Power Panelists Cardenas, Kolm, Juarez, Diego Medina On The Changing Latin Music Business

Billboard's Leila Cobo and Henry Cardenas of Cardenas Marketing Network during the Power Players panel at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami on April 26, 2017.
Nicole Pereira

Billboard's Leila Cobo and Henry Cardenas of Cardenas Marketing Network during the Power Players panel at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami on April 26, 2017.

Four veterans of the music industry, Henry Cardenas, Walter Kolm, Jorge Juarez and Juan Diego Medina told participants at the 2017 Latin Billboard Music Conference Wednesday that the business has changed drastically in the last 20 years. And, maybe, not so much.

That was the message from the Power Players panel Wednesday morning, where some of Latin music’s top movers and shakers shared their insights on finding new talent and the roles of management and record labels in this evolution.

You still need to have talent. You still need a following. You still need to work hard and have a good team. But where radio and TV were life or death to an artist decades ago, today it is not thanks mostly to social media and the multiple social network platforms that artists can avail themselves of.

Read All Our Latin Music Coverage Here

Social media also helps artists reach far beyond the boundaries of their home countries to find new audiences.

“We prefer to develop our artists in Latin America,” said Kolm, president and CEO of WK Entertainment, which represents artists like Carlos Vives, Maluma, Wisin and Silvestre Dangond and has had more than $100 million in ticket sales this year. “In the U.S., it’s very expensive. In Latin America, you can get more sponsorships, sell more tickets. Here, it’s not as easy.”

The tactic seems to work for him. Maluma, for example, toured Latin American countries extensively for two years before coming to the U.S. – where his first six concerts sold out.

Juarez, CEO of Westwood Entertainment – representing acts such as Camila, Reik and Sin Bandera -- said that it was more expensive to produce in the U.S. because “it is a country with many countries inside.” There is no monolithic taste, in other words.

Medina, who is credited with bringing Nicky Jam back from the brink and out of obscurity, agreed. Medina, who also represents ChocQuib Town, said that he and Nicky did shows for $1,500 in Honduras before going to Europe or the U.S., where he can get up to $150,000 for an event.

One thing that has also made life easier for both artists and management is streaming, where sales are still on a steady incline. Playlists have become an important tool and getting on the right playlist, like Baila Reggaeton on Spotify, which has millions of subscribers, which leads to radio play, which leads to more fans, which leads to more downloads and ticket sales.

Cardenas, founder and CEO of Cardenas Marketing Network, which connects brands with artists, says he also uses streaming information to find out where the right audiences are for which acts so he can promote concerts there. He has worked with Marc Anthony, Prince Royce, Alejandro Fernandez, Maluma and Nicky Jam. It’s hard for him to work with newer, lesser known artists because of costs.

“Our job is to sell tickets. Artists travel with 20 or 30 people and have their costs. At the end of the day, I need a positive end result,” Cardenas said. “The new artists are not going to generate this. They are going to lose.” He is making an exception, he said, with Piso 21, a Colombian quartet of romantic reggaetoneros represented by Medina and have been nominated for the Latin Grammy as Best New Artist.

But even though they’re relatively new, Piso 21 collaborated with Maluma and Nicky Jam, releasing singles and producing videos with both. That’s because Latinos have to work harder than English-language artists, Medina said. And that continues even after they are established.

“We have higher numbers than Drake or Adelle,” Medina told the audience, referring to Nicky Jams social media following. “But when we go to Europe, we don’t get the same respect. They don’t buy our product like they buy others.”

He says that it is because English is a more global language. “When you get to the airport in Paris, they don’t say ‘Hola. Bienvenido.’ They say, ‘Hello. Welcome.’”

What’s the solution to that? Singing in English, Medina said.

“You have to get to the level of a Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and you have to cross over.”




The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.