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Inside Joe Biden's Targeted Music Campaign to Rally the Latino Vote

Joe Biden
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden poses with supporters after speaking at the East Las Vegas Community Center about the effects of Covid-19 on Latinos on Oct. 9, 2020 in Las Vegas.

Latino voters in America are not some one-size-fits-all monolith, and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is going to lengths to acknowledge the community's diversity through music in its advertising.

On Aug. 28, the Democratic ticket released two television spots targeting undecided Latinos in three crucial swing states. In Arizona, the campaign paired Alejandro Fernández's "Decepciones,” which translates to disappointments, with images of families at the border and kids in cages in an appeal to the Mexican-American community. While in Florida and Pennsylvania, home to large Puerto Rican populations, team Biden overlaid Bad Bunny's breakup song "Pero Ya No (Not Anymore)” with 2017 footage of President Donald Trump tossing paper towels at Hurricane Maria survivors.

Spotlighting particular Latin artists in specific regions of the country is a strategy Biden is betting on to help rally the Latino vote, which makes up 13% of all U.S. eligible voters in this presidential election. Taking into consideration that Latinos represent a culturally, demographically and geographically diverse group, Biden’s team has strategically created geo-targeted ads featuring regional Mexican artists in Southwest states as opposed to releasing the ads in states that don’t have a significant Mexican population.

“Early on in the campaign, we started breaking our creative efforts into markets and regions,” says Joel Maysonet, director of Latino paid media for the Biden campaign. “When we talk about music, we obviously want to make sure that we’re not airing a full salsa ad in Nevada that might not really connect as much as it would in Pennsylvania.” It’s a strategy they’ve been applying to non-musical ads too. “When we have a spot that we feel is appropriate to show all over the country, we will record a voiceover that feels appropriate to the market.”

One of Biden’s most recent bilingual spot, which started airing Oct. 28 (six days before election day Nov. 3) in several key states including Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Florida, among others, features unifying anthem “Fronteras” by Guatemalan native Gaby Moreno playing in the background to drive home a sense of hope and belonging as Latino voters explain why they’re voting for Biden.

“Fronteras” was a song that Maysonet and his team received a few months back from music publisher Peermusic along with a collection of other pre-cleared tracks by both Latin and non-Latin artists. Josh Norek, Latin music consultant for the Biden campaign, worked closely with Maysonet to discuss themes and songs that would be relevant in certain parts of the country. “My role has been to open doors with labels and publishers so we have an ample supply of songs that fit the opportunities as they come up,” says Norek. “The Biden campaign has always licensed and paid for the music used in spots, with the artists' blessing and the labels/publishers' authorization, of course. We’ve also gotten some very proactive pitches from Peermusic and Warner Chappell and we’ve also had great conversations on the label side. Everyone understands the importance of this election,” says Norek.

Luana Pagani, president and partner of artist management agency Seitrack U.S., recalls getting a call over the summer from Warner Chappell informing her that the Biden campaign was interested in using Fernández's “Decepciones” for an ad. “‘Do you think we can make this work?’ Warner Chappell asked me and I immediately spoke to my partner, we called Alejandro and he said, ‘Yes, definitely,’ that for him it would be an honor,” says Pagani. “Once he and Calibre 50 signed off and everything was cleared with Universal Music, since they own the master, we quickly mobilized to make this happen. We took this request very seriously because for an artist to share their music for a political campaign, that’s a serious thing.”

Bunny’s “Pero Ya No” wasn’t included in the batch of songs Maysonet had previously received, so he had to go through a web of people in order to reach the right person on the Puerto Rican superstar’s’s team to clear the use. “We reached out to Bad Bunny because it made sense for us on so many levels. The song we used made sense for the message we wanted to get across which was, ‘We’re done with you, Trump.’” Maysonet says. “Of course, getting Bad Bunny made sense too because of his involvement with progressive causes."

Bunny, like other Puerto Ricans living on the island, are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in the presidential elections. (Local elections are taking place Nov. 3 in Puerto Rico and the singer-songwriter has encouraged young voters to go out and vote, but has not endorsed any candidate). However, Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. can. “If you have displaced Puerto Ricans living in mainland Florida, they might connect with that spot in a whole different way hearing Bad Bunny’s music than say hearing it with just generic library music,” adds Norek.

Marc Anthony lent his voice to narrate a national spot for the campaign that was released Sept. 20 to commemorate Hurricane Maria’s three-year anniversary. The minute-long clip shows footage of the island devastated by the category 4 hurricane and local efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico. “One of our advisors called me and said Marc wants to do something with the campaign,” remembers Maysonet. “Days later, I received the spot recorded in both languages with music he and his team made for this spot specifically. As a creator, it’s just inspiring and humbling.”

The Biden team unveiled today (Oct. 30) a national ad featuring rising Puerto Rican act Chesca singing a Spanish version of campaign anthem "The Change (El Cambio)," penned by Diane Warren. The minute-long spot will run between now until Election Day in an effort to target young voters.

Biden is not the first Democratic presidential hopeful or politician to lean on Latin superstars in hopes of mobilizing Latino voters to get registered and head to the polls. Hillary Clinton, 2016 presidential candidate, teamed up with Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Los Tigres del Norte, Vicente Fernández and Maná, among others, for her own 2016 campaign. Former President Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke also used Latin star power in an attempt to sway the demographic. But this year an unprecedented number of Latin artists -- both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens -- are showing their support by helping to soundtrack Biden's bid.

To Biden’s advantage, a recent survey by Nielsen Music/MRC Data and Whitman Insight Strategies in partnership with DISQO revealed that celebrities are having an impact on voters this election season, particularly among Democrats. According to the report, 20% of Hispanic/Latino voters said an entertainer or athlete has influenced their views on the election.

“Public figures want to use their platforms to make a change and with the president we currently have, it’s not so hard to get inspired to do that,” says Maysonet. “Since the beginning of this campaign, we wanted to speak with authentic voices who can reach not only young but older folks too. For us, it’s important to collaborate with artists because they have a huge platform and their reach is quite large.”

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