexico. I was talking to Hans [Schafer, Live Nation SVP of Latin Touring], and he wants to open a new date for Hidalgo. Hidalgo is selling so well. He was happy, you know, “We’re doing good!” And I was like, “Listen, that’s our market. We’ve worked in that market since 2003, it’s almost 19 years.” Believe me, we love that market, it’s a great market.
You mentioned Hans. How did he and Live Nation help to plan and support this tour? It sounds like they were instrumental.
They’re our partners. Right now in the Latin division, they have a beautiful marketing team. They’re bringing a lot of ideas. Hans, he’s bringing a lot of hope for Latin tours. He understands so well how to market the shows. … He’s thinking out of the box.
Tell me about working with Paco Lopez to book this incredible run of 13 shows at Coliseo de Puerto Rico in December.
Paco is our friend since 2003. He’s worked with Wisin & Yandel all his career, and he’s the promoter of all Wisin & Yandel shows in Puerto Rico. He has the network. He understands everything, he loves to work with the sponsors. He was a huge tool for us to develop this promotion. We’re blessed. Nine shows [sold out] in 24 hours. I think we could do more than 13.
It’s a time of reflection, given that this is their last tour. How do you view Wisin & Yandel’s legacy and their influence on Latin music and reggaeton?
Wisin & Yandel are pioneers. They opened the market. When you see right now an Ozuna, a Bad Bunny, a Myke Towers, a Rauw Alejandro, J Balvin, Nicky Jam, Maluma doing all this crossover and being so mainstream, it’s because these guys, with Daddy Yankee, with Don Omar, they opened [it]. Now, you see a lot of people touring. You see Bad Bunny doing stadium tours, and we’re so happy and so proud that he’s there. But you could go back and you can see Wisin & Yandel doing the first-ever urbano tour in 2007 with AEG – that’s history. [They were] the first ones doing crossovers, the first ones singing in a lot of markets. Being the first ones, that’s their legacy. For us it’s amazing, because now you can really see what new artists are doing, and that’s the legacy. That’s the beautiful part.
Having worked with this music for more than 20 years, could you ever have expected, 15 or 20 years ago, that there’d be this guy, Bad Bunny, who is doing double stadium plays in a lot of American markets? Would you have ever expected this music would be selling so well in the States?
I cannot lie to you. You know, in 2004, 5, 6, 7? Yes, I had the hope to go big. Our Latin role models back in the time were Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira. You know, Latin pop superstars. We were dreaming, we were hoping … that we could have [what’s happening] right now [with] these kids like Bad Bunny doing stadiums. I cannot lie to you, I really did not see it coming – but I was hoping that we could get that Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Drake position. Right now, seeing all these [tours] happening in 2022, I think this happened really fast.