Day 2: 'Rhythm, Rap & Reggaeton' panel.

Reggaeton may have fostered unity in the Latin music community when it blew up in the mainstream a year ago, but panelists at the Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards in Miami addressing “Rhythm, Rap & Reggaeton” complained the genre is losing its purity since being embraced by “multi-national” record labels.

The session’s participants--comprised of major label executives, artists, producers and managers--lamented that the handshake that used to secure alliances and creative output has been supplanted by deals arranged between managers, attorneys, labels and, in the background, artists.

Representing the view of a number of panelists, artist Juan Gotti said, “We have to have a stance and stick with it. Don’t let record labels be your manager. When reggaeton began, it was about the word between men. I believe what you say to me more than what is written on a piece of paper.”

Elias de Leon, owner of management firm White Lion, countered, “There is the art of music and the business of music and they should go hand in hand. But we cannot continue to work on the basis of a word of honor, because we’re now swelling into sales in the millions. We cannot lose site of the fact that legal matters have to be stated.”

His statement drew applause from the audience.

“We all depend on sales at the end of the day,” added Lorenzo Braun, VP of marketing and A&R for Sony BMG’s urban division. “Many things may go wrong at the multi-nationals, but as the leaders of our labels, we also suffer many of the same frustrations as the artists. We all have to develop credibility—and unfortunately, it takes time for people to say, yes, this is working.”

Participants blamed the genre’s potentially fleeting success at radio on programmers’ hesitation to embrace new artists and evolving styles. In fact, they insisted that many reggaeton outlets are still playing the songs that brought the genre its initial popularity years ago, fostering fatigue among listeners.

“On the streets, where we came from, people are still listening to our music, which is changing constantly,” said Elias de Leon, owner of White Lion. “But radio stations are still playing records that we released four and five years ago and they won’t play talent that is up and coming, so of course, the audience is tired of them. These stations are ignorant—they don’t even know what’s going on in the streets—and they don’t want to know.”

Elastic People president Carlos Perez suggested that the responsibility for moving the genre ahead lays in the hands of reggaeton producers. “They have to make the genre evolve so that radio stations can find new ways to back reggaeton. Many producers have been sharing the sounds on their hard drive across” Puerto Rico, where the genre originated. “In order to (foster) new talent, they need to erase their hard drives and come up with a new sound.”

Full Coverage:
Daddy Yankee Exclusive Q&A
Day Two: Breaking Age-Old Perceptions
Execs Debate Pricing, iTunes' Impact
Billboard Latin Music Conf & Awards Kick Off In Miami


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