Noah Assad and Bad Bunny
Business

Revealed: Billboard's 2021 Latin Power Players

Noah Assad, Bad Bunny’s longtime manager, has helped the Puerto Rican superstar conquer the world without compromising — or losing his independent streak — which puts him atop Billboard’s annual list of executives leading the charge within the genre.

Last September, in the thick of the pandemic, Bad Bunny livestreamed a performance from atop a flatbed truck decked out like a subway car that meandered through the streets of New York, thrilling fans and puzzling pedestrians all the way from Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, to the Harlem Hospital Center. Over 10 million viewers watched the Univision-produced show stream on its Uforia platform, as well as Bad Bunny’s YouTube channel. And like so many things Bad Bunny does — including surprise-releasing albums — the spectacle came with little warning, capturing the sense of spontaneity and fun that are central to the chart-topping artist’s appeal.

That approach has been the hallmark of Bad Bunny’s manager, Noah Assad, since they started working together in 2016. “Our day-to-day is we go eat, we share, we laugh, and, all of a sudden, we go into work mode,” says Assad, 31. “We brainstorm, and if the idea comes, it comes. We take everything a day at a time. We don’t treat it as rocket science.”

This nonchalant demeanor belies the meticulous planning that goes into pulling off their vision — and the unimpeachable results. In the past two years, Bad Bunny has become the most successful Latin artist in the world and Spotify’s 2020 most streamed artist globally in any language. He was Billboard’s top Latin artist of the year, according to MRC Data, and last December, El Último Tour del Mundo became the first all-Spanish album to top the Billboard 200 in the chart’s 63-year history. Prior to that, the highest-charting Spanish album was his YHLQMDLG, which debuted at No. 2 in March 2020.

Read the full profile on Assad here.

Alejandro Duque
President, Warner Music Latin America
Gabriela Martínez
Managing director, Warner Music Latina 
Ruben Abraham
VP marketing, Warner Music Latina
Txema Rosique
VP A&R, Warner Music Latina
Hector Rivera
VP A&R, Warner Music Latina

Duque became head of Warner Music Latin America (after Iñigo Zabala stepped down) as Warner bet big on developing talent in hot genres through its partnership with Rancho Humilde, with artists Junior H and Natanael Cano debuting at No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Albums chart. Warner Music Latina and Warner Records jointly signed an exclusive deal with Puerto Rican phenom Myke Towers and his indie label, Whiteworld Music, and Warner Music Latina also signed Venezuelan rising star Micro TDH. Meanwhile, longtime Warner Music Latina act Justin Quiles continued charting with tracks like “Jeans” and “Loco,” from his new album that was released in August.

The power of Latin music, in a word: “Boundless” - Duque

Jesús López
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula
Angel Kaminsky
President, Universal Music Latin
Salomón Palacios
Senior vp marketing and strategy, Universal Music Latin
Skander Goucha
Executive vp e-commerce, business development and digital, Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula
Antonio Silva
Managing director, Fonovisa Disa USA/Mexico; management, Fonovisa Disa/Universal Music Latin Entertainment
Elsa Yep
CFO/executive vp operations, Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula

Illustration by Ryan Melgar

Under Jesús López, chairman/CEO at Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, the company’s urban-leaning acts continue to chart throughout the globe, fluidly crossing barriers of language and genre.

While J Balvin and fellow Colombian Karol G may be Universal Latin’s most prominent success stories — Karol G scored her first No. 1 on Top Latin Albums with KG0516, the biggest week, by units, for a female-led album on the chart since 2017 — López says the company still thinks locally “so that our artists keep expanding their music outside their countries of origin.”

Via streaming, some of Universal’s brightest and youngest stars — including Colombia’s Sebastian Yatra (managed by Universal-owned GTS); Puerto Rico’s Jhay Cortez, Guaynaa and Feid; and Mexico’s Christian Nodal and Danna Paola — have done just that, achieving revenue-generating stardom. Regional Mexican labels Fonovisa and Disa also revamped their rosters with new signings such as Adriel Favela and his label, Esperanto, and Colombians Yeison Jiménez and Nabález.

And even as their touring was sidelined, legacy artists continued recording. “We are very proud of the achievements by artists who have created and released music during the pandemic, such as Juanes, Gloria Trevi, Alejandro Fernández, Alejandro Sanz and David Bisbal, among others,” says López.

As of Aug. 12, Universal’s U.S. label market share, including Disa and Fonovisa, stood at 24.65%, while as a distributor, it gobbled up a 36.83% market share, including the 5.73% share of Universal Music Group-owned distributor Ingrooves, according to MRC Data.

Beyond the U.S. market, executive vp e-commerce, business development and digital Skander Goucha led the expansion of Universal’s e-commerce business across Latin America and Iberia, and Universal now has direct-to-consumer operations in Brazil, Mexico and Spain, with more countries to launch this year. And CFO/executive vp operations Elsa Yep was instrumental in the launch of Virgin Music in Latin America, bringing that iconic brand to the region.

Afo Verde
Chairman/CEO, Latin-Iberia, Sony Music Entertainment
Alex Gallardo
President, U.S. Latin, Sony Music Entertainment
Maria Fernandez
COO/executive vp, Latin-Iberia, Sony Music Entertainment
Herb Payán
Senior vp digital strategy and auxiliary revenue, Latin-Iberia, Sony Music Entertainment
Rafael Arcaute
Global head of A&R, Sony Music Latin
Esteban Geller
Senior vp artist relations and marketing, U.S. Latin, Sony Music Entertainment

Illustration by Ryan Melgar

Sony Music Entertainment (SME) has had a year of explosive new Latin talent development combined with aggressive and flexible deal-making under chairman/CEO of Latin-Iberia Afo Verde.

Sony is home to Latin music’s biggest roster of stars: Maluma, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Carlos Vives, Romeo Santos and Marc Anthony, among others. All of them released new material, while a close partnership with Sony-owned distribution company The Orchard generated opportunities for creative marketing and exploitation of Latin repertoire. Sony and The Orchard combined had a 43.71% market share of the Latin market year to date in August.

“We worked closer [with The Orchard] than ever before, and we were able to provide A-class services to the talented Latin artistic community,” says Verde, who not only negotiated hybrid deals but is also personally involved in The Orchard-distributed and Sony-marketed product of artists like Ozuna and Anuel AA. Sony also expanded its international clout with the acquisition of Som Livre, Brazil’s leading independent domestic label, a move that ensures Sony’s domination of Latin America’s largest music market.

“We maintained a great number of releases, in a totally different environment, and with the passion for what we do intact,” adds Alex Gallardo, president of Sony Music, U.S. Latin, which scored global hits with the likes of Rauw Alejandro, Maluma and Natti Natasha, while SME COO/executive vp Latin-Iberia Maria Fernández worked on expanding Latin music’s footprint in international markets.

“During the last months, artists like Maluma, Camilo, Rauw Alejandro, Nathy Peluso and many others had significant growth outside the Latin region,” says Fernández.

Equally important, she adds, “The company has made a significant commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion. I am a member of task forces dedicated to these activities and completed a certification in this area from the University of South Florida to be better prepared to help create change.”

Despite the pandemic, says Verde, “we remained focused. We have such an amazing roster that produces mind-blowing music, and we’ve been able to help them develop their projects, release their music and position it globally for their fans to enjoy.”

