For the past few years, Latin artists like Daddy Yankee, J Balvin or Bad Bunny have been dominating global charts, bringing reggaeton and Latin urban music to new heights. In 2020, “recorded music revenues increased by 15.9% in Latin America, which was the fastest-growing region globally, representing 3.6% of the global recorded music market” (IFPI, Global Music Report, March 2021).
Thanks to the power of digital, smart sync deals and brand partnerships, as well as impactful international collaborations, Latin music is the new pop and connects with audiences across the world.
But beyond the current leading urban movement, mainly out of Miami, Puerto Rico and Colombia, what will the next wave of Latin music be? What are the most vibrant music scenes across South America and how will they impact the global music industry?
From 11-12 March 2021, the Midem Latin American Forum, in association with Latinx Bizarro Lab, brought together online movers and shakers of Latin America and their global peers to discuss the dynamic music scenes of Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. Through a solid programme of panel discussions, networking opportunities and showcases, participants dove into the Latin music industry, sounds and music tech ecosystem to get a unique insight on the endless opportunities for both Latin and international artists in the region and beyond.
Discover the 5 takeaways (and a bonus) from the 2021 Midem Latin American Forum!
1. Language barrier is irrelevant: listeners across the world have embraced music in Spanish.
When “Despacito” hit the airwaves in 2017 and then reached its first billion views on YouTube, the world was still making sense of the “Despacito effect” and of how a song in Spanish could have broken so many records. Three years, 7 billion views (and counting) and a myriad of global Latin hits later, it is obvious international audiences don’t need to understand the lyrics to connect with music and artists.
The role of digital in this phenomenon is clear, as streaming services rise to the occasion, expand their presence in new territories and put all their efforts into curating locally relevant playlists that give global visibility to local and regional genres. French-owned aggregator TuneCore, which announced its expansion in Latin America during the Midem Latin American Forum, is part of this movement. Its new Head of Brazil and LATAM Bruno Duque took the virtual stage saying:
“Latin America is an important asset for the music industry. There is no way a distributor or an aggregator can be outside of this ecosystem because Latin America is a powerful voice and I think TuneCore making this move is going to be very important for the distribution in the region”.
As a result, beyond the very successful urban scenes – led by the reggaeton movement – we now witness the internationalisation of other Latin genres. “I see two trends, says Leila Cobo, Billboard’s VP, Latin Lead, during her talk “A deep dive into Latin American Sounds”:
“There is a new pop coming […] with artists like Camilo or even C. Tangana, with his new album. Then, I’m very surprised that the music we call ‘”Regional Mexican” is connecting with so many people that are not Mexican.”
The smash hit “Qué Maldición”, a collaboration between Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga and Snoop Dogg, is just one example of how this genre – so specific to Mexico – is now crossing borders beyond its traditional zone of influence.
This is a testament to the impact digital penetration has had, especially since Covid-19, with older generations starting to consume music digitally, allowing for catalogue and traditional genres to get a wider digital audience. Also, “we’re living in this era where Generation Z is at the forefront”, adds AJ Ramos, Artist Relations Manager at YouTube.
“Generation Z is able to adapt and adjust to the traditional sounds and it’s making it its own. [For example,] corridos tumbados: you have artists like Natanael Cano who is bringing other artists into his own world. You have the rise of this generation that listens to music in English and likes it, but is also embracing Spanish culture.”
2. Latin America’s thriving alternative and regional music scenes: from rock en español in the 1980-90s to today’s cumbia, trap and so much more.
Without a doubt, one of the leading movements from the region has been “rock en español” in the 1980s and 1990s, with bands like Maná, Soda Stereo, Los Enanitos Verdes or Café Tacvba coming from Mexico, Chile and Argentina.
“When you think of Argentina, you think about rock. But now, we’re living in a trap era”, announces Rodrigo Espector from Buenos Aires Feria Internacional de Música in the “Decoding the Alternative Music Scenes of Latin America session, in association with the LAMC.
Indeed, Argentina is truly going through a musical rebirth and “the artistic proliferation and the good health of the Argentinian music industry can be seen principally in the urban movement, with artists like Bizarrap, Khea, Duki, Cazz, among others, as well as in pop with the likes of Lali, Tini, o María Becerra”, continues Nicolas Madoery.
“But beyond that, there is a multitude of rich scenes and sounds, from electronic music to alternative and indie, which generate content of huge development potential”.
Today, the growth of the independent music sector allows alternative music genres to reach new audiences and “what Covid has taught us is that people are being very selective as to what they’re consuming and the alternative indie sound has a beautiful rise as well”, says AJ Ramos.
“The Latin music industry is largely based on live and the independent sector”, explains Nicolas Madoery, DITTO Argentina Country Manager and 432 Hertzios founder. What is very specific to Latin music is the richness of its traditional music and the large audience it has still to date even among the new generations, thus inspiring artists like Guetto Kumbé, Nicolas Cruz, Raymix to mix electronic, pop or urban music with regional sounds like cumbia, musica ranchera or afro-Latin folklore.
“Right now, we’re in a melting pot of cultures and rhythms,” says OCESA Seitrack’s Head of Content & Artist Development, Fabrizio Onetto, “everything is blending together and it’s very exciting!”
