Billboard Latin Music Awards break the 2020 mold, host completely live show amid pandemic

Gary Dinges, USA TODAY
·3 min read

This year, most awards ceremonies have either gone virtual or featured a mix of live and taped performances in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That's not the case for the 2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards.

The ceremony, rescheduled from April to October, will take place in-person at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. While there will be a limited audience, the BLMAs will have most of the trappings of a pre-pandemic awards show including a red carpet and live performances.

Venezuelan actress Gaby Espino, star of "Jugar con Fuego" ("Playing with Fire") will host the show, airing on Telemundo Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. Nastassja Bolivar from "Latinx Now!" will offer behind-the-scenes coverage.

Bad Bunny and Ozuna lead this year's pack, with 14 nominations each. More than a dozen live performances are planned with the Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, Carlos Vives, Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, Paulina Rubio and Raymix among the performers.

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Billboard and NBCUniversal, Telemundo's parent company, say they have put a number of safety measures in place to mitigate risk of performers and crew members contracting COVID-19.

Five stages have been constructed: a central stage for Espino and four outlying stages for performers. The unique design allows sets to be sanitized between acts and helps facilitate social distancing.

"It's certainly unprecedented for us," Jeff Mayzurk, Telemundo's executive vice president of operations and technology, told USA TODAY. "It's almost like producing four separate shows."

A look at the 2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards stage design, which features a central stage surrounded by four performance stages.
A look at the 2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards stage design, which features a central stage surrounded by four performance stages.

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Following guidance from NBCUniversal's in-house medical team, each stage will have its own dedicated crew. A separate crew will handle red carpet arrivals. Crew sizes will also be smaller than normal because producers will be relying heavily upon video and graphics for backdrops, as opposed to the usual bulky set pieces that need to be rushed on and off stage.

Everyone involved with the show is subject to routine temperature checks and a variety of COVID-19 tests have been administered regularly — in some cases daily, Mayzurk says.

On-site safety officers will give regular safety briefings, ensure masks are worn and enforce social distancing.

"Their responsibility is to make sure people are following the rules and when they maybe get too excited and slip up, to point that out," Mayzurk said. "Everyone has been taking it seriously ... all the performers, the cast and crew, but they also want to get back to work."

Since March, when lockdowns shut down music venues and gathering places across the country, awards shows have been delayed and forced to adapt. The Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in May, for example, were hosted virtually from the home of "Victorious" star Victoria Justice and most of the performances for the MTV Video Music Awards in August took place in front of green screens.

Bad Bunny has 14 nominations at this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Bad Bunny has 14 nominations at this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards.

But Telemundo and Billboard felt it was important to try to stage a live show in a single location, Mayzurk says. Telemundo has been a leader when it comes to restarting filming for its series, with some shows kicking off production this summer after a months-long hiatus.

"There's just an energy and excitement level that's not possible with a bunch of prerecorded performances," he said.

During the ceremony, Enrique Iglesias is set to be honored as Billboard's Top Latin Artist of All Time. The performer has had a total of 27 No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart throughout his career.

Additional notable nominations include Daddy Yankee and J Balvin with 12 nods, Anuel AA with 11 and Farruko with 10.

Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Billboard Latin Music Awards go live, eschew taped performances