Frabian Eli Carrion
CEO, Real Hasta La Muerte

Carrion has reveled in the success of Anuel AA and Ozuna’s joint album, Los Dioses, which debuted at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart in February — after Anuel told Billboard that the pair had produced the set with a chart-topping bow in mind. Carrion’s recent achievements have extended beyond music. “I can’t believe that after two years of back-and-forth negotiations we were able to buy the Capitanes de Arecibo [basketball] franchise in Puerto Rico,” he says. “Owning a basketball team is another level of entrepreneurship that I’m excited to be tackling.”

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Staying relevant. A lot of people like to bring back sounds from the past, but we need to be pushing forward and not be afraid to try new things.”

Orlando “Jova” Cepeda
José “Tito” Reyes

Partners, Whiteworld Records

Whiteworld Records’ breakout star Myke Towers became one of the most streamed artists in the world in the past year, with 13 tracks on the Billboard Global 200 and nine top 10 hits on Hot Latin Songs. “This is something that we have worked hard for and [remained] consistent in putting out music, which was key,” says Cepeda of Towers, who was the subject of a bidding war that ended in an exclusive global distribution pact with Warner Latina and Warner Records, as well as the “game-changer” release of Towers’ album, Lyke Mike, which debuted at No. 36 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on Top Latin Albums in May.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Lack of originality. Artists need to find their own sound and take a chance. There is always room to stay in a certain genre but making it [in] your own way.” - Reyes

Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Myke Towers

Tomas Cookman
CEO, Industria Works/Nacional Records

Cookman’s company includes a record label, artist-services platform Industria Works and a management division working to create a “new generation of future classics,” he says, citing recent signees in Spain including Love of Lesbian, Mala Rodriguez (who just released a best-selling memoir), Paula Cendejas and Fuel Fandango. The company’s catalog stream volume has doubled since January, he reports, and Cookman oversaw the 22nd edition of the annual Latin Alternative Music Conference, held virtually for a second consecutive year in May, with sponsorships doubling year over year. “We continue hiring and not firing,” he says.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “To find ways to be a dominant and constant part of the global music business so that Latin music is not in the midst of yet another ‘Latino explosion’ with an ever-changing expiration date.”

Ángel del Villar
Founder/CEO, DEL Records

Del Villar, 41, recently signed DEL Records’ next promising stars, Los del Limit and Panchito Arredondo, and continues celebrating the successes of Eslabón Armado and Lenin Ramirez: the former for earning its fourth No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Albums chart in less than 13 months and the latter for his viral Grupo Firme-assisted hit, “Yo Ya No Vuelvo Contigo.” Eslabón Armado also nabbed top Latin albums artist of the year duo/group at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, “an unprecedented accomplishment for a completely new regional Mexican band,” says del Villar.

The power of Latin music, in a word:  “Unstoppable”

Victor González
President, Virgin Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula

This February, Universal Music Group relaunched Virgin Music as a global label and artist services company, with González taking the helm for Latin America. In a 22-year-career with UMG, he was most recently president of Universal Music Latin Entertainment. With his new role, he highlights the success of Virgin’s latest viral TikTok hit from Gera MX and Christian Nodal, “Botella Tras Botella,” which debuted at No. 1 on Spotify’s Global Songs Debut chart and No. 3 on Hot Latin Songs, and reached No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first regional Mexican title to reach the all-genre chart in its 63-year history.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Logistics for Latinos during the pandemic. Minorities in the U.S. didn’t get enough support. Many of their territories of origin lacked access to vaccines, so COVID-19 will last longer for these communities.”

Jimmy Humilde
Founder/CEO, Rancho Humilde

Illustration by Ryan Melgar

Jimmy Humilde’s first foray into the music business was in 1993, when he was 14 years old and organizing neighborhood parties in his friends’ backyards in Los Angeles.

That entrepreneurial, DIY approach continued with his launch of Rancho Humilde, the independent promotion company and label, which he runs with business partner José Becerra and CFO Roque Venegas. Informed by crowd reaction to live performances, Humilde has signed mostly local, underground regional Mexican acts since 2011, fueling their success with a nontraditional digital marketing approach that initially didn’t rely on radio or TV.

Things really clicked in 2019 when Humilde tapped into a wave of acts like Fuerza Regida and Natanael Cano, who mixed traditional corridos with rap and trap. Those artists effectively ushered in a new subgenre of Mexican music that found wide acceptance with a young generation of bilingual, bicultural listeners — and helped redefine regional Mexican music.

In October 2020, Humilde broadened his horizons and partnered with Warner Music Latina in a distribution and development deal where Atlantic Records is a “key ally,” he says. The goal is to create a global market for a genre that carries “regional” in its very name. (Humilde doesn’t care for the term.)

“I am grateful that our Latin artists are finally competing with the Anglo market,” says Humilde, “and I want to thank all my colleagues for bringing our music to the next level.”

Rancho Humilde has consistently sent titles to No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Albums chart, including releases by Alta Consigna in 2017, Legado 7 in 2018 and Cano in 2019 and 2021. The label kept that streak alive when newcomers Porte Diferente debuted in the top spot for the week ending Oct. 9, 2020. Meanwhile, Cano’s catalog has generated 797,000 album consumption units, and he was the third-most-consumed Latin artist of 2020 in the United States, according to MRC Data’s 2020 midyear report.

Gustavo López
CEO, Saban Music Group

López, 48, joined the startup Saban Music Group after a long career at Universal Music Group. After two years, he has achieved  three No. 1s on the charts, including Chesca, Pitbull and Frankie Valli’s “Te Quiero Baby” — and a handful of marquee TV appearances. Saban prides itself on global collaborations, like Israel’s Static & Ben El with Chesca and Pitbull, “tackling the task of living in the Latin space, the U.S. general market space and the international space under one roof,” says López, who signed a partnership in September with reggaetón legend Don Omar.

Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images for Univision
Chesca

Andrés López Quiroga
Regional director, Latin Iberia ex Brazil, ONErpm

Digital music distributor ONErpm managed to grow during the pandemic, says Quiroga, 51, while “making our deals more flexible to accommodate artists and independent label needs in such hard times.” Changes included adding new territories and hiring experts in those countries, in every genre and service. “We have transformed ONErpm to become a modern full-service label, where our goal is to empower an artist’s music through experience, expertise and transparency,” he says.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Know your rights and responsibilities. Read your contracts before signing them. Think of your career, not only about how much money you are being offered.”

Joshua Mendez
Co-founder/COO, RichMusic

Over the past year, the RichMusic roster has expanded internationally. The Miami-based indie label, founded by father-son duo Richard and Joshua Mendez with Joshua’s uncle Jimmy Aquino, recently expanded to include singer-songwriter Thyago from Argentina and producers Animal and Symon  Dice from Colombia. Joshua also oversaw the re-signing of Dimelo Flow and marquee artist Sech, who renewed his multimillion-dollar recording and publishing deal in May. The company also unveiled its new Morplay Academy facilities to help develop new talent.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “You have to be able to write your own music and be confident in a room full of other creatives to stand out. Also, it’s very important to find the right team that believes in your dreams and shares your same goals.”