This fusion of genres is the DNA of musical production across the region. From Reggaeton (the pure product of Caribbean rhythms from Puerto Rico, mixed with the influence of US hip hop from the 90s and Jamaican reggae), to cumbia, which “stayed around the world because it has an American heart, a native heart, and the arrival of Europe and the African fusions, which gave cumbia a unique endemic sound in its origin. […] That’s why it stays with people”, explains Colombian icon, Carlos Vives. Ambassador of cumbia and its sub-genres like vallenato, he talks with passion about artists maintaining a link with their native culture and celebrating the traditional musical heritage to create new sounds true to their roots.
3. Mexico is a regional driving force: make it there, and you can make it anywhere.
Mexico is Latin America’s biggest music market, not only thanks to its unique position as a bridge between the US and South America, but also because digital penetration and music consumption are massive there. From México DF to Guadalajara, Monterrey, and other music cities, the country is a touring Eldorado, where Latin artists from the whole continent come to gain regional recognition.
“Mexico has countless music festivals. It’s a huge live, festival and digital market and there’s a good scene for every genre”, states IMMF Co-Chair and MMF LatAm founder Ana Rodriguez during the Understanding Latin America: key trends shaking the region panel.
Traditionally, “for Mexican artists, the first international market is California, while for South American countries, they tend to look at Mexico first”, explains Fabrizio Onetto. “But recently we’ve had many surprises thanks to the analytics of the digital platforms; we tend to see that some of our artists are more popular in Santiago de Chile than in Los Angeles!”
Beyond that, Mexico’s rich music scenes has allowed countless creative hubs to emerge, giving alternative acts more visibility and new audiences.
“In Mexico, for the last few years, Regional Mexican music has grown immensely and that impacts all the artists that are more independent label oriented or alternative. Also, cumbia music is very strong in Mexico and throughout Latin America, [together with]urban rhythms”, adds Fabrizio Onetto.
Nonetheless, being such a complex and mature market:
“if international artists want to make it in Latin America, it’s better to enter through smaller markets, because Mexico is where everybody wants to succeed: acts tend to be bigger and there’s a lot of competition”, advices Luis Gabriel Castillo, Altafonte’s President Andean & Central America.
4. Women are taking the lead and creating their own narrative.
Just like in other regions of the world, women across the Latin music industry are raising their voices, accessing leadership roles and founding their own companies. “Gender inequality in Latin America in general is an issue we grapple with on a daily basis”, states Mary Nuñez, who represents leading artists Francisca Valenzuela (Chile) and Ximena Sariñana (Mexico) for Warner Chappell Music. “Music is a powerful tool to break down barriers that are present in everyone’s life. There are many women in the world of music and in our industry who are establishing strategies to prevent, detect and combat gender inequality”.
Indeed, female artists are fighting for more visibility in festivals and music credits, and push for a stronger sense of sorority. Here is what Ximena Sariñana says during the “Women Voices in Latin America” panel:
“What starts becoming more clear is that it is definitely [up to us]to do more and be more active”
“It is in our interest and it is our job to create those opportunities. For example, Francisca Valenzuela is actively creating spaces like Ruidosa Fest, and I, in this last record, decided that I was going to do the most inclusive album possible and I decided to actively work with only female writers, with a female producer and looked for female engineers, even if that makes it more challenging”.
5. “It’s not only about exporting music, but innovation too.”
These were the words used by Juan Francisco Saavedra Plata from Kuack Media Group (Colombia) to introduce the panel “Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Latin America”.
“Latin America is very diverse and each country has different cultures and approaches to making business”.
The continent’s music tech ecosystem might be young but there is a lot of creativity and talent. Music tech players push for innovation and accelerators such as BizarroLab (Chile), Stereothèque (Colombia) or MassChallenge (Mexico) are paving the way for more innovation coming out of the region, allowing more and more startups to get international recognition like Midemlab 2020 finalist Fanear. “
There are many interesting projects but still at an early stage. There is a work to do to make more start-ups scalable“, says Camila Lecaros, Director, MassChallenge (Mexico).
Be it in the music tech scene or in the music industry in general, “Latin America is the present”, sums up Luis Estrada.
“It’s a market that grew the most, as a region, in the whole world, each of the country is growing more than any other country in the world. (…) It’s the best time right now to invest in Latin America and to look at Latin America, to do collaborations and to come and do business.”
6. Bonus: watch out for…
- Reggaeton coming out of Medellin:
“Colombia is a big hub for urban and reggaeton. Our centre of creativity, which was initially Bogotá, has now skewed towards Medellín. And with that, a lot of rhythms have come into the music, so we have more pacific sounds.” – Diana Rodriguez, CEO & Founder, Criteria (Colombia)
- The Chilean urban trap movement:
“There is a big urban trap scene built in the communities, it begun in the underground and now it’s growing internationally, the producers are collaborating with a ton of other countries. It’s going to be very important within the next five years when the underground goes more professional and overseas.” – Oliver Knust Restucci, Director, Chilemúsica (Chile)
- Cumbia taking over the world:
“Cumbia is starting to be like EDM was like five years ago, with many subgenres of cumbia. You have all these DJs doing covers in a cumbia/urban version that are charting in Spotify, in YouTube… and that’s amazing. Don’t be surprised if very soon this cumbia – urban cumbia – in Amsterdam, in Germany, in Sweden, in France obviously, will start being played.” – Luis Estrada, President, Southern Cone, Universal Music Group (USA)
- The new Spanish scenes:
“I think there’s going to be a rise in Latinx culture in Europe, the US and Latin America. You have artists that are starting to buzz: C. Tangana and Rosalía are coming from Europe.” – AJ Ramos, Artist Relations Manager, YouTube (USA)
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