The LAMC "Licensing in 2012: Are Advertising, Games & Synchs the New Radio?" panel. (Photo: Marlon Bishop)
The 13th Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York City wrapped up on Friday and Saturday with three panels on topics ranging from licensing to streaming, and two large outdoor concerts. Throughout, the conversations centered on how to adapt business models to fit the evolving revenue landscape, and the growing importance of Latinos across the entertainment and communication industries.
That growing role was on display at Friday's first panel, titled "Licensing in 2012: Are Advertising, Games & Synchs the New Radio?" Panelists, including Mary Nuñez, Latin licensing director at Sony Music and Ted Ketterer, Hispanic marketing expert at Coca Cola, spoke about the evolving opportunities for Latin Alternative artists to get good placements - and synch fees.
"There's been a surge in interest, and not just in traditional outlets like Univision and Telemundo," said Nuñez, whose catalog at Sony includes both mainstream and alternative Latin artists. "We're getting lots of syncs for HBO and Fox now. The demographic is growing exponentially."
The past year has seen a number of high-profile syncs for Latin Alternative artists, including a big placement for Chilean rapper AnaTijoux in AMC's Breaking Bad. Video games have also been promising source of sync revenues for the genre, especially the popular FIFA series.
Calle 13 performs at the Celebrate Brooklyn stage in Prospect Park (Photo: Karlo Ramos)
"People want more visibility for their content, and the mainstream is becoming more Latin," says Rob Filomena, of Latin Alternative licensing company MuuseMe. "It's because the 2010 census numbers came in to show that the Hispanic population really exploded. Suddenly everyone said, 'holy crap, we need to get on this.'"
The 2010 Census figures, released last year, showed that between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew 43 percent - four times the rate of the population at large. Hispanics now make up about 16 percent of the country's total population. 
Friday's 2nd panel, "@Digital: Streaming, Branding & The Art of Getting Paid" was geared towards informing artists and indie labels about new revenue sources and marketing possibilities generated by the internet, especially streaming services. Reps from Grooveshark, Pandora, eMusic, BMI, Foursquare, and SoundExchange spoke on the panel.
Pandora's Matt Ostower reported that as of today, Pandora streams around 70,000 Latin songs by 7,000 artists - about 14 percent of their catalog of one million songs. Bryan Calhoun, of the digital performing rights organization Sound Exchange, said that his company distributed $300 million in royalties collected from streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.
The panel's biggest controversy was a rather predictable one: audience members asked for an explanation for the small checks they have been receiving for large numbers of streams.
"Looking back it's like when cable launched - nobody got decent ad revenues at first," said Calhoun. "The advertising on YouTube is nowhere near where terrestrial radio is. That will change and more money will come in. Sites like Pandora and Spotify will grow, and we'll have the opportunities to renegotiate our licenses with them."
The LAMC panel "How to Make at Hit" discusses the art of the hit song Panelists discuss licensing at the 2012 Latin Alternative Music Conference
The last panel of the day switched gears to the creative side of the industry. Called "How to Make a Hit," its panelists included producers Toy Hernandez and Sebastian Krys, as well as speakers representing Windish Agency, Terra, YouTube, Rogers & Cowan and the bilingual music channel mun2. They drew on their experience in the industry to give advice on the musical, marketing and business elements that need to come together to generate hit songs.
The example used at the panel was 3Ball MTY, the year's break-out Latin Alternative act. Under the guidance of producer Toy Hernandez, the group emerged from an underground, teenage electronic music scene in Monterrey, Mexico to crossover into the Latin pop mainstream.
3Ball MTV's hit "Inténtalo" is in rotation on Latin radio stations across the US and collaborations with marquee stars like Shakira and Don Omar are in the works. And while their album debuted on top of RegionalMexican charts, on Thursday, the group did a live drive-time interview on New York's 97.9 La Mega, traditionally home to Puerto Rican and Dominican music.
3Ball MTY plays at Central Park Summerstage for the conference's closing concert. (Photo: Karlo Ramos)
"It goes to show: the dynamics and demographics are changing," said Toy Hernandez.
Publicist John Reilly agreed. "Romeo [the Dominican bachata artist] can sell out two nights at the Staples Center in Los Angles. Take the subway in New York and mariachi bands are playing in the cars. The Latin markets are less regional than ever before," he said.
Responding to the panels, one conference visitor felt that the gap in expertise between the panelists and audiences was higher than it should have been.
"The more I get involved, the more I realize the business level of the Latin Alternative community is pretty low," said Eddie Cota, a concert booker from Los Angeles. "There is a lot of great music and ambitious people, but they are lacking resources and know-how. There's a void to be filled, and we really need more young business leaders in the scene to come and fill it."
Despite the positive outlooks, the conference did experience one tragedy. Marcel Curuchet, keyboardist from the LAMC showcasing band No Te Va Gustar, died on Saturday from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident two nights before. The band confirmed his death on Facebook and Twitter, after canceling all their appearances for the week.
The show did go on, however. On Friday night, Puerto Rican alt-rap stars Calle 13 and Chilean hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux packed the Celebrate Brooklyn concert grounds in Prospect Park to capacity and had to turn away hundreds of concertgoers at the door. Flags from around Latin America waved in the air as Calle 13's eleven-piece band delivered the group's trademark mix of humor and politics to a rapt crowd.
On Saturday, the final event of the LAMC took place: aconcert at Central Park's Summerstage by Argentine ska band Los Auténticos Decadentes, Mexican rockers Kinky, and the aforementioned 3Ball MTY. While 3Ball brought out a modest number of fans to dance to their bouncy electronic sound, crowds of rock en español fans went wild for the older, more established bands on the bill - it appeared that, despite the hype, the kids from Monterrey still have a little ways to go to become true stars.