Claudia Ochoa
VP Mexico, The Orchard
Albert Torres
VP Latin, The Orchard
Laura Tesoriero
VP Latin, The Orchard
Inés Sapochnik
Director of sales and marketing, Latin, The Orchard

The Orchard strengthened its market share thanks to global distribution agreements with prominent labels like WK Records (whose “Fiel” by Los Legendarios with Wisin and Jhay Cortez hit No. 1 on the Latin Airplay chart) and Rimas Entertainment (home to Bad Bunny, whose album El Último Tour del Mundo became the first in Spanish to top the Billboard 200). The Orchard’s releases ran the gamut, from Marco Antonio Solís’ comeback single, “Se Veía Venir,” to Banda MS and Snoop Dogg’s edgy collaboration, “Qué Maldición,” released with partners Sony Music Mexico and Sony Music Latin. The Sony-owned indie distributor also welcomed key signings including Intocable, Alemán and Mexican hip-hop label Homegrown Mafia. “It’s been very challenging to successfully manage releasing massive hits and connecting with fans without live shows,” says Ochoa, 38.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Focus on the long term and building fans. The best thing they can do is show authenticity through their music. Fans are looking for deeper ways to connect to the artists they love.” - Ochoa

Juan Paz
Managing director, ADA Latin

The nascent Latin division of Alternative Distribution Alliance became “a key player in the distribution business in the region” in its first year of operation, says Paz, 48. “We’ve secured global distribution deals with some of the most respected labels and artists in Latin music.” Headquartered in Miami and operating in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, ADA Latin’s recent wins include global distribution deals with DJ Toy Selectah’s Worldwide Records and 17-year-old Los Angeles fixture Cosmica Records, as well as new signees, such as Puerto Rican producer Eduardo Cabra, singer-composer with the band Calle 13, and Brazilian acts Carlinhos Brown and Fernando & Sorocaba.

The power of Latin music, in a word: “Richness — in culture, diversity and flavor!”

Jason Peterson
Chairman/CEO, GoDigital Media Group

GoDigital has become deeply invested in Latin music with Latido Music, the Mitú network and YouTube multichannel network VidaPrimo, and it has completed the acquisition of “one of the largest and most culturally significant” Latin music catalogs, says Peterson, 39, who declined to identify the acquisition at press time. Peterson has a budding conglomerate that also encompasses media rights manager AdShare and Cinq Music Group, a combination distributor/label/publisher.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Surfing. It creates such mental clarity.”

Bob Roback
CEO, Ingrooves Music Group

Distribution company Ingrooves keeps driving success for its independent label partners: DEL Records duo Eslabón Armado topped the Regional Mexican Albums chart four times in 13 months; Rich Music’s roster earned over 2.5 billion global streams in 2020, according to Ingrooves; and Sech’s 42 peaked at No. 7 on the Top Latin Albums chart. “We’re thrilled with the performance of Lunay’s El Niño album, which covered brand-new territory for the artist. Carbon Fiber has had a great run with Milly, whose ‘No Te Enamores’ was a big hit in the U.S. and in Latin America. We’re also proud to be a part of the Neon16 Tainy/Yandel DYNASTY project, which has been successful here in the U.S., but also has had great international reach in Japan, Israel, India, Egypt and elsewhere,” says Roback.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “The increased number of releases means it’s more important than ever to have a solid strategy for every release. You need to make sure your setup is flawless, and you need to focus on your core base first before breaking down barriers.”

Vicente Saavedra
President, Dimelo Vi

Saavedra’s Dimelo Vi label, in partnership with Sony Music Latin, released the first four albums from superstar Ozuna between 2017 and 2020, sending each to No. 1 on Top Latin Albums. In May, Dimelo Vi unveiled the first solo album from Lenny Tavárez (of reggaetón duo Dyland & Lenny), whom Saavedra — a self-proclaimed “nontraditional manager” — represents. “My advice to young Latin artists would be to set priorities in their personal life and professional career, learn to create a balance between both and understand they need to have constant discipline,” says Saavedra, 39, citing Tavárez as “a great example of this.”

The song that got me through the pandemic: “Ozuna’s ‘Caramelo’ had a refreshing sound and rhythm, which led me to clear my mind and to not think about all the worries brought by the pandemic.”

Greg Doherty/Getty Images
Ozuna

Luis Sánchez
President/CEO, AfinArte Music

In September 2020, Sánchez’s Los Angeles-based regional Mexican label reached a new pinnacle when its breakout act, norteño duo Los Dos Carnales, earned their first No. 1 on Regional Mexican Airplay with “El Envidioso.” “AfinArte has established itself as a household name,” says Sánchez, 44, whose roster also includes El Fantasma and Voz de Mando. Despite the pandemic, the company reached a broader audience with virtual concerts like El Fantasma’s Tecate El Patio concert series. “We are dedicated to preserving the roots of regional Mexican music, and we are committed to ensuring that our culture gets the recognition it deserves.”

The song that got me through the pandemic: “El Fantasma & Los Dos Carnales’ ‘Cabrón y Vago.’ This song reminds us that money is not what makes us happy, but that the people around us are the cause of true happiness. It’s important to remember as a business owner.”

Nir Seroussi
Executive vp, Interscope Geffen A&M

Seroussi joined IGA in 2019 with the intention of creating the first full-fledged Latin operation within a major label. “This year, we kicked everything into high gear,” he says, launching Kali Uchis’ and Selena Gomez’s first-ever Spanish-language albums. Uchis’ Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) peaked at No. 3 on Top Latin Albums, and includes her first solo Hot 100 hit, “telepatía,” while Gomez’s Revelación debuted at No. 1.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “If you haven’t honed your songwriting skills, make it your priority. Challenge yourself. Get in rooms with writers who are better than you. Aim to become the best writer that you can be. It can be your most powerful advantage or greatest weakness as an artist. Songwriting is the one thing that never goes out of style, and it’s more important than ever.”

Camille Marie Soto Malave
CEO, GLAD Empire

GLAD Empire continued to release hits, with Myke Towers and Juhn’s top 10 Hot Latin Songs collab, “Bandido,” leading the way with 143.2 million on-demand streams in the United States. The company also distributed Flow la Movie’s release of the remix of “Travesuras” by Nio Garcia, Casper Mágico, Ozuna, Wisin & Yandel and Towers, which has achieved 62.3 million on-demand streams. Beyond music, GLAD opened a gaming center to create and monetize gaming content and expanded its Orlando, Fla.-based facilities with a new media studio for livestream concerts, podcasts and content for its GLAD TV channel.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Read all your contracts thoroughly. If you don’t understand the language, hire a lawyer whom you can trust to not sell you out for a cut of the deal.”

Henry Cárdenas
Founder/CEO, Cárdenas Marketing Network

In the first half of 2021, when few artists and promoters were placing major tours on sale, Cárdenas, Billboard’s 2019 Latin executive of the year, announced Marc Anthony and Maluma arena runs, which opened in August and September, respectively. Cárdenas also announced Bad Bunny’s 2022 tour, which became the fastest-selling U.S. tour since 2018. The executive believes that the first bold move, which was then followed by an avalanche of announcements in different genres, represented “a big step forward for our industry amid so much uncertainty.”

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “I am paying close attention to budgeting and analysis of spending to maintain financial efficiency. The silver lining in times like these is that inefficiencies are easier to identify and correct.”

John Parra/Getty Images
Maluma

Pablo Casals
CEO, Elite Media and Marketing

In September 2020, Casals’ Elite Media and Marketing, which books and produces Ozuna’s shows, launched its own independent record label, AP Global Music, with a roster that included Fabiio, Joonti, Ache and DVILA. But Casals, 47, is most proud of “developing and nurturing” the company’s breakout star, reggaetón artist Jay Wheeler, whose “career has skyrocketed and continues to flourish,” thanks to his single “La Curiosidad,” with DJ Nelson and Myke Towers, which peaked at No. 5 on Hot Latin Songs in January. “He has become one of the leading acts in urban Latin music,” says Casals.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Adapting to the reality of the moment and overcoming any obstacle that was thrown at us is definitely a skill worth keeping as we develop new artists and produce live concerts and tours.”

