Living Social (L-R): Mark Coatney (Media Outreach Director, Tumblr), Ashley Simon (manager, media partnerships, Foursquare), Jorge Rincon (CEO, Red Mas), Vivian Lewit (director, music content partnerships, YouTube), Demian Bellumino (VP of Operation, Senzari), and Borja Perez (VP of integrated solutions and digital media, NBC/Telemundo). (Photo: Michael Seto)
Wednesday, the Billboard Latin Music Conference closed out with two panels devoted to two of the current hottest topics in the industry: social media and the increasing power of DJs. The first, appropriately titled "Being Social," featured heads from several social media giants: Mark Coatney, media outreach director for Tumblr, Ashley Simon, manager of media partnerships for Foursquare, and Vivian Lewit, director of music content partnerships for YouTube.
The appearance of a representative from Senzari, a Miami-based online radio programming platform, provided the panel's biggest surprise. The startup positions itself as an algorithm-based custom online radio, as opposed to user-directed platforms like Spotify. The site hopes to play music you'll like based on the preferences of you and your friends. Beyond that, a budding feature on the site uses a location-based feature that allows you to see the musical taste of people who check in at various real-life places. (That might sway your decision to, say, pick one bar to check out over another.)
Unsurprisingly, much of the talk's theme was that of the various platforms' use for engagement with fans. Tumblr's Coatney pointed out Paramore's Hayley Williams as a model user of the site. "She just uses it like a kid, because she's in her 20s, and she just really engages with the community, reblogging things from her followers and commenting. That's a really powerful thing," he said. "Tumblr is also a good organizing tool -- it allows you to leverage your own network."
Foursquare's Lewit said the location-based service was another way to extend one's brand into the real world, suggesting that artists leave tips at locations important in their career or that they've visited on tour. She also pointed out a new relevant feature that could help rake in real-life dollars. For about six months, users have been able to check in at individual concerts rather than just venues. Now, touring artists can offer specials based on those check-ins -- say, specials on merchandise, seat upgrades, or, as Gary Clark Jr. recently did, an extra encore for a certain number of fan check-ins.
Mark Coatney and Ashley Simon during the Billboard Latin Music Conference. (Photo: Michael Seto)
There were few surprises regarding YouTube, which, of course, remains one of the most-viewed ways for rising artists to broadcast to the world, and, increasingly, for fans to watch live streams of far-flung concerts and festivals. However, Lewit pointed out another recent development, which allows independent artists to immediately monetize their videos. Label partnerships are no longer required as they were in the past.
Afterwards, for the panel "DJ Takes the Spotlight," the big star was DJ Juan Magan, one of the first David Guetta-style success stories of the Latin industry. Though he began his career as a typical Spanish club DJ concentrating on European house, he recalled how fatigue with that style -- and love -- pushed him in the opposite direction. "In Spain you grew up with electronic music, and I got tired of that. Then I married a Dominican woman, and she always played tropical music until she converted me," he said. This led to his first bona fide foray into production, which yielded the top hit "Bailando Por Ahi."
Magan pointed to the success of this genre-blending song as the result of DJs' increasing influence. "Our generation has grown up with electronic music and Latin music and everything else," he said. "There are no pure genres -- a DJ will mix bachata with mambo and house, and it's much more fun, and people know that."
Borja Perez makes a point during the "Being Social" panel. (Photo: Michael Seto)
With the iPod generation used to quick shuffles, now brands are increasingly seeking out DJs for partnerships, other panelists pointed out. Alex Sensation, an on-air personality for SBS New York, recently inked deals with both Johnny Walker and Cricket Wireless.
"We're an important tool for branding because we have a direct connection to the masses," said Maffio, a DJ, producer, and songwriter.
"We have the power to make a crowd jump up and down all at once, or we could make them cry, all by picking a song," said producer/DJ Eddie G. "If you don't realize that, you're missing out."