Several years ago, Miami-based Loud And Live CEO Nelson Albareda tried to book Brantley Gilbert for a country festival there — but, he says, Gilbert’s agent wouldn’t even pick up the phone. Though Albareda would grow to be a giant in the Latin touring community — he was named Billboard’s 2023 Latin Power Players executive of the year — at that time he was still building his company.
“I called my accounting team and said, ‘Wire $300,000 to William Morris and put Brantley Gilbert on it. And an agent called me and said, ‘Hey, why’d you wire me $300,000?’ and I said, ‘Exactly for this. We’re on the phone. I want to make a deal.’” And that’s how Loud And Live booked Gilbert for 2016’s one-day Tequila Bay Fest, which also featured Montgomery Gentry (in the duo’s last show before Troy Gentry’s death) and Kip Moore, among others.
But Albareda had much bigger plans on his mind. He was keenly aware that country music appealed to Latinos — a Country Music Assn. study showed that Hispanic country music listeners increased 25% between 2006 and 2016 — and that the Miami market was highly underserved by country music tours, which tended to stop in Palm Beach, Fla. — located 75 miles north — instead.
Flash forward seven years and Albarada is realizing the dream that started so many years ago with this weekend’s two-day Country Bay Music Festival. Kicking off Saturday (Nov. 11), the festival, held on the Miami Marina Stadium grounds in Key Biscayne, Fla. near downtown Miami, will feature headliners Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett, as well as Lainey Wilson, Chris Young, Lee Brice, Elle King, Blanco Brown and BRELAND, among others. For some local flair, Miami-based Latin acts Alexandra Rodriguez and “Cuban Cowboy” Orlando Mendez are also on the bill, as well as country duo Neon Union, which includes Miami-born Leo Brooks.
This time, Nashville agents were all in. Albareda says he had a phone call with 60 agents to talk about the festival and that former agent Gilbert Paz, who now works for Albareda, visited Nashville at least three times over the last two years to meet with agents and managers.
One of those meetings was with The Core Entertainment, whose clients Nate Smith and Josh Ross are playing the festival. The company’s co-founder, “Chief” Zaruk, remembers meeting with reps from Live And Loud several months ago. “They came to [Nashville] with the purpose of saying, ‘Here’s our concept,’ and to explain to people what their vision was for this festival. They did it very smartly,” he says.
The idea of playing to a more diverse audience immediately appealed to Zaruk. “The Latin scene is massive, so if there’s an audience there that we can tap into that also loves country, we’re excited about the opportunity to get into a new fan base,” he says. “It’s only going to help country music and it’s only going to help personally our artists and we’re really excited to see the reaction.”
Fans can attend the festival via land and sea. The Miami Marine Stadium grounds hold around 25,000 people, but eventgoers can also enjoy it from their own boats with the purchase of a BYOBoat pass. “One of the things we want to do is capitalize on what Miami is all about,” Albareda says. “The venue and the way that it’s laid out has a whole view of downtown Miami. Miami Marine Stadium was originally built as a stadium for boat races, so the stadium faces an entire marine basin. Through the years it’s become an iconic place to anchor your boat. What we’ve done for the first time is secured the permits to close the basin and issued permits for you to bring your boat.”
Albareda adds that the festival’s more than 100 boat permits have sold out, with prices based on how many feet the boat measures. Tickets for landlubbers are scaled from as low as around $144 for a one-day pass to two-day platinum VIP tickets priced at more than $1,000.
Sponsorship dollars are also rolling in, with Zelle serving as the primary partner. “We are 300% above what our original budget was,” Albareda says.
To build awareness for the festival, which Loud and Live is presenting in conjunction with its South Florida-focused live events division, EngageLive!, the promoter held a series of pre-parties at the VIVO! Dolphin Mall featuring free concerts by such acts as Frank Ray and Austin Snell and is slated to hold a kick-off party on Friday night (Nov. 10).
Albareda sees tremendous similarities between the Latin and country genres, including the loyalty of the fans to the artists, the tight-knit industry, the emphasis on family and songs that rely on storytelling. “When you look at country music, it’s all about the story, when you look at Latin music it’s about the story. They’re about ‘I’m in love’ or ‘I’m gonna have a tequila’ or ‘I’m gonna have a beer.’ Those cultural relevances are very similar between Latin and country so that is something that has really attracted me.”
Therefore, Albareda views Country Bay Music Festival as more than a one-off event. “I believe that Loud And Live is not only invested in Country Bay, but in figuring out how do we continue to grow within the country genre,” Albareda says, adding that the company is looking at promoting individual country shows within Miami beyond the festival and then building from there to other cities.
Country Bay’s biggest local competition comes from the three-day Tortuga Music Festival, held every spring in neighboring Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (this year’s edition, which occurred in April, featured Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney and Eric Church, among others). But Albareda sees the two events as more complementary than competitive.
“The festivals are far enough apart and we wanted to differentiate with our diversity. Miami is a diverse city, we wanted a diverse line-up,” Albareda says. “The idea was to [be] reflective of what’s happening overall with music and even with country. Also, if you’re going to have it in Miami, you should reflect the diversity of a market like Miami.”
While it’s too early to know for sure how successful Country Bay will be financially, Albareda is bullish on country music’s overall future in Miami. “We expect hopefully to make money and, if not, to break even,” he says. “Whether it will be profitable or not, we have a multi-year internal commitment to build the festival. We are already picking talent for next year.”