Eric Duars Pérez
CEO, Duars Entertainment

Duars Entertainment’s roster of six includes newcomer Eix and former Fifth Harmony member Ally Brooke. Most notably, the company is behind the success of Rauw Alejandro, who has released over 15 singles and two studio albums, including Vice Versa, home to the viral hit “Todo de Ti” that debuted at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums in July. Alejandro opened an international tour in July that includes some 50 dates, with four sold-out shows at the Coliseum of Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot among them. “As an independent label, releasing singles and developing their careers hasn’t been an easy job,” says Duars Pérez, 40.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Don’t quit working and fighting for your dreams, and do whatever is necessary to be heard.”

Jaime González
CEO, JG Music

In April, JG Music’s marquee management client, Christian Nodal (who also happens to be González’s son), broke a record for most No. 1s among solo artists on Regional Mexican Airplay with his 11th chart-topper, “Duele,” a collaboration with Alejandro Fernández. González, 42, also counts the May release of a joint album between Nodal and fellow JG signee Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, Recordando a una Leyenda, as a standout moment. The tribute album honored the late bandleader Camacho, who died in a car accident in Sinaloa, Mexico, in 2015.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Stay focused and consistent, keep a positive attitude and strive to produce fresh, high-quality music.”

Walter Kolm
Founder/CEO, WK Entertainment; founder/owner, WK Records and WKMX

Illustration by Ryan Melgar

As the pandemic sidelined his superstar management clients Maluma, Carlos Vives and Wisin from arena touring — their biggest source of revenue — WK Entertainment founder/CEO Walter Kolm took an educated gamble and started his own label, WK Records.

“We were on track to launch a label to develop new talent, and also, our artists wanted to develop their own artists, parallel to their own careers,” says Kolm. “Once the pandemic hit, we simply shifted our focus to the label.”

In July, WK Records celebrated its first anniversary, having notched two No. 1 hits on Latin Airplay with “Fiel,” from Wisin, Los Legendarios and Jhay Cortez, and “Mi Niña,” with Wisin, Los Legendarios and Myke Towers in association with Wisin’s label, La Base. That success, says Kolm, made it a “no-brainer” to launch his regional Mexican music label, WKMX, in July (with offices in Monterey, Mexico) and bring in former Universal Music Latin marketing executive Horacio Rodríguez as WK Records’ new CEO and WK Entertainment’s new head of music.

Today, WK is perhaps Latin music’s most successful management company, with a roster that also counts Emilia, CNCO and Prince Royce among its names and a one-stop shop that includes booking, promotion, branding and production divisions.

Kolm also oversaw the ascent of Maluma’s “Hawái” to the top of the Global Excl. U.S. chart and the track’s subsequent remix with The Weeknd, in addition to negotiating lucrative deals for Maluma with brands like Hennessy, Michelob (including a Super Bowl commercial) and Quay.

“Our job as a company is to strengthen and grow the artist’s brand so it doesn’t depend on the current hit, and our success as a company doesn’t depend on a current hit,” he says.

Now Kolm is looking forward to his artists returning to the road. Maluma kicked off an arena tour in September, and others are following in the next six months. “Thankfully, we begin to see a sense of normalcy in the very near future,” he says.

Federico Lauria
Founder/CEO, Dale Play Records and Lauria Entertainment

For years, Lauria’s Dale Play has been cultivating the trap music movement in Argentina, led by the success of trap star Duki. The label’s artists, including Bizarrap, have become the face of the current scene. Another triumph: Nicki Nicole was one of the first contemporary Argentinian artists to gain mainstream TV exposure in the United States with an April appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Don’t focus on numbers. Focus on building a long-term career.”

Courtesy of NBC
Nicole

Sergio Lizárraga
President/CEO, Lizos Music

After scoring a 2020 hit with Banda MS and Snoop Dogg’s anthem “Qué Maldición,” which peaked at No. 4 on Hot Latin Songs, Lizárraga pursued new territories by launching the Room 28 label in March to develop and manage pop and urban acts. The company’s roster includes newcomer Ingratax, who debuted on Billboard’s Global Excl. U.S. chart, and Lizárraga’s own daughter, Brianda. Earlier this year, he also signed Spanish pop star Natalia Jiménez to his booking agency, LM Events. “Staying relevant is challenging,” says Lizárraga. “But I like a good challenge.”

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Doing video calls and using antibacterial gel.”

Andy Martínez
Co-founder, JAK Entertainment

Martínez, 44, put together Rapetón Approved, a joint venture between his management clients Yandel and Angel “El Guru” Vera of the media brand Rapetón to develop new talent. “We’ve received over 3,000 emails from new talent, and are launching the first volume of music in Q4,” says Martínez. The Puerto Rican manager-promoter also helped develop 15-year-old salsa star Luis Vázquez, whose single “Tu Fan” topped Tropical Airplay, and is booking Myke Towers’ debut tour.

The song that got me through the pandemic:  “‘ADMV’ — ‘Love of My Life’ — by Maluma. It’s my wife’s ringtone when I call her.”

Fabio Acosta
Founder, Vibras Lab

Acosta credits his “marathon-over-sprint” approach to management for recent achievements by his star client, J Balvin. The Latin sensation scored his 31st No. 1 on Latin Airplay with his Skrillex collaboration, “In Da Getto,” and surpassed 30 million subscribers on YouTube, maintaining his reign as one of the “top 10 most streamed artists in the world,” says Acosta. Vibras Lab describes itself as the biggest business management company in the Latin music industry, with five of its clients among the top 10 Latin artists on the planet. Its management division has grown with Cazzu, Manuel Medrano, Cornetto, Yeison Jiménez and Agudelo 888.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “They must act as the president of their own company. Every movement and play they make should be very strategic.”

Nelson Díaz Martínez
Founder, Flow Music

Díaz Martínez guided the release of Jay Wheeler’s second album, Platonicos, through Linked Music/EMPIRE, with the single “La Curiosidad,” with DJ Nelson and Myke Towers, spending 39 weeks on Hot Latin Songs. “Artists need to stay genuine when they introduce their style,” he says. “It’s a major key to success and making a difference as an artist.”

The most important issue facing Latin music: “[There are so many releases happening] that music is not getting the necessary attention that it needs for it to be successful. There is a very large amount of content being put out, and artists need to find a way to constantly innovate.”

Juan Diego Medina
Founder/CEO, La Industria

As touring shut down during the pandemic, Medina, 34, cultivated new revenue streams, investing in real estate as well as Nicky Jam’s La Industria Bakery and Cafe in downtown Miami, which opened in April. “It’s not enough to make good music or good songs,” says Medina, who also manages Manuel Turizo, ChocQuibTown and, most recently, producer Sky. “Nowadays, you have to be an influencer, YouTuber and content creator all at the same time — which can be a little hard to keep up with.”

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Cooking — and enjoying more time at home with family and loved ones.”

Jorge “Pepo” Ferradas
CEO, FPM Entertainment

Ferradas’ new FPM Entertainment celebrated Camilo earning his fifth No. 1 on the Latin Airplay chart with “Millones” and Nathy Peluso’s viral collaboration with Argentine artist-producer Bizzarap for his BZRP Music Sessions series, which accrued 250 million YouTube views and nearly 140 million Spotify streams. Meanwhile, his client Lali landed a starring role in the hit Netflix series Sky Rojo, as did Evaluna Montaner on Nickelodeon’s Club57.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Play live as much as possible and understand that what matters the most always is having the best song possible.”

