Why are Latin music “Live” albums popular?


Many of us seem to like “live” Latin music albums. I base this observation in that “Live” albums are selling very well.

On Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, 3 of the top 10 are “Live” albums. But the question I have is why do we like “live” albums so much? I’ll share with you what I look for in “live” albums, but first let’s take a look at some of the recently popular “Live” Latin music albums.

As of this week, the 3 “live” albums in Billboard’s Top (10) Latin Albums are:

Other recently popular “live” Latin music albums were “MTV Unplugged” by Juanes, “The King Stays King: Sold Out Madison Square Garden” by Romeo Santos, “Live in Hollywood” by Poncho Sanchez, and “Live at Altos de Chavon; El Concierto” by Ana Gabriel. I’ll talk about some of these as I explain what I look for in “live” Latin music albums.

Sergio George's "Salsa Giants" album has a decent compilation of hits, and high number of Salsa stars.
Sergio George’s “Salsa Giants” album has a decent compilation of hits, and high number of Salsa stars.

 Two Things I Look for in “Live” Latin music Albums

The 2 main things I look for in “live” albums are:

  • Good compilation
  • Something new

In most cases “Live” albums are a compilation of the artist’s hits, as they perform them in a concert. The exception is when the artist is recording brand new material and chooses to do it “live”. I think Latin music “live” albums sell well because they contain a good compilation of hits.

My reasoning for this is the popularity of artist compilation albums. Look up the discography of your favorite artist and chances are you’ll find several compilations there. The longer the career and popularity of the artist, the more compilation albums you will find.

For me it’s also very important that a “live” album offers something new in the music it provides. For example, I loved Juanes MTV Unplugged. Why? Because it contained a great compilation of Juanes hits but performed in a uniquely acoustical sound for the “unplugged” album.

Juanes "MTV Unplugged" is a great "live" album that brings a new twist to his old hits.
Juanes recorded the excellent “MTV Unplugged” “live” with a great collection of his hits with different arrangements and instrumentation.

On the other hand, the recently released “Salsa Giants” has a good compilation of hits (with a few exceptions that I did not enjoy) but offered nothing new in terms of performance. Yet, “Salsa Giants” climbed to the #2 position in Billboards Top Latin Albums (Juanes MTV Unplugged reached #1). How come? Because of the star power and compilation of Salsa music hits the album has. If Latin music fans don’t have most of the music contained in the album, the compilation of hit will drive sales, as it doesn’t matter how the hits are performed.

More “Live” Latin Music Albums

I’m currently working on the review of Juan Luis Guerra’s “Asondeguerra Tour”. It’s another great compilation of the Grammy winning Dominican singer-songwriter. The question is, does it deliver enough new music to make it worth while? I will evaluate this and future “Live” albums from these two perspectives; how good is the quality of the compilation of music, and how much different is the performance from the originals.

Maybe I was wrong in my recommendation of “Salsa Giants”. I enjoyed listening to the “Salsa Giants” album, but I did not recommend you buy it since the songs were performed almost exactly as in the original. To me there is no value added if you have the original music. But, what if you don’t have the original music? Then it may make good sense. And it seems that many people found good sense in buying it.

Stay tuned to the “Asondeguerra Tour” review coming shortly!

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  1. L. A. says

    Hey Hector,

    Interesting article. I get your reasoning, but with all due respect, I disagree with your summation. I personally think Latin “live” albums do well for two long standing reasons.

    1. Live albums do well, regardless of genre. (Check billboard if you don’t believe me. “Unplugged” became a thing for a reason… it’s profitable.

    2. Music fans in general love live albums because if they attended the event, it’s a way to relive a magical evening. And similarly, If they didn’t attend the event, it’s a way to enjoy the missed concert experience on their own time. This isn’t even taking into account the particular artsists/bands die hard fanbase, who will no doubt purchase the item as well. Those are my two cents from personal experience in the music industry. Thanks for the enjoyable read friend.


  2. Joy Butler says

    I agree that live Latin albums seem to have more compilations of popular hits. This is probably why live albums sell. It seems like listeners are drawn to hits that they repeatedly listen to more than new material. A possible way for an artist to help increase popularity of new material is to evenly distribute old hits with new songs on live albums.

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