The Latin Alternative Music Conference hosted a series of panel discussions tailored for the different conundrums that arise when U.S., Latin and Latin American artists try to swim in the mainstream of the music business in the United States. On Thursday (July 13) and Friday (July 14) inside a shabby-chic event room in New York City’s Stewart Hotel, executives from some of the most prominent music streaming services, festival coordinators, artists, A&Rs, and legal experts came together to share advice.
In the panel titled "Latin Music In the Digital Age: Where Do We Go From Here?" the focus was on smarter use of services. The key to having a successful marketing plan, experts explained, comes down to research. “Use the Internet to get data on what’s happening in particular cities, and in a region of a particular country that can become part of the story that you’re telling about yourself,” explains Jason Pascal, VP of catalog development & associate general counsel for The Orchard, a film and music distribution firm. “See what’s starting to catch fire in a particular region, and maybe it makes sense to do some advertising there. It makes sense to play live there, and make that part of your story of the times based on the direction your career is going.”
Return on investment is key. Rocio Guerrero, head of Latin culture for shows & editorial at Spotify, advises artists not to lend so much energy in creating a physical copy. It may turn out to be cost ineffective considering only two singles out of one whole body of work might get attention. Instead she offers to try and use a digital platform for fans to have access to the music.
Still, with offering artists a home to place their music in, comes the great responsibility of making sure the artist gets recognition from the public.
"Streaming inherits the responsibility that we have to foster discovery and to make sure we’re being inclusive to a broader landscape of people,” said Marcos Juarez, Latin music curator and programmer at Pandora. “A Pandora experience can begin with your favorite artist, and can lead you to an artist you’ve never heard before.”
Both Spotify and Pandora have discovery tools and algorithms, which are designed to help their consumers be privy to up-and-coming new artists. Amid the various ways of branding an artist, there’s no denying music streaming services have helped the Latin community. Daddy Yankee recently became the No. 1 artist on Spotify, which Guerrero acknowledges streaming has opened new doors. “Whether you like reggaeton or not it’s helping all of us in this room to get the visibility that we needed,” she noted. “I know for a fact it’s opening up a lot of doors to independent artists, mangers and labels. We are getting knocks on our doors from the general market much more than we did before.”
Latin artists are also starting to gain momentum in placing their music on film and TV. The "Content is King: Latin Music Synchs In The Streaming TV & Film Era" panel explored the topic of using music within other mediums of entertainment consumption.
“Because of the streaming platforms with a lot of original content that have been created via Hulu and Netflix, there have been a lot more programs that have been looking for Latin music than in the past,” explained Yvonne Drazan, VP and A&R of Latin Division at Peer Music. “Pretty much everytime anyone would ever ask me for Latin music for either film or television it was for like a taco truck scene, or something like that.”
With the rise of shows like Narcos and El Chapo, the use of Latin music for programming purposes is in high demand. But that also brings stereotypical syncs that reinforces longstanding clichés, which some are looking to combat.
“I’m working on a documentary called The Classic, and it follows East L.A. Latino football players, and it features all kids of immigrants,” said Josh Norek, who handled music supervision for El Chapo. “There’s a lot of Latin hip-hop in this movie, but it’s all positive. I think it’s going to depend on who’s making the movie, and what the characters are doing.”
Beyond song performance and placement, Latin artists from abroad face a different set of challenges under our current troubling political climate. The panel entitled "Another Brick In the Wall: Touring the USA In 2017" deconstructed what the process is for Latin artists when trying to come and play in America.
Immigration attorney Eva Golinger, who specializes in entertainment immigration and international law, advises those looking to enter to have the proper documentation. “For foreign artist coming to the U.S., you need to make sure that you have legal paperwork, a proper musician or artist visa,” she noted. “Make sure you discuss if you have any prior encounters with the law, because all of these things are now being scrutinized in a very serious way.”
Golinger also added that immigration officials have access to phone records and social media accounts, which means one needs to be careful with what’s shared online. Additionally, she mentioned that artists should submit a print version of their press kits filled-out with all their press articles translated into English. Also, they need all the contracts for concerts they’ve played in their country of origin. Immigration departments nationwide are looking for a reason to not let international artists come to America, she said, all the more reason why everything needs to be on point.
Alicia Zertuche, music coordinator for SXSW, suggests that an artist’s interactions with immigration officials at border crossings, and airports should be amicable. “When you come in through an airport or a land crossing it’s really important to have a certain or particular attitude towards the official because all can go south in seconds,” she warned. A bad encounter can lead to a secondary holding, which means officials can take you in for more questioning. This of course, can subsequently lead to jeopardizing the artist or band’s chance at playing in the country.
Golinger also warned artist to take calculated risks once they are here, because if they engage in a political protest and get arrested this can lead to deportation. In music, it’s always important to have a strong message, but sometimes the personal can get political.