Jorge Juárez
CEO, Westwood Entertainment
David West
Founder/chairman, Westwood Entertainment

Westwood Entertainment has not only produced over 80 livestreams and signed clients that include Justin Quiles (for co- management) and Santa Fe Klan, it also offered new business ventures to its artists, including campaigns with brands like Michelob, Walmart and Nestlé. Other clients landed on TV, such as Reik’s Jesús Navarro on La Voz Colombia, Yuri on HBO’s Bake Off Mexico and Llane on Amazon’s new series, How to Survive Being Single, to name a few. Amid the pandemic, “we had to diversify the business,” says Juárez.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Not being able to do shows in Latin America and not having contact with people. Video conferences and calls will never replace the fact of closing a deal in person in an industry where intuition and hunches play an important role.” - Juárez

Paula Kaminsky
Manager, Sebastián Yatra; managing director, GTS U.S.

The post-pandemic comeback of Kaminsky’s management client Yatra has included back-to-back hits, with his Guaynaa-assisted “Chica Ideal” and “Pareja del Año” with Myke Towers both reaching No. 1 on Latin Airplay. The Colombian star is currently on the road with Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias as a special guest on their joint tour. “The return to live entertainment brings many challenges, but strong presales prove that fans are ready to enjoy live music again in a big way,” says Kaminsky, who also oversees the U.S. careers of GTS acts like Mariah Angeliq and Danny Felix.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Not wearing shoes. Or maybe I’ll have to let that one go.”

Rebeca León
Founder/CEO, Lionfish Entertainment

León connected her marquee artist, Rosalía, with brands like Nike and Vogue, as well as star collaborators The Weeknd, Billie Eilish and Bad Bunny — all “without losing primary focus on what’s been a complex new recording process in the midst of the pandemic,” she says. León, who was named Billboard’s 2020 Latin executive of the year, is also executive music producer of a Latin-themed remake of Father of the Bride, starring Andy García and Gloria Estefan. In addition, she manages st. Pedro and Lunay, whose sophomore effort, El Niño, debuted at No. 17 on Top Latin Albums in June.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Touring is super limited, and artists and crews haven’t been making money. And because there are so few live shows, the rest of the industry is off.”

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 Presented by Amazon Prime Video
Rosalía

Alex Mizrahi
CEO, OCESA Seitrack
Luana Pagani
President, Seitrack US

Seitrack’s star-studded management roster has thrived despite the pandemic. With Alejandro Fernández, Alejandro Sanz, Los Ángeles Azules and David Bisbal on the road, among others, Pagani says that Seitrack is “the only Latin management company whose artists will perform more than 150 shows during 2021 in the United States.” In addition, the company expanded its roster by signing Joss Favela, Edith Márquez and Raymix, to name a few.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Making decisions based on the things that really matter to me as a person and a family/team leader.” - Mizrahi

Polo Molina
Founder/CEO/artist manager, Grassroots Music

Molina recently celebrated management client Gerardo Ortíz’s 10th anniversary by working with Univision on a live performance broadcast that involved “over 200 cars and Gerardo performing on a semi-truck throughout the streets of Los Angeles.” Ortíz notched his 10th No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart last year with “Otra Borrachera.” In addition to helping push the Black Eyed Peas and “Girl Like Me,” with Shakira, to No. 1 on Latin Airplay in March, Molina pulled double duty as manager-A&R for the BEP’s upcoming album, which he says is “due in 2021/2022.”

The power of Latin music, in a word: “Iconic”

Nelson “Polo” Montalvo
President/CEO, La Buena Fortuna Global, La Buena Fortuna Music

Montalvo says the pandemic gave his clients time to work from home on new music and finish pending productions. “We had a very strong year with a lot of uncertainty, but we had our successes,” he says. The results? Award show nominations and wins, including Latin Grammy triumphs for Kany García (best singer-songwriter album) and Pedro Capó (best pop song), plus wins for Residente and iLe.

The song that got me through the pandemic: “‘Day by Day’ by Pedro Capó. That song makes me think how grateful we are to be alive and to be able to enjoy life every day.”

Diana Rodríguez
Founder/CEO, Criteria Entertainment

Celebrating 30 years in the music industry — and the 10th anniversary of her company, Criteria Entertainment — Rodríguez, 50, has recently signed new management clients, including Mon Laferte and Nanpa Basico, while continuing to nurture the careers of Draco Rosa, Diamante Eléctrico and Francisca Valenzuela. But Rodríguez’s focus is on “the uncertainty of markets like Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico due to sociopolitical or COVID-19-related matters,” as well as oversaturation in the United States, leading her to ask, “How do you cut through the noise?”

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Know your market; have a strong, reliable team; commit; work hard; be constant; be true to yourself; listen; work harder; tour; network; and be patient. This is not a sprint nor a marathon. It’s a decathlon.”

Michel Vega
CEO, Magnus Media
Felipe Pimiento
COO, Magnus Media

In early 2020, Magnus Media finalized a first-look deal with Viacom International Studios to develop two shows: animated children’s series Gloria Wants to Know It All and comedy series Liked, which explores an influencer’s online persona versus her real self. The company, founded by Vega and Marc Anthony (who launched a 23-city tour in August), also partnered with Sony Music Latin to produce the forthcoming soundtrack for the animated film Koati. Plus, it has developed an energy drink, OCA, with beverage giant BELIV that “launched nationally and internationally in several foreign countries such as Guatemala, Panama and China,” says Vega.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Don’t let what is currently trending on the radio determine who you are as an artist. People want individuality. It’s better not to fit the mold.” - Vega

Jennifer D’Cunha
Global head of Latin music, Apple Music

“Latin is now the fastest-growing primary genre on Apple Music both here in the U.S. and worldwide,” says D’Cunha. With her team, she has created the Supernova playlist to expose “risk-taking, young visionaries currently transforming Latin music,” the La Clika playlist for acts “who are revolutionizing Música Mexicana while drawing inspiration from contemporary hip-hop” and Bichota Radio on Apple Music 1, hosted by Karol G. Meanwhile, Apple Music’s City Charts playlists allow fans to see the top songs “in culturally significant music markets” in over 100 cities, including Madrid; Mexico City; Miami; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Medellín, Colombia; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santiago, Chile; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Rocío Guerrero
Global head of Latin music, Amazon Music

Guerrero expanded Amazon Music’s global reach by launching Amazon Music LAT!N, a new destination and brand developed to celebrate the many genres and artists of Latin music. Apart from her efforts, in April, it was announced that CMN, Amazon Music LAT!N and Twitch have united for the launch of ¡LatinUp!, a new content platform. Latin music listening has grown 94% year over year on Amazon Music, the company reports.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Dancing Zumba every morning virtually with a group of friends. There is no better way to start the day.”

