Latin music has moved beyond Spanish-speaking countries, climbing the charts in the last three years to become a global and mainstream sound, which has conquered typical consumer platforms, such as Spotify or Youtube.
Rolling Stone magazine claimed late last year that Latin music is reaching more listeners than ever before, but also pointed to the fact that the industry is concerned that the dominance of reggaeton and trap is leaving little room for other styles.
LATIN MUSIC IS MAINSTREAM
This bible of Anglo-Saxon music stated that “one of the most important events in contemporary pop has been the emergence of Latin music as a powerful commercial force in the United States.”
Between 2016 and 2017, the number of songs in Spanish in the Hot 100 increased from just four to 19. It is a huge leap forward.
In 2018 that trend continued and at least 16 more singles made the charts. After years of inviting Latino artists to English-speaking events and trying to convince them to participate, it is now the heavyweights of Latin music who enjoy the privilege of being sought after by Anglo-Saxon artists.
AFTER “DESPACITO” EVERYTHING SKYROCKETED
Many are looking for them now, desperate to take advantage of their extraordinary momentum in the streaming platforms.
Luis Fonsi is most likely the one to have showed them the way in 2017 when he re-launched the musical career of Canadian Justin Bieber by participating in the recording of one of the versions of Despacito together with Daddy Yankee.
But some industry personalities are concerned that the profits of Latin pop are too concentrated in a single area known as “urban” music, which mainly includes reggaeton and trap.
As the songs in this category accumulate billions of listeners and downloads, and music labels follow that money, some fear that other music genres in Spanish will no longer be considered profitable and may become niche products, abandoned by the mainstream.
The risk that Rolling Stone speaks of is real but many experts in the music industry agree that it is difficult to correct such strong trends, especially in these days of Youtube or Spotify.
THE NEW AND VALUABLE LATINO NICHE
Even the prestigious Financial Times joined in the debate about this unusual moment for Latin music across the world. An extensive article published at the close of the year pointed out that the most important record labels have also surrendered to the power of this ever growing Hispanic territory.
“Latin American audiences may have been undervalued because of their low spending on physical music, but they are key influencers in the digital realms, generating great interest and hundreds of millions of instant views, likes and listens, says the Financial Times. In short, this is an immense business niche for record labels.
In the past, other successful Latinos like Ricky Martin, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez and even the ever-present Pitbull traditionally resorted to English lyrics to gain a massive amount of followers.
J. Balvin or Nicky Jam, for example, now do it whole-heartedly in Spanish, even if they were born or raised in the United States.
In other words, this is a new phenomenon because many Latino artists who are now storming the music industry were born in the United States in families of Latin origin.
They grew up listening to hip hop or rap, essentially Anglo-Saxon styles, but were also influenced by the music of their parents. From this cross-cultural reality emerged musical products that fuse styles without any limit; it is a genuine and authentic musical culture.
LATIN MUSIC IS AHEAD OF COUNTRY MUSIC IN THE USA
Forbes magazine revealed earlier this year that Latin music is more popular than country music in the United States. This was based on the data accumulated by the analysis company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption.
From December 29, 2017 to December 27, 2018, within the general growth panorama of music consumption via streaming, hip-hop music set the tone in the consumption of albums, songs and music videos.
But, according to Forbes, Latin music recorded large numbers that place it already in an undeniable and possibly underestimated status in the U.S.
Cardi B can be considered one of the great Latin winners of the year. She won five Grammy nominations, including “Album of the Year” for her debut studio album “Invasion of Privacy,” and wrapped up 2018 as part of Spotify’s top 5 female artists of the year.
Together with Cardi B are Puerto Rican Latin trap singer Bad Bunny and Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin, both among the most popular pop artists of the year in the general and Latin music categories.
When it comes to album preferences, Latin music earned a 9.4% share in the 2018 market, making it the fifth-largest genre among audiences. Hip-hop led the way (with 21.7% of all LP consumption), followed by pop, rock and R & B.
But Latin music is now ahead of country music, an occurrence that has rocked the foundations of the country’s music industry.
YOUTUBE IS THE BIG LATIN MUSIC HOUSE
In a report published by YouTube late last year in which it shared the list of the 50 most watched videos in 2018 through its platform, eight of the top ten were Latino artists.
The most watched video on YouTube last year was the remix of “Te Boté”, released in April by Bad Bunny, Casper, Nicky Jam, Ozuna, Nio Garcia and Darell.
That report also stated that 95% of all Latin music consumption came from streaming platforms and only 5% from sales. Forbes believes that it is “a remarkable disparity, but it seems to indicate that the younger and tech savvy listeners lead the genre”.
What is the reason for this phenomenon? For many analysts the answer is easy: streaming. Consumption numbers on these platforms are a large part of those fueling the most popular rankings in the United States, such as the Hot 100.
It is no secret that the global influence of platforms such as Spotify and YouTube has allowed a growing number of Latin songs to filter into the top levels of streaming lists.
By contrast, if we look at consumer statistics only through US radio stations, it is difficult to find Maluma, Wisin or Romeo Santos in their Top 40.
THE LATINO LOVER BOY IS NOT LONGER OF INTEREST
Latin pop was historically a territory ascribed to singers. From Julio Iglesias to Ricky Martin, generally those who triumphed did it promoting the figure of the classic Latin beau that sang fiery ballads of love with harrowing letters and sumptuous arrangements. The female audience is who consumed this music the most.
At the other end of the spectrum, and always on the most popular level, anything Latin was identified with very commercial and simple songs made for dancing. From Macarena by Los Del Rio to Suavemente by Elvis Crespo, to Livin La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin or La Camisa Negra by Juanes. These songs were able to break records in the conventional radio arena in their original Spanish versions.
For Nir Seroussi, president of Sony Music Latin U.S., Latin music began to stand out a few years before “Despacito” achieved the universal anthem status. The decisive moment occurred, according to Seroussi, in 2014 with the release of Bailando by Enrique Iglesias.
Now thanks to the impact of reggaeton, we suddenly have an avalanche of latin dance songs with a pop twist, and the combination is universally appealing.
Maluma, whose music seems to work in all languages and in all territories, is a good representative. There is also a clear ambition of a new generation of Latin artists to become global artists without giving up their roots.
Balvi told the Financial Times “I want to win an American Grammy”, emphasizing the distinction between the prestige of the Latin Grammy Awards and the “main event.”