Latin Conference Preview: Honoring Hitmakers (In the Age of Trump)

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Ozuna performs during Mega 96.3's Calibash 2017 at Staples Center on Jan. 21, 2017 in Los Angeles.

For eight weeks and counting, Luis Fonsi’s video for megahit “Despacito” (featuring Daddy Yankee) has held the title for the most streamed video on YouTube worldwide, currently sitting at more than 965 million plays. And it’s no outlier: Roughly one-third of the top 25 YouTube music videos in the world each week are from Latin artists.

Buoyed by a streaming explosion, Latin music as a whole is on the rise, with overall consumption in the United States soaring by 13.6 percent in 2016, according to Nielsen Music. The paradigm shift is the driving force of the 28th annual Billboard Latin Music Conference (April 24-27, Ritz-Carlton, South Beach), with this year’s panels touching on new media and business models, the empowering wave of Latin social consciousness, burgeoning subgenres like trap and the fusion of sounds -- urban, pop and regional Mexican -- that dominate the charts.

As for the 2017 Billboard Latin Music Awards, set to air live April 27 on Telemundo from the University of Miami’s Watsco Center, the top finalists illustrate a Latin market that is increasingly shifting to a singles industry where pop/urban fusions rule and Colombian acts are singularly dominant. Nicky Jam and Shakira lead with nine entries each, followed by superstar Enrique Iglesias and regional Mexican bands Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho and Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga, with eight entries each. Maluma, Juan Gabriel and J Balvin each scored seven entries. Below is a look at the three top categories.    

Artist of the Year

J Balvin, Juan Gabriel, Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, Nicky Jam

While nine-time finalist Jam reigned on the song charts with his reggaetón hit “Hasta el Amanecer,” which spent 18 weeks atop the Hot Latin Songs chart and amassed 150 million-plus streams to date, it was global icon Gabriel who dominated the album charts before and after his death. But with the other two top honorees -- Balvin and a revamped Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho -- both earning chart-topping albums and singles, there’s no favorite in the night’s top category.

New Artist of the Year

CNCO, Crecer Germán, Ozuna, Ulíces Chaidez y Sus Plebes

Achieving a rare feat with six simultaneously charting tracks on the Feb. 11 Hot Latin Songs chart, rising trap artist Ozuna is up against Ulíces Chaidez y Sus Plebes, whose Andamos en el Ruedo spent four weeks at No. 1 on Regional Mexican Albums; CNCO, who had a No. 1 debut on Top Latin Albums with Primera Cita; and 20-year-old crooner Germán, whose “Quién te Entiende” hit No. 7 on Regional Mexican Airplay.

Producer of the Year

Alejandro “Sky” Ramírez, Jesús Jaime González, Saga WhiteBlack, Sergio Lizárraga

Hitmakers Ramírez and WhiteBlack are behind chart-topping reggaetón smash hits like Balvin’s “Bobo” (Ramírez) and Jam’s “Hasta el Amanecer” (WhiteBlack). Equally popular are regional Mexican producers Jesús Jaime González, the mastermind behind Los Plebes del Rancho’s Recuerden Mi Estilo, and Lizárraga, who produced Banda MS’ chart-topper Qué Bendición, both of which are up for top Latin album of the year.  

This article originally appeared in the April 29 issue of Billboard.

The Billboard Latin Music Conference takes place April 24-27 at the Ritz Carlton in Miami Beach. To register: http://billboardlatinconference.com


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