Billboard Latin Conference Panels: Mana's Sergio Vallin On His Guitars; Top 5 Moves To Make or Break Your Career


Fender's Sergio Villanueva (left), Mana guitarist Sergio Vallin (right) flank Billboard's Leila Cobo during the Essential Partnership: Artists & Their Instruments panel. (Photo Arnold Turner)

Panel: The Essential Partnership: Artists & Their Instruments

Moderator: Leila Cobo Executive Director, Latin Content & Programming, Billboard

Sergio Vallín, Guitarist, Maná
Sergio Villanueva, SVP of Manufacturing, Fender

A surprisingly female-heavy audience greeted Billboard’s Leila Cobo, Fender SVP Sergio Villanueva and – aha! -- Maná guitarist Sergio Vallín for this discussion, which explored the concept of brand loyalty when it comes to musicians and their instruments. The topic of musicians and their instruments clearly hit close to home with Maná's Vallín, who said, "The guitar is an extension of myself, and a direct connection to the heavens." He went farther: "A guitar is a lot like a woman," he said. "They are each different, and to play a guitar is to hold it close to your body. So… it's intimate."
Villanueva looked on approvingly and followed by saying, "At Fender, we really enjoy the organic relationships that we build with artists. We're not looking to sell them change, but to establish a real and meaningful connection."
"In Fender, I have found friends," Vallín said, "I love the guitar, and all the Latino guitar builders in Corona, California who make them."
But both Sergios had to admitted the changing times. "Look," said Villanueva, "The market for guitars is not growing, and it hasn't in years. That's a fact we have to contend with." Vallín voice rose as he spoke: "Before, if you went to a party, the guy with the guitar was the center of attention, everybody was singing, dancing, having a good time. Now, you got to the party and everyone is on their phone. The bravery it takes for a man with just a guitar to be naked like that on stage and play, is priceless."


Panel: Top 5 Moves That Will Make or Break Your Career

Johnny Marines, Manager, Romeo Santos

James Sammataro, Attorney, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP

James Sammataro (left) and Johnny Marines. (Photo: Arnold Turner)

Introduced by Billboard’s Leila Cobo as “one of the most-requested topics by Billboard readers," this panel was helmed by the lively duo of James Sammataro (attorney for Stroock & Stroock & Lavan) and Johnny Marines (Romeo Santos’ Manager). A gruff-voiced former New York City police officer, Marines started his music biz career working extra hours as a bodyguard for a then-unknown Aventura.
"I had my 13-year-old brother up all night burning 100 CDs at a time of our singles. Then I would write our info on each one with a marker," he recalled. Sammatoro echoed the hard-work ethic by saying, "I'm always willing to give away upside to a manager as long as they have skin in the game. But if they're not fully committed, I'm not either."
Both agreed that new artists wanting to break into the business must hone their craft through live performance, even if it means working for free. "You have to be willing to sacrifice," said Marines, "You never know who could be in that room watching."
And once you're recording, Sammatoro advises you to "clearly define the relationships of everyone in the room. Where there's a hit, there's a writ" – lawyer-speak  for lawsuit – he urged songwriters to "jealously guard your copyrights."
Furthermore, when it comes to contracts, "have an 18 month escape clause with your manager. Bad management can destroy an artist"; and likewise, a good one can make them.
Marines ended with a quote that left the full crowd nodding in approval. "Make sure to take advantage of opportunity," he said, "History repeats itself, but opportunities don't."
The Top 5 Moves That Will Make or Break Your Career:
5. If your ship doesn't come in, swim to it
4. Bad management can destroy a great artist's project
3. Define your relationships: make sure you have a good team
2. Manage your downside, your upside will take care of itself
1. Passion and sacrifice


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