As Balvin, a 32-year-old from Medellín, Colombia, travels the world on his Energia Tour this summer, there are seven predominantly Spanish-language tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Aug. 12, including "Mi Gente," a remake of William's "Voodoo Song," owned by Scorpio and sublicensed in some territories by UMG. Comparably, in all of 2016, just five Spanish-language songs graced the chart in total.
RCA is working a Spanglish remix of Enrique Iglesias' "Subeme la Radio," featuring Sean Paul, to top 40 and rhythmic radio, while there's also a new Balvin-assisted Latin remix of French Montana's top five Hot 100 hit "Unforgettable," featuring Swae Lee. Other mainstream acts are piling in, with Camila Cabello issuing "Havana" in August, Jax Jones releasing a Brazilian Carnival-inspired video for "Instruction" (featuring Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don) and Dillon Francis working on several Spanish singles that could appear on an upcoming album.
"How crazy is that?" says MLKMN, a Mexican rapper who collaborated with Francis earlier this year and helped design the smiley-faced, lightning-eyed emoji that decorates Balvin's merch.
Latin music crazes have come and gone, but with streaming now driving the industry's growth and Latin fans proving to be some of the most engaged music streamers on the planet, the market looks increasingly promising. Though Latin America generated just $598 million of the world's $16 billion in recorded-music revenue in 2016, according to IFPI, the growing ranks streaming Latin tunes from other countries are "even getting the U.K. labels to reach out and ask for collabs -- that's a first," says Lorenzo Braun, senior vp/GM of Sony Music U.S. Latin.
Streaming is both revealing new pockets of Latin music fans ("Despacito" is huge in Japan) while squeezing revenue from known fans who hadn't necessarily been paying for music before. While paid services generate the highest per-stream payouts for labels, even ad-supported, free services such as YouTube are monetizing listeners who in the past made due with pirated tunes. Earlier in August, "Despacito" became YouTube's most-seen video of all time, but there were four other Spanish-language videos among the top 10 and 27 among the top 100 for the week of Aug. 4.
"Streaming is helping great music come from anywhere and translate everywhere," says Stu Bergen, Warner Music Group CEO of international and global commercial services.
Daddy Yankee says that before streaming took off, mainstream executives "couldn't understand why we sold [out] arenas around the world," with U.S. sales so slim. "Now, we can finally see the global traffic of people that support us," he says.
Indie publisher Pulse Music has made inroads into the Latin market during the past 18 months, signing writers including MLKMN and Marty James, who collaborated on the English translation of the "Despacito" remix. But Pulse president Maria Egan says she's more focused on "music that makes a global impact" rather than traditional Latin fare.
"Thanks to 'Despacito,' " says Fonsi, "all eyes are not only on me, but Latin music in general."
This article originally appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of Billboard.