Aretha Franklin

Artists, Execs Talk the Importance of Collaboration at 2017 Billboard Latin Music Conference

Nicole Pereira
Billboard's Leila Cobo, Jorge Mejia of Sony/ATV Latin and Danny Strick of Sony ATV US during the Industry Keynote Masterclass Panel at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami on April 25, 2017.

If there was one recurring word during the first morning of the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami on Tuesday (April 25), it was "collaboration."

Whether it was the experts from Sony/ATV Music Publishing whose conversation centered on songwriting; or the streaming platform executives who discussed programming; or the artists themselves, who talked about being inspired by others and working together on songs to reach new audiences, the message was the same: The industry is stronger when people come together to create.

And it starts with songwriting. Where a writing partnership used to mean two people -- think John Lennon and Paul McCartney -- it is now quite common to have four or five or six writers on one song, said Jorge Mejia, president at Sony/ATV Music Publishing Latin America and U.S. Latin.

"The only place where it's one or two people now is in Nashville," added Danny Strick, co-president of Sony/ATV U.S. Mejia, for instance, recalled one song with 12 writers, which can get dicey and controversial when it comes time to split the profits. But both Mejia and Strick said songwriters should iron out those details from the get-go so the business doesn’t get in the way of the creative process.

Most collaborations in Latin music are happening with urban -- or reggeaton -- and pop music, described as "a perfect marriage" at one of the panels.

"Sometimes, when you need a little push, you have to get out of your comfort zone," said Jesus Navarro, one of the members of pop-rock band Reik. Navarro worked with Nicky Jam on a U.S. market version of "Ya Me Entere," which is completely different from the original version that plays more on the radio in Mexico. Navarro added that urban artists have helped the group step up their game. "We got comfortable. We took three years to make our last record. But we saw the urban artists were more agitated. They are always working on something new."

Wisin, a longtime collaborator with many artists including, most recently, Jennifer Lopez on "Adrenalina," said that "Ya Me Entere" continues to be very characteristic of Reik's style, despite the addition of Nicky Jam. "They are still singing about love. They are still being Reik," he said. "They are just doing it at a faster BPM. And they are reaching another audience."

Audiences appreciate it when artists step out of their natural habitats, noted Tosteo, one of the members of the Colombian hip-hop group Choc Quib Town. "When you drink orange juice or pineapple juice every day, you may wake up wanting a little cranberry or apple juice," he said by way of metaphor.

The proof is in the numbers, said Sandra Jimenez, head of label and artist partnerships at YouTube and Google Play Music Latin America. Streaming numbers always rise when there is a collaboration between two or three or more artists, she said.

"We are seeing how powerful the collabs are," Jimenez added. "Collaboration is everything in Latin America right now."

Billboard Latin Music Awards and Conference 2017