Sandra Jimenez
Director of music partnerships, Latin America, YouTube
Mauricio Ojeda
Manager of music label partnerships, U.S. Latin, YouTube
AJ Ramos
Artist relations manager, YouTube Music

The introduction of YouTube Shorts in all Latin American countries was “an important highlight for the region,” says Jimenez, whose team was responsible for coordinating the rollout and educating artist and label partners about the product. That spells competition for TikTok: YouTube, the world’s de facto video platform that has about 2 billion monthly logged-in viewers, is especially popular in Latin America.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Providing equal opportunities for our Afro-Latino artists. With the launch of the #YouTubeBlackVoices Fund, we were proud to have artists in our region represented within the cohort of grantees. Artists such as Myke Towers, Péricles, Urias, MC Carol and RAEL received widespread partner support to help create more visibility and growth for their channels and overall career development.” - Jimenez

Marcos Juárez
Director of Latin music, Pandora Media
Azucena Olvera Vidaurri
Director of Latin talent and industry relations, SiriusXM and Pandora

In 2021, Pandora launched Satélites, a new content initiative designed to “highlight the next generation of artistic protagonists and innovators throughout ‘satellite’ regions of Latin America, the U.S. and the Caribbean like Colombia, Panamá, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Argentina,” says Juárez, 42. The streaming service turned its El Pulso performance series into virtual events during the pandemic and offered exclusive content from artists like Maluma and Bad Bunny. Meanwhile, its sister satellite radio platform, SiriusXM, has also rapidly expanded its Latin content with new hubs and channels.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Representation of the diversity of Latin American culture. The more that we truly normalize, celebrate and amplify the diversity of our beautiful Pan-Latin American culture, the better off society will be.” - Juárez

Mauricio Mendoza
Head of content and industry relations, Americas, Deezer

In a competitive streaming field, Mendoza, 46, recruits stars to develop original content that helps Deezer, an early entrant in many Latin American countries, compete against Spotify and Apple Music. Among the most notable Dezeer Originals is the podcast Atrapados, offering a “stellar cast” of voice actors and sound design to examine the physical and mental effects of confinement during the pandemic, says Mendoza. For Reggaeton Acústico, a Deezer Originals music album, Deezer created acoustic versions of hits by Camilo, Reik, TINI, Justin Quiles and Pedro Capó. “This project proves there are powerful voices and lyrics behind some of today’s most popular reggaetón songs,” he says.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “As Latin music becomes more mainstream and global, it’s also quite easy for emerging subgenres to get grouped together under one Latin genre, when in fact there are so many local flavors and subgenres that make Latin music distinct.”

Mia Nygren
Managing director, Latin America, Spotify
Juan Manuel Rótulo
Head of editorial, Latin America, Spotify
Antonio Vázquez
Head of U.S. Latin, editorial, Spotify

Spotify is “the largest driver of revenue for the recorded-music industry in the Latin markets,” says Nygren, 48, who oversees the Latin American region for the streaming platform. Rótulo’s team curates key playlists, including Mansión Reggaetón, the regional Mexican-focused La Reina and Brazil’s Esquenta Sertanejo. Vázquez leads the U.S. Latin editorial team at Spotify responsible for playlists like ¡Viva Latino! and Baila Reggaeton, with over 10 million followers each. Spotify continues to bolster its Latin footprint, with the Latin American region now representing 22% of the streaming service’s monthly active users and 20% of its subscribers, while Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny was the most streamed artist on the platform in 2020, the company reports. It was a “true testament to the power of fans that can’t get enough of Latin music and the muscle of Latin markets,” says Nygren.

The song that got me through the pandemic: “‘Muriendo de Envidia’ by C. Tangana [and Eliades Ochoa]. The experimental song mixes many different sounds, just like the pandemic, and was a huge surprise to us all when the rules and norms changed drastically.” - Nygren

Néstor Casonú
President, Kobalt Latin America

In recent months, Casonú has guided contract renewals for chart-topping artists such as Carlos Vives, Ozuna and, most recently, artist-producer Ovy on the Drums (Karol G’s go-to producer), whose deal includes a full range of creative, synch and administration for his catalog and future works. Kobalt, recognized as ASCAP Latin’s 2020 independent publisher of the year, also signed new songwriters, including Justin Quiles, Bryant Myers, Yampi and Dynell.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “To realize how the pandemic affected the collections of the societies in the region and, as a result, how that effect trickled down to creators and publishers. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how the boom in streaming will offset that loss of collections.”

Alexandra Lioutikoff
President, Latin America and U.S. Latin, Universal Music Publishing Group

UMPG organized global synch song camps on Zoom for writers, artists and producers from 14 countries, says Lioutikoff, as well as coordinated a series of collaborations that charted on Spotify — from Mahmood, Sfera Ebbasta and Feid’s “Dorado” to Takagi & Ketra, Elodie and Mariah Angeliq’s “Ciclone.” In March, UMPG also won BMI’s Latin publisher of the year honor. And Lioutikoff’s new signings include Carla Morrison, KHEA, Feid and Horacio Palencia.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Be open to collaborations and pursue innovation through technology. Doing live shows is not yet possible in many markets, so you have to be clever to reach, maintain and increase your fan base, be it via livestreams, socials or virtually.”

Jorge Mejía
President/CEO, Sony Music Publishing Latin America and U.S. Latin

Under Mejía, 48, Sony Music Publishing in March was honored as ASCAP’s Latin publisher of the year for the 17th time in 19 years, and in June, it was named SESAC’s Latin publisher of the year for the sixth consecutive time, thanks to hits like Colombian singer-songwriter Manuel Turizo’s “La Nota” and “Quiéreme Mientras Se Pueda.” The awards “highlight the excellence of our writers and, of course, the excellence of our team,” says Mejía. Under his purview, Sony signed young hit writers from Keityn and Jay Wheeler to Nicki Nicole and Bizarrap in addition to extending the reach of fixtures like Daddy Yankee.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “There has never been a better time in the history of Latin music to be a young Latin artist. You are standing on the shoulders of many. Use that vantage point well.”

Gustavo Menéndez
President, U.S. Latin and Latin America, Warner Chappell Music

Menéndez’s publishing team in the past year signed talent like superstar singer-songwriter Marco Antonio Solís and rising banda and norteño hitmaker Joss Favela while encouraging experiments from roster fixtures like Rauw Alejandro’s funky smash “Todo de Ti,” which became his first top 40 hit on the Hot 100 in July. “It’s going to be important to keep growing and to stay relevant,” says the 21-year Warner Chappell vet. “We’ll all have to find new ways to keep building on past accomplishments and innovating.”

My advice to a young Latin artist: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Eli Ponce
Director of A&R, BMG

During the past year, Ponce, 40, has celebrated nine platinum and two gold singles by writers on BMG’s roster, plus multiplatinum certification of the single “Yo Ya No Vuelvo Contigo,” by Lenin Ramirez featuring Grupo Firme. BMG also extended co-publishing agreements with Cuban superstars Gente de Zona and Puerto Rican duo Domino Saints, while signing Colombian producer Zenzei — who co-wrote Manuel Turizo’s Latin Airplay No. 1 “La Nota,” with Myke Towers and Rauw Alejandro — to a global publishing deal.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “Achieving racial diversification. It’s important for us to address all the challenges and racial-justice issues faced by Afro Latinx artists and executives at music companies.”

Raúl Alarcón
CEO/chairman, Spanish Broadcasting System
Albert Rodriguez
President/COO/executive vp, Spanish Broadcasting System
Jesús Salas
Executive vp programming, Spanish Broadcasting System

In June, Rodriguez rose to become the first new president of SBS in over 35 years, succeeding Alarcón, whose two daughters maintain key roles in the company. The portfolio of the largest minority-owned and -targeted media and entertainment entity in the United States spans top-rated radio formats (with Salas overseeing music programming across all SBS platforms), including flagship outlet WSKQ-FM New York — the No. 1 Spanish-language station in the country — as well as its Aire Radio Networks, streaming app LaMusica (led by Bianca Alarcón), news and political commentary network MegaTV and concert promoter SBS Entertainment (led by Alessandra Alarcón). With plans to relaunch mass concerts this fall, Rodriguez is most proud of the company’s ability to “inspire and entertain our people,” he says, “with more content, initiatives and experiences than ever before.”

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “I ask myself every day, ‘What am I doing today to make a positive impact for our community?’ Those small, kind gestures go a long way.” - Rodriguez

Trinity Colón
VP music programming, SiriusXM
Bryant Pino
Director of music programming, SiriusXM

Colón launched new programming and projects, including channels Viva 90s/2k Hits and Chucho’s Cuba and Beyond — created with legendary Cuban bandleader Chucho Valdés — as well as African/Latinx channel Tropix. Virtual SiriusXM Town Hall specials featured artists such as Piso 21 and Victor Manuelle, and wrapped 2020 with a New Year’s special featuring J Balvin. “It was a challenging year, but [we were] able to continue to inform, entertain and create compelling content for our subscribers and Latino community,” says Pino.

