How a Latin Music Startup Landed Janet Jackson, As Other Distributors Broaden Their Horizons

Courtesy Photo
Janet Jackson x Daddy Yankee, "Made For Now"

In recent years, a slew of independent distributors have gained new importance in the Latin market, acting as rights managers, revenue collectors and labels, and often funding and marketing the videos that are crucial to success. Now, even non-Latin stars are signing up.

Take Cinq Music. The label, distributor and rights manager was launched in 2012 under GoDigital Media, a media and technology company that currently generates some 2 billion streams per month and boasts about 50 million unique users, mostly in Latin America. It has specialized in Latin music, at least up until now: Janet Jackson has become Cinq’s latest -- and first big-name -- non-Latin client, as her Rhythm Nation Records partnered with Cinq to record and distribute her new music, including her latest single, “Made for Now,” with Daddy Yankee.

The “Despacito” rapper was an early GoDigital client who met company chairman Jason Peterson in Puerto Rico in 2010, and referred many of his indie-artist friends to the service to collect their revenue from platforms like YouTube. “We realized the play was not so much about managing artists’ rights on the YouTube platform, but about growing their audience,” says Peterson.

Other Latin-centric digital services providers such as ONErpm and Symphonic Distribution are also in demand as a boom in mobile Latin American music consumers helps propel more independent Latin artists and labels to success. Bad Bunny, for example, releases tracks through Rimas Music, an indie company co-founded by his manager that also handles digital marketing for artists like Ozuna, who is distributed by Sony. Spain’s Altafonte has added 18 employees in August alone (for a total of 80), while InnerCat Music is looking to expand beyond Latin as well.

Launched in 1994 as a label, InnerCat today has expanded into distribution and digital aggregation and collects income worldwide, with a roster that includes Lary Over, Farruko and Nengo Flow. “We have a proprietary digital infrastructure that allows us to track every single piece of royalty for our artists,” says Garret Schaefer, InnerCat’s head of A&R.

Altafonte, headquartered in Madrid, also has a proprietary digital infrastructure. The company launched in 2011 as an offshoot of longstanding indie urban label BOA Music, specializing not just in reggaeton but also hip-hop. The company services medium and large artists and labels providing distribution, marketing and collection services, with revenue coming in from 150 countries and over 100 digital platforms.

“We have a new business model that’s very flexible and takes into account the globalization of income and the new digital marketing paradigm on social media,” says cofounder Inma Grass, who is also the company’s communications director. While Altafonte reps many urban acts, it also has a broad regional Mexican, rock, pop and folk catalog. “The bulk of our revenue comes from streaming, but we also collect publishing, synch and performance royalties,” says Grass. 

GLAD Empire founder Camille Soto originally launched her company in 2005 as a publishing-royalties collector for indie artists in multiple digital platforms. Two years ago, the Puerto Rican born Soto, who has a law degree from Nova Southeastern, launched GladCore, the company’s digital distribution arm. Her clients include reggaeton star J Alvarez and most recently, Anuel AA, whose debut album shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart in July. Soto also released “Te Boté,’ the hit by Casper Magico, Nio García and Darell and negotiated the upcoming remix with Jennifer Lopez.

“When they saw I was collecting substantial amounts of money for them, [many artists] sought me out. But I thought we needed something more,” Soto says. As for the widening range of services offered, she adds, “The only thing I’m not doing is administering Instagram accounts, because that’s very personal.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of Billboard.