SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe Talks Latin Music's Big Payout & Supporting Creators

Michael Huppe Latin Week
Frank Micelotta/Billboard/PictureGroup

Michael Huppe participates in the "Latin Music's Big Payoff" panel at the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Week on April 24, 2019 at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

Latin music's U.S. footprint grew bigger than ever in 2018, when a record 24 Spanish-language songs hit the Billboard Hot 100. For Latin artists, the payout from that listening surge is enormous.

Just ask SoundExchange president and CEO Michael Huppe, who discussed the genre's rise with Billboard editorial director Hannah Karp during Billboard Latin Music Week 2019 in Las Vegas on Wednesday (April 24). According to the collective rights management organization, the Billboard Latin Music Awards' top five nominees -- Ozuna, J BalvinNicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee -- saw a 102-percent increase in combined payments from 2017 to 2018.

Overall, SoundExchange, which collects and distributes artist and label royalty payments from programmed digital radio services, paid out nearly $1 billion to artists and rights owners in 2018 -- more money than the organization has ever distributed.

Why is Latin music all the rage right now? First of all, "because the music is awesome," Huppe said, laughing. “Latin music is exploding everywhere because people really like it, and it has spilled over into other genres." 

But he also noted that today's Latin consumers are more tech-savvy than the average listener. In fact, he cited from Nielsen data, 45 percent of the Hispanic population listens to music using streaming services, compared to 40 percent in the non-Hispanic community. He added that Hispanic consumers not only tend more toward mobile listening, but also listen for longer than the average consumer.

“They’re more embedded in the tech part and digital part of the industry," Huppe said. "If you’re more digital, you’re going to be riding the wave of streaming that’s driving this growth.”

Indeed, Latin audio -- defined as music with lyrics more than half in Spanish -- saw a 57.1 percent rise in total streams year-over-year, from 16.1 billion registered in 2017 to 25.3 billion for 2018, according to Nielsen Music's year-end numbers.

Huppe also touched on the organization's efforts to lobby for and pass the recent Music Modernization Act -- and what work he thinks is still needed to support music creators in the business. The music industry's next battle, Huppe said, will be getting terrestrial radio to pay artists to use their recordings "just like everyone else."

"The broadcast industry makes more money off music than the music industry," he said to applause from the crowd. "The songwriter gets paid when a song gets played on radio, but recording artists and labels get nothing. Radio should stop getting paid for this free ride."

To push new initiatives forward, he urged artists to get involved. Smokey Robinson was one of several artists who visited Capitol Hill to advocate for the Music Modernization Act, and Huppe thinks musicians' participation propelled the bill's passage. "It's not just about lobbying," he continued. "It’s about making your voices heard, educating yourselves on the issues. The more that artists and their teams have their voices heard, the more of a difference it can make."