March 7, 2009 / 3:03 AM / 11 years ago

Colombian singer Fonseca takes road less traveled

MIAMI (Billboard) - Touring in the United States has always been a challenge for developing Latin pop acts, who suffer from a scarcity of Latin pop radio stations in many cities and a lack of tour support from their labels.

This makes the recently announced tour by Colombian tropical/pop singer-songwriter Fonseca all the more remarkable.

Fonseca will take his Gratitour (derived from the title of his 2008 album, “Gratitud”) to 12 U.S. cities, expanding from his 2007 tour, when he played eight shows.

But back then, Fonseca was riding high on the success of his international hit “Te Mando Flores,” which spent 22 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, peaking at No. 8. His 2006 debut album, “Corazon” (EMI Latin), has sold 44,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

By contrast, his follow-up, “Gratitud,” has received radio support (the single “Arroyito” spent 20 weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 22), but the album has sold only 12,000 copies stateside.

But Jeremy Norkin, a talent agent for the William Morris Agency, which booked the tour, is banking on Fonseca’s reputation as a strong performer, coupled with low touring costs and an aggressive management team that invests in its artist.

“You don’t need record sales to be a successful touring artist,” Norkin says. “The promotion and marketing of a new artist is no longer following the format it did when records were selling.”

Fonseca, a star in his native Colombia, plays arenas there and in neighboring countries. He averages 100 shows per year.

“We’ve built Fonseca’s career around selling concert tickets,” manager Felipe Jaramillo says. “The live portion of his career is fundamental. We’ve always invested in promotion and in touring; we’ve been profitable.”

Fonseca kicks off his tour April 16 at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, which seats 1,567. He’ll then move on to venues like the Filmore in New York and the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, as well as some clubs, mostly in markets that he hasn’t yet played, like Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas.

The easygoing Fonseca sees his U.S. tour-bus adventure — between arena tours in Ecuador and Central America — as another way to present his music.

“The U.S. market is like the entire world in a single country,” he says, “and the tour reflects that.”

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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