John Butcher, vice president of entertainment, Target (left); with Emilion Estefan, Chairman, Estefan Enterprises. (Photo: Michael Seto)

As record sales remain flat and labels tighten their belts in producing and releasing records, brands have stepped up to the plate, giving musicians a new source of revenue and support. Agencies, products and corporations are targeting U.S. Hispanics - especially the savvy U.S.-born Latino consumer - and one of the things that move this consumer most: Music.

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For Target, music in both cultures has been a great promotional tool and connector to their customers, said John Butcher, vice president of entertainment for the giant chain who sat on the "Targeting Music" panel with Emilio Estefan, Chairman of Estefan Enterprises.The mega retailer has worked with stars like Taylor Swift, Adele and Black Eyed Peas. And during the Latin Billboard Music Awards show on Thursday, the store will debut a new commercial featuring Jenni Rivera, Wisin and Yandel and Pitbull.

"Music has been a key ingredient in our success," Butcher said. "Music is one of the most dynamic influences in our culture… and brings a connection between our brands, our customers and our stores." Particularly Latin music has become a big deal, he added. "Latin artists infuse the target brand with a unique vibrancy and while we have always offered Latin music, we haven't always understood it like we do today," Butcher said, adding that the sales of Latin music lead the department.

Emilio Estefan (right) besieged by fans, well-wishers and CDs. (Photo: Michael Seto)

"Our Latin music category has significantly outpaced all other music genres in our stores," Butcher said, adding that the store has expanded its Latin music space.

That has made the corporation pay more attention and, in June, Target will unveil a special section near the aisles called "Emilio Estefan's Picks" in June, featuring selections that are hand-picked by the Miami music mogul himself.

That is a big deal in and of itself, Butcher said. "At Target, we are control freaks. We never let anyone else make our picks."

Estefan said he was glad to be part of something that could help new talent. "It is very exciting. When it was just me, Santana, Feliciano, Julio, there wasn't so much opportunity."

Emilio Estefan holding CDs after the Tageting Music panel given by audience members. (Photo: Michael Seto)

Estefan was grateful for the plethora of opportunities available to artists today. "Thank God we have too much, because labels have no money anymore," he said. "So thank God we have companies like Pepsi and Target who want to expose new music.

"The only way to help new artists today is with Target and AT&T," said Estefan, who announced he would likely take 10 new artists this year to Target and other labels.

And that's good news to artists because "when Emilio brings something to us and says 'You got to listen to this. These people are phenomenal.' We listen," Butcher said.

The Reaching The New Latino Marketing Panel: From left: Moderator: Rick Marroquin, Lifestyle Agent, CAA; Carlos Munoz, SVP/Group Account Director, Globalhue; Jorge Plasencia, Chairman/CEO, Republica; Lily Juliano, National Hispanic Segment Manager, Verizon Wireless; Javier Farfan, Senior Director, Cultural Branding, PepsiCo.; Gustavo Lopez, EVP of Brand Partnerships & Digital, UMLE. (Photo: Michael Sera)

"The music ecosystem has changed," said Javier Farfan, senior director of cultural branding for PepsiCo at the Reaching the New Latino panel focusing on how brands and agencies are targeting the "New" U.S. born Latino via music and music branded events.. "Everybody knows social media and how it works, who said the promotions are not new, but the tools are. "The problem is how am I going to use that authentically?"

Jorge Plasencia, Chairman/CEO, Republica and Lily Juliano, National Hispanic Segment Manager. (Photo: Michael Seto)

Lily Juliano, National Hispanic Segment Manager for Verizon Wireless, said it's about finding the right music partner for your target group. "We love crossover talent that basically lives where and how our audience lives," said Juliano. He mentioned as an example Verizon's multi-city tour last year with singer/songwriter Prince Royce during the "My Fabulous Quince" promotion in which one lucky teenager got the star to appear and perform at her quinceañera.

"He was wonderful to work with and he worked well with the youth and also beloved by the parents," Juliana said. "For us, biggest isn't always best….One of the key things is they have to be approachable. They have to be real. They have to be people you can sit at the dining room table with.

And that has to work both ways, said Erica Moreira, an attorney who works on sponsorship deals at the panel entitled Approaching Brands For Your Musical Product. "It starts with artists understanding their own brand and making sure the artist's brand and sponsor's brand are aligned," Moreira said, during a panel on "approaching brands for your musical product."

Tricia Bean, director of Hispanic sponsorships at AT&T, which has featured Paulina Rubio in its advertising that won a marketing award later Tuesday evening, agreed."We want our artists to believe in the product" Bean said. "If you're an artist and you're an ambassador for Cover Girl, you better use that lipstick and you better love it."

The days of simple endorsements are long gone, said Mayna Nevarez, CEO of Nevarez Communications, which represents Daddy Yankee and also won an award for the Western Union "Love in any Language" campaign that Daddy Yankee unveiled at the 2011 Latin Billboard Music Conference. "Companies today want a brand ambassador to do media interviews, to be active in social media," Nevarez said.

Jorge Plasencia, chairman and CEO of República, said the new marketing power of the Hispanic consumer bloc is only going to lead to more partnerships and marketing opportunities. But, he warned, they must be culturally relevant. "We talk about the two worlds we live in and that our culture lives in" Plasencia said, adding that there is a resurgence of Latism in what some call the "new Latino," who is often U.S.-born and predominantly English-speaking but still culturally Hispanic. "While other generations wanted to shun their Hispanic culture, people now want to celebrate our culture as they see Sofia Vergara on Saturday Night Live."