Pop singer/songwriter Ricardo Arjona knows that stepping away from a major label and making music on his own is a huge gamble. That's exactly what he did earlier this year and it's paying off as his newest album, "Independiente," has been well-received by fans and the music industry alike.
At a recent showcase at the Conga Room in Los Angeles, Arjona performed at a private party for a select group of fans who won a contest to see him. Before the show, he and his marketing director, Humberto Calderon, took time out to talk with Billboard.biz about their new chapter that's both thrilling and controversial.
Arjona, one of Latin music's top-selling and top touring acts, was previously signed to majors. First it was Sony, and since 2008 Warner, who is distributing the new album under the singer's own Metamorfosis label.
"I feel free," Arjona declares. "I feel like I'm weighing less these days. I'm happy with the way things are working out and I'm not necessarily referring to sales and things like that. It just feels good to be in a creative space that allows me and the team to move forward."
Arjona says that he had the vision of going independent more than a decade ago, but didn't act upon it until early 2011. He could see the music industry changing so much that the focus on music waned and it pushed him to take a path that allowed him to be able to write music and work with a team that understood him.
That has meant a lot of work and very little sleep for about six people who work at Metamorfosis. But for Calderon, the new journey speaks to a new way of doing things in order to service the music.
"The industry is going through a peculiar time," Calderon says. "But we also wanted to have the freedom to create new avenues in the music business. If we want to sell albums in a perfume shop, then we have that freedom."
Few major Latin acts, with the exception of regional Mexican band Intocable, have released their music independently, away from the majors. Arjona is the biggest name in Latin pop.
Arjona is a major seller in the U.S. His top-selling release was 1999's "Ricardo Arjona Vivo," which moved 326,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan (his studio set, 1998's "5o Piso" sold 108,000 copies). He's also popular in Latin America, Mexico and Argentina, among other countries.
"Independiente," his 13th studio set, debuted recently at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums and Latin Pop Albums, selling 7,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album's single, "Amor," prompted increased airplay, rising 9-1 on Hot Latin Songs and earned a 51 percent increase in audience (10.2 million, up from 6.8 million), which landed Arjona his first No. 1 on Tropical Airplay.
"Being on your own feels good even if you make mistakes," says Arjona, who is scheduled to tour in 2012. "And if you do make mistakes, you can't blame anyone but yourself."