In March, Puerto Rican singer/rapper Bad Bunny — the biggest musical act of 2022 — played before a sold-out crowd at the Prudential Center.
In May, Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona — one of the most successful Latin American artists of all time — did two nights.
In September, Columbian singer Karol G — recently crowned the most viewed artist of 2022 — brought her high-energy show to the “Rock.”
The global stars may have been three of the biggest Latin acts to play in Newark in 2022, but they were far from the only ones. Sean Saadeh, the arena’s executive vice president of entertainment, noted that more than a dozen Latin stars played the arena last year.
It was by design.
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Saadeh, who has been at the arena for nearly eight years, said bringing in diverse acts has long been a priority at the arena, saying the year-by-year emphasis has helped the Prudential Center earn a reputation as a leader for Latin music in the tri-state area.
“Our growth in the Latin market has been tremendous,” he said. “We used to do an average of 5-8 shows a year. We did 17 last year, so, we more than doubled our Latin business.”
The increase was just one of the reasons why the Prudential Center moved up in the 2022 global arena rankings.
Pollstar ranked the Prudential Center as the fifth-highest grossing venue for concerts in the world in 2022, trailing only Madison Square Garden, the Kia Forum (Inglewood, California), the T-Mobile Center (Las Vegas) and the O2 Center (London). Billboard had the Pru Center in the No. 10 spot. (The metrics between the rankings vary.)
Saadeh certainly is thrilled by the Top 5 ranking, but he said he may be prouder of the fact that the Prudential Center clearly is reaching the diverse audience it aims to serve. Its revenue numbers for concerts in 2022 (approximately $85 million) is essentially double what the arena did in 2019, the last non-COVID year for concerts.
A lot of that has come from serving niche audiences, Saadeh said.
“I think we’ve become the East Coast home for Latin, which obviously mirrors our community,” he said. “Our ability to book Latin musical acts in our building on a regular basis so our community can enjoy it, is pretty remarkable.”
Latin shows at Pru Center
In 2022, the Prudential Center had 17 shows featuring Latin acts (five of which were shows that featured a number of different artists). One (Gabriel Iglesias) was a comedy act. Here’s the list:
- Marc Anthony (Feb. 12)
- Farruko (Feb. 18)
- Bad Bunny (March 18)
- Juan Luis Guerra (March 25)
- Banda MS (May 14)
- Ricardo Arjona (May 20, 22)
- Mega Mezcla (May 27)*
- LA X Live (June 10)*
- Wakamba (July 23)*
- Pepe Aguilar (Aug. 14)
- Daddy Yankee (Sept. 8)
- Karol G (Sept. 10)
- Carlos Vives (Sept. 17)
- Gabriel Iglesias (Oct. 2)
- WPAT Amor Radio Show (Oct. 8)*
- Mega Bash (Dec. 2)*
- Daddy Yankee (Dec. 8)
Multi-act shows denoted with *.
The origins of the artists in 2022 were as diverse as the variety of acts. Five of the shows (including Mega Mezcla and the WPAT Amor Radio Show) featured multiple performers. Gabriel Iglesias did a comedy show.
The acts appeal to more than just a niche audience, too.
Bad Bunny had the highest grossing tour of 2022 by far (at nearly $375 million in gross revenue), according to Billboard. Daddy Yankee (No. 13, at $125 million) was one of 16 acts to top $100 million. Karol G (at $83 million) was in the Top 25 for the year.
Plenty more will be announced, Saadeh said.
“We’ve been building this out over the years,” he said. “The artists want to play our building and the fans keep coming out. The more the fans come out, the more we have the ability to book more acts, because artists see there is a tremendous fan base here.”
The artists are stepping up their acts, too, Saadeh said.
“The shows are becoming more and more sophisticated,” he said. “Bad Bunny was a mega production. And Karol G had 25-plus trucks.”
Saadeh said hosting the MTV VMA awards show in 2022 (and in 2019) certainly helped showcase the arena for its ability to host shows with high production values. Of course, the Prudential Center has been doing that since it opened 15 years ago.
The arena’s appeal to diverse acts has been going on for just as long.
The Prudential Center has long been a magnet for K-pop, as it was one of the first arenas to play host to global superstars BTS — and was once one of its few North American stops.
That reputation continues. In November, the Pru Center hosted two sold-out shows for Blackpink, the all-girl group that may be the biggest name in K-pop.
“Our diversity of acts is across the board,” Saadeh said. “I think that has really contributed to the rankings that we’ve seen this year.”