The song that got me through the pandemic: “‘Rhythm Is Gonna Get You’ by Gloria Estefan from Brazil305. It’s familiar, comforting and a fun escape, and is a reminder that we are all united in this global fight.” - Colón

Henrique Fares Leite
Head of music development, Latin America, Bytedance

“Latin America is the region that most uses music to create videos on TikTok,” says Fares Leite, fueling hits like Kali Uchis’ “telepatía,” which hit the Billboard Global 200 top 10 after it was used in over 1.7 million TikTok videos. Fares Leite, who joined TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, in 2019, also cites the launch of its music streaming platform Resso in Brazil in August as another recent milestone. “We are proud to empower the diversity that is Latin music,” he says.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Be true to yourself. Data is there to support your uniqueness and singularity. Stick to what you have and develop the creative ideas you really believe in. The data may serve to empower your artistic path, not substitute it.”

Adrian Harley
Head of music label partnerships, Latin America, Facebook
Alvaro de Torres
International music publishing manager, Facebook

In addition to coordinating Facebook’s partnerships with Latin music stars on various projects — including Karol G’s first full live performance of her KG0516 album, a Natti Natasha livestream for Mother’s Day and Instagram Reels for multiple J Balvin singles — Harley and his team offer education to the music industry through webinars, trainings and workshops. They also helped the company launch video hosting in Mexico last March, following the U.S. debut of the service in 2020. “During this time, we have seen that the audience in Mexico is hungry for music videos,” says Harley. The launch “is something we are very proud of.”

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Be bold, learn the rules of the system and then break them in your own way.” - Harley

Baja Beach Fest/Beth Saravo
Karol G

Jesús Lara
President of radio, Univision Communications
Ismar SantaCruz
Senior vp radio content, Univision Communications
Ignacio Meyer
Executive vp music and non-scripted entertainment, Univision Communications

With its broad reach on radio (driven by Lara and SantaCruz) and its TV programming (guided in part by Meyer), Univision is the preeminent provider of Spanish-language content in the United States. During the past year of canceled concerts, Bad Bunny’s September 2020 live online performance atop a bus traveling throughout New York “broke the internet” for Univision’s digital Uforia Live platform, says Lara, while the Univision Radio network gained a 16% linear audience increase in the first half of 2021 and saw the return of its Uforia live events. Meanwhile, Meyer’s prized achievements included the Latin Grammy Awards in November, the Premio Lo Nuestro in February and Premios Juventud in July. The latter, he says, “shed light on the humanitarian crisis in Cuba with a powerful moment that included superstars Camila Cabello, Emilio Estefan and Pitbull.”

The most important issue facing Latin music: “To adapt to the post-pandemic world. Our industry has been forever changed, as have our audience’s expectations. During the past year, we relied on technology to find more ways to bring the viewers closer to the programming. Now we are going to have to keep innovating and using new technologies to continue to put them in the front seat.” - Meyer

Enrique Santos
President/chief creative officer/on-air talent, iHeartLatino
Pedro Javier González
Senior vp programming, iHeartLatino

iHeart partnered with its nationally syndicated morning host Santos to launch the My Cultura podcast network, dedicated to elevating Latinx voices, and continued to expand the iHeart Latino network that includes over 25 stations across the country, plus partnerships in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Next up: bringing a live audience back to this October’s iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina. “[We continue to] be a driving force in Latin music across the country, amplifying Latin artists’ most compelling elements,” says González.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Listening. I have become a much better listener.” - Santos

Francisco “Cisco” Suárez
Executive vp primetime realities and specials, Telemundo

Telemundo adapted during the pandemic to “maintain our productions,” says Suárez, noting the 2020-2021 season offered over 3,000 hours of content, including new daytime entertainment show En Casa con Telemundo and virtual music festival Concierto en Casa that featured sets by Luis Fonsi, Alejandro Sanz and Gloria and Emilio Estefan, among others. The network also produced fully live editions of the Billboard Latin Music Awards and the Latin American Music Awards mid-pandemic. “It’s beyond rewarding to look back and admire our team’s resilience and the way we overcame challenges to keep our shows on the air,” he says.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Making a conscious effort to eat three meals a day. Before the pandemic, I was always so focused on work that I would constantly skip meals. I’ve learned that I need to stop and eat.”

Bruno del Granado
Music agent, Creative Artists Agency
Rudy Lopez Negrete
Music agent, Creative Artists Agency

Since the Los Angeles-based Lopez Negrete joined in 2019, CAA has more than doubled its branding deals for Latin clients to make up for the gap from touring revenue. Since the pandemic, top Latin clients including Maluma, Jennifer Lopez, Anthony Ramos and Leslie Grace secured new partnerships. Del Granado signed Anuel AA and Residente, among others, and negotiated a starring role for Gloria Estefan in the remake of Father of the Bride, while Ricky Martin became part owner of Chilean cosmetic line Kumiko. The next step is to get artists “back on the road,” says Lopez Negrete, 41.

The song that got me through the pandemic: “My dad led BMG Mexico for a number of years, and I grew up listening to all of his label artists, including my all-time favorite, Caifanes. I put ‘La Célula Que Explota’ and other Caifanes hits on repeat a lot of days.” - Lopez Negrete

Richard Lom
Richard Vega
Music agents, WME

This fall, WME client J Balvin hosted the sold-out, multivenue Neon Experience in Las Vegas, and will host Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic in December, in addition to headlining performances at Baja Beach Fest, Governors Ball and Outside Lands. Tainy, who became the first Latin producer signed to WME, joined Balvin’s bill in Las Vegas, while WME client Farruko will kick off his U.S. and Puerto Rico arena tour in November. WME is also developing new Latin acts including Aleesha, Arath Herce, Nobeat, Pink Pablo and Nicki Nicole.

The power of Latin music, in a word:  “Global” - Lom

Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images
J Balvin

Toni Wallace
Co-head of global music brand partnerships, UTA
Jbeau Lewis
Agent, music leadership, UTA

Lewis, 41, calls UTA client Bad Bunny’s rise to global stardom “a marvel to behold.” The UTA team was especially proud when the Puerto Rican phenom’s 2022 El Último Tour del Mundo became the fastest-selling tour since 2018 when it went on sale in April. After moving 480,000 tickets in less than a week, the 35-date engagement is now entirely sold out. Says Lewis, “The influence Bad Bunny wields today in popular culture — not just Latin music — is simply staggering.”

The power of Latin music, in a word: “Transcendent” - Lewis

Nelson Albareda
CEO, Loud and Live
Edgar Martínez
Senior vp entertainment, Loud and Live

Loud and Live expanded its content division with Loud and Live Studios, which produced livestreams and short- and long-form content for such platforms as HBO and YouTube with artists like Juan Luis Guerra, Farruko and Nicky Jam. Loud and Live is “on pace to produce over 400 shows and $150 million in ticket revenue through 2022 in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico alone,” says Albareda, 45, with tours by the likes of Camilo, Ricardo Arjona and Carlos Vives. However, the promoter is proudest of its role in brokering the “historic partnership” between J Balvin and McDonald’s, which, says Albareda, cemented Balvin “as the first Latino ever to be featured on the brand’s menu.”

