A full decade ago, before most artists of any stripe fully understood the power of branding and do-it-yourself promotion, Raymond Ayala, better known as
Your biggest revenue comes from touring. But I've seen you tour both arenas and clubs. Why?
Both are equally important to me. Any club is important. All Latin music movements are born in clubs. There is no better research than going to a club. If your music works, it will bounce up. We're doing a club tour with El Cartel tequila this winter, for example. We will hit the clubs via the music, and we'll introduce the drink. It's a very strategic and productive move.
Among the tracks on the album, which best represents it as a whole?
Wow. They're so different and each a winner in its style. "Ven Conmigo" was a winner. "Lovumba," amazing. "Pasarela" [used in a Verizon campaign] is now gaining strength. I have a record I love, "Limbo," which is very catchy. It was one of the tricks up my sleeve, which I saved for last. That one and "La Noche de los Dos" with [Spanish pop singer] Natalia Jimenez. It's a very mass-appeal track but it's 100% urban. I didn't want to do pop with her. And I give her credit for having seen the vision I had of the urban genre. I told her, 'I'm going to make you look good without losing your essence.'
"Limbo" is being promoted as a Zumba track and you performed at their annual convention. How is that association working for you?
They loved the track because I use a very Puerto Rican word in there, which is "zumba," which means trick, or joke. And they said they wanted to use the track for a Zumba campaign. I said, go for it. There are 12 million people taking Zumba classes every week around the world. If you can get that exposure to millions of people, and continue growing, it's worth it. It's promotion you didn't have before.
You still decide everything that happens with your career?
100% I am the owner of the masters. Everything we license is under El Cartel. Everything.
You continue to be hugely popular, 10 years later, in a very young-leaning genre. How do you stay young and hip?
First, you have to understand that music is the root of everything. But when art ends, the business starts. When I talk about the Internet, it's because young people are there. TV and radio are still what moves the masses and you can't ignore that. But you also have to feed that monster that grows daily, which is the Internet. That's where urban subcultures live. I tell you, you release a record, and you get 1.5 million downloads. You're giving it away, yes, but millions of people are listening and your music will reach them. And it means business in terms of shows and activities.
And second, I surround myself with young producers with new ideas. I've never been into the classics. All my singles have their style and vibe and they've all been winners. And, what's important in the urban world is everyone is requesting music that is 100% urban and 100% Latin. I made "Prestige" based on those comments. I always say, I like new cars, but I stay in my lane. That's how I stay current.
You have your own line of Azad luxury watches and Section 8 Headphones and a major sponsorship deal with Verizon, among other deals. Now, you are a partner in the new El Cartel Tequila.
Without a doubt it will be the biggest deal of all and the numbers should be huge. Our aim is to establish El Cartel as not just another tequila but part of the club and party lifestyle. There are several songs where I mention the brand name and a lot of these party songs go hand in hand with the concept of Cartel Tequila. I have a track called "Lose Control," for example. It's the only song 100% in English and it's an exclusive iTunes track. But the physical album is entirely in Spanish because that's what the fans were requesting: A 100% urban album, 100% in Spanish.
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