Carlos Vives Signs Long-Term Deal With Sony Music Latin

After months of courtship, Colombian star Carlos Vives has finally signed a long-term, exclusive recording deal with Sony Music Latin, Billboard.biz has learned. The deal calls for Vives to release four albums under Sony, beginning with his upcoming set, Corazón Profundo, now slated for release April 23, the day Vives speaks at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami. Vives will also release a live album under an agreement that he's referred to as a "partnership."

The new contract, a 360 deal that gives Sony a stake in non-recording opportunities, including sponsorships and tours, was negotiated directly with Afo Verde -- Sony Music Latin's Chairman and CEO for the Latin Region, Spain and Portugal -- and Vives' manager Walter Kolm.

Kolm, who was previously president of Universal Music Latino, started managing Vives last summer and took him to Sony, effectively reviving his career after eight years without releasing an album in the United States and a seven-year absence from the Billboard charts. Vives was the first Colombian star to find a major international audience thanks to his mix of traditional vallenato with pop and rock. Here in the U.S., he had 14 hits on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart between 1989 and 2005, and four of those went to No. 1. Vives first radio single after his hiatus, "Volver a Nacer," released last fall, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart, a rare feat.

The deal was finalized this past Friday afternoon (Jan. 18) in Sony's Miami offices, where Vives flew in between shows in Colombia.

"It's an honor for Sony Music to greet such an extraordinary talented artist as is Carlos Vives," said Verde in a statement. "We welcome you home and we thank you for believing in us."

Since his contract with EMI Latin ended eight years ago, Vives released one album in Colombia which topped sales charts there, but was not released abroad. 

"As an indie, you can release albums in a few markets, but once we expanded into Spain, Argentina and Mexico we needed a partner, a strategic alliance to go into those markets. The market has changed, but a major label, even in tough times, has the dynamic to feed major markets. And just like artists have a brand, labels too are recognizable brands."

"We feel we've signed with a music company that understands A&R," says Kolm, referencing the fact that Verde was an A&R director, musician and producer before he was promoted to head Sony. "Afo has produced Soda Stereo, Fabulosos Cadillacs, artists Vives admires."

"This is an opportunity to return to the industry," said Vives. "Our contracts ended eight years ago [with EMI Latin] and many things changed. Having Walter in the picture really eased things and gave us the chance to come back."

While Vives' single "Volver a Nacer" is currently at No. 2 on Billboard's Latin Airplay chart, a new single, "Como le gusta a tu cuerpo," featuring Brazilian star and Sony act Michel Telo (Ai se Eu te pego), was released Jan. 22. Vives will launch his international tour this summer.