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Never give up. Never surrender. This career is harder than working at NASA. You can study and sing like the gods and still not make it.” - Martínez

Jared Braverman
Senior vp touring, Live Nation
Hans Schafer
Senior vp touring, Live Nation
Emily Simonitsch
Senior vp booking, Live Nation

Schafer plotted a 25th anniversary reunion tour for Los Bukis, who sold out nine stadium dates in 2021, as well as Aventura's “final run of shows as a group,” he notes. He also booked Alejandro Fernández, Christian Nodal, El Alfa and the Enrique Iglesias & Ricky Martin tour. Braverman booked Maná’s record-breaking Rayando el Sol trek in 2019, which had the strongest on-sale for the band in its three-decade history, Live Nation reports. Simonitsch organized Pepe Aguilar’s Jaripeo Sin Fronteras arena tour, which has included horse shows, charreria competitions, bull riders and more. She also booked Banda MS at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in South Dakota to support the music of Mazatlán, Mexico. She booked over 12 concerts for Las Vegas’ Mexican Independence Day week, which drew over 91,000 fans for artists including Marco Antonio Solís, Alejandro Fernández, Grupo Firme, Christian Nodal, Los Ángeles Azules, BANDA MS, Pancho Barraza, Pitbull and Bronco.

Eddie Orjuela
Latin talent buyer, Nederlander Concerts National; chief executive, Orjuela Entertainment

Orjuela landed one of the biggest bookings of his career after locking down a seven-night stint for Grupo Firme at Los Angeles’ Staples Center this summer, all played at full capacity. Among headliners with the most consecutive shows at the arena, it now ranks second only to Adele (who played eight nights in 2016). “Nederlander’s Latin music footprint has expanded dramatically, and I am thrilled to continue booking sell-out artists,” says Orjuela, who also did bookings for cumbia group Los Ángeles Azules and Franco Escamilla.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Expose and promote yourself and your music as much as possible in all areas of the Latin music business and network. Build your tribe.”

Manuel Abud
CEO, The Latin Recording Academy

Abud was named CEO of the Latin Recording Academy in May and previously had been its COO. In that role, he led a major reorganization of the academy, with a focus on digital content development, and his awards team shepherded a record high of over 20,000 entries for the 22nd annual Latin Grammy Awards that will take place on Nov. 18. The entry process was managed remotely for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19. But amid the academy’s success, Abud worries about the turmoil of Latin American economies, which can affect arts funding and music education, leaving “a great deal of talent in Latin America waiting to be discovered. This impacts the industry, hindering diverse representation and growth of Latin music.”

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “Working remotely from Valle de Bravo, Mexico.”

Javier Asensio
Regional director of Latin America, IFPI

Asensio is responsible for coordinating the activities of IFPI’s affiliated record-industry trade groups across Latin America and developing the region’s digital market on behalf of its record-label members. In the past 12 months, IFPI obtained a blocking order against Peru’s biggest digital piracy site, Y2mate.com, and led successful actions against 65-plus streaming manipulation operations in Brazil. Those victories, together with improved market reporting practices, helped recorded-music revenue in Latin America increase by 15.9% to $779 million last year, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report — making it the fastest-growing region globally.

The song that got me through the pandemic: “‘Rayando el Sol’ from Maná [featuring Pablo Alboránis]. Maná is my favorite band, and this song expresses loss and looking for an answer.”

Rodrigo Nieto
VP/team leader, entertainment banking, Miami, CN Bank

City National Bank, a key financial partner of the music industry in all genres, does business in Florida as CN Bank. During the pandemic, it aided its clients by helping them access the federal Paycheck Protection Program loans and other ways of strengthening their finances, says Nieto. As the pandemic continues in Latin America, he cautions, “We’re seeing the industry hurt because artists can’t travel, because concerts still aren’t allowed and because businesses are still closed.”

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Remember that a career works as a business, and getting the right team — lawyers, bankers and managers who really understand the industry — is crucial to running that business successfully.”

Gabriela González
VP U.S. Latin and Latin America membership, ASCAP

At ASCAP, González has helped foster the next generation of Latin talent, particularly by “helping and encouraging women who are beginning their careers in the music industry,” she says. González secured opportunities for up-and-coming female ASCAP Latin songwriters in various platforms and programs. In the past year, she also renewed ASCAP’s agreements with top Latin hitmakers — such as Joss Favela, Carlos Vives, Pedro Capó, Maná’s Fher Olvera, Nino Segarra, Luis Ortiz and Urbani Mota — and welcomed new members Natalia Jiménez and Alejandro Sanz.

My advice to a young Latin artist: “Co-write, learn and get familiar with the ins and outs of the business, and try to always be involved in all the decisions that will affect your career.”

Jesus González
VP creative, Latin, BMI

After joining BMI during the pandemic, González doubled down on executing signature virtual events, such as the 2021 BMI Latin Awards and the BMI Showcase at the Latin Alternative Music Conference, while also helping retain agreements with key BMI members like powerhouse Espinoza Paz and up-and-coming producer Caleb Calloway. As a member of Voto Latino’s Impact Council, González also participated in Get Out the Vote initiatives and “helped turn out the Latinx vote in record numbers,” he says.

The most important issue facing Latin music: “The need to educate our [members] on the importance of metadata and its impact on proper credits for musical works is critical. Bad metadata results in billions in revenue not making it to those who earned it.”

Celeste Zendejas
VP creative, SESAC

Zendejas advocates for SESAC’s many record-breaking members, including Nicky Jam, Erika Ender, Christian Nodal, Manuel Turizo and Calibre 50 lead singer Edén Muñoz. SESAC writers collectively scored 30 No. 1 songs on the charts in 2020 and the first six months of 2021, according to the rights organization. This June, Turizo and Muñoz were both recognized as songwriters of the year at the annual SESAC Latina Music Awards. It marked the first time that the top songwriting honor was presented in two categories — regional Mexican and pop/ Latin rhythm — and the second win in the category for Muñoz.

My pandemic habit that I'll continue: “I recently developed a video podcast, Regalías 101, with Amelia Cueva of A&I Music. Our goal is to create a space where songwriters can go for basic information on how to protect their intellectual property.”

John Parra/Getty Images
Erika Ender

Contributors: Rich Appel, Chuck Arnold, Katie Bain, Dave Brooks, Pamela Bustios, Ed Christman, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Mariel Concepcion, Marcus Dowling, Thom Duffy, Chris Eggertsen, Griselda Flores, Josh Glicksman, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Jason Lipshutz, Joe Lynch, Geoff Mayfield, Taylor Mims, Mia Nazareno, Melinda Newman, Glenn Peoples, Jessica Roiz, Micah Singleton, Richard Smirke, Andrew Unterberger, Jewel Wicker, Nick Williams, Stereo Williams

Methodology: Billboard power lists are selective, with honorees chosen by Billboard editors. Nominations for each power list open not less than 120 days in advance of publication. (For our editorial calendar of publication dates, please email thom.duffy@billboard. com.) The online nomination link is sent to press representatives and/or honorees of companies previously featured on any Billboard power list, as well as those who send a request before the nomination period to thom.duffy@billboard.com. Nominations close and lists are locked not less than 90 days before publication. Billboard’s 2021 Latin Power Players were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. In addition to nominations, editors weigh the success of each executive’s company or affiliated artists as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance. Career trajectory and industry impact are also considered. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and MRC Data are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively. MRC Data is also the source for radio audience metrics. Unless otherwise noted, album streaming figures cited represent collective U.S. on-demand audio totals for an album’s tracks, and song/artist streaming figures represent U.S. on-demand audio and video totals.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2021, issue of Billboard