Every year for the past 18 years, the Latin Grammys has honored Latin music's most celebrated and accomplished recording artists from all genres, making the annual fete one of music's most anticipated competitive occasions.
A longtime passion project of multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy award-winning producer Sebastian Krys, Los Producers charity affair is again in collaboration with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and Rebeleon Entertainment, and includes a star-studded bevy of performers, including this year’s Latin Grammy nominees Fonsi, Alex Cuba, COASTCITY, Debi Nova, Diamante Eléctrico, Flor de Toloache, Gaitanes, Jon Secada, Mau Y Ricky, Mauricio Rengifo, Rawayana, Sofia Reyes and Tommy Torres, among many others.
"A lot of the people think, 'Well your job is just to make music, be quiet.'But I really believe that with everything that’s going on in the world, athletes and entertainers have a real, unique platform to shine light," Krys tells Billboard. "It can’t just be about going to the club and having a good time. That can’t be the only function of art, and it can’t be the only function of sport."
For BMI Vice President, Creative, Latin Music, Delia Orjuela, music serves as a healing mechanism during difficult times: “Music is a powerful tool that can be used to impact people's lives in a positive way, this event grants us the platform to do so.”
While Los Producers isn't open to the public, BMI along with Sebastian and all other musicians involved engage in social media to encourage direct donations to said charities the day of and following the event. Confirmed donors so far are as follows: Kmart, Sony ATV, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Peermusic, Lurssen Mastering, Full Sail University, Talento Uno, Stollman Law and Universal.
Billboard: Why is the Los producers charity event so important?
Sebastian: A couple of reasons: It creates a really great sense of community in the midst of [an awards] week that is really about competition, and also it shines a light on something bigger than us all. As musicians and producers and people of the industry, we have this bright light on us, and it’s a night to deflect that light and put it on some worthy causes. It brings everything kind of home, at least it does for me. It gives the week a deeper meaning.
Delia: I definitely second what Sebastian says. It’s certainly a night where everybody comes together to give back to the community. You’re there to celebrate, but at the same time, to look at a good cause. I think it gives all of us that -- an opportunity to step outside ourselves.
How does the fundraising process actually work, who is all involved in donating these monies?
Sebastian: This started very organically in Miami. When I moved away from Miami, however, I didn’t have an opportunity to do [Los Producers], but I saw that BMI was having an event right after Person of the Year during the Latin Grammys. I spoke to Delia after the event and said, “Listen, if you guys are already putting this on, we can put the Los Producers event that we used to do in Miami and just ask the sponsors to write a check to a charity of our choice.”
We hover around 15-20 percent when you put the cost of what it takes to put together the event, so about 85 percent of the money goes straight to the charity. One of the things that I always wanted to keep from doing was start a foundation. I didn’t want this to be about having a tax deduction or something like that.
When we first started, some of the charities were a little hesitant because it was like, “Listen, we want to put this event on for you and people just start writing you checks.” And, you know, some would laugh and just say, “That’s not normal fundraising.” But it was important for us to keep it clean and transparent, and make to sure that we had a way of putting together an event that raises awareness, that raises money, but also isn’t a thousand dollar a plate type of event. Especially because a lot of these artists that come to the [Latin] Grammy Awards, don’t have a tremendous amount of resources, and a lot of people make the trip from Spain and Mexico or Latin America, and they’re already making this huge commitment to be there, and if we could just have their time we can raise awareness about some of these causes, we could get people from either the industry or other big organizations to donate.
This year we’ll be doing donations at the door, which we’ve one in the past, and some online auctions, to raise some extra funds. But we try to keep it so that the people, the artists and other industry [VIPs] come and shine a light on the charities and put a good chunk of the money into their pockets.
How do you go about which charities to work with?
Delia: That’s a team decision, especially with Sebastian. We all have charities that we’re passionate about. We try to make it different every year, and in this case, St. Jude has been a great organization, but then we came to the conclusion that this was a very important opportunity for us to do something for Puerto Rico and Mexico, especially with all the artists and people in the industry that would want to help. So that’s how it came about this year, but every year it’s different, because we all come across various charities that we think would be great to help.
Sebastian: I think it’s also charities we feel like our money will make a direct impact. We really try to vet the charities. For instance, when we’ve done [charities] like St. Jude or City of Hope or Education Through Music in the past, we talk to the charities about earmarking the money to impact the community. We work with the charities to make sure the money goes to help the organization, but to also help our communities.
From a musician’s perspective, how have you responded to the disasters? What role is music playing?
Sebastian: We have a duty to use our platform. Obviously bringing joy to people that need it at the time [is important], but shining a light on a lot of the things that’s going on at the moment, it’s our responsibility to help with that. A lot of the people think, “Well your job is just to make music, be quiet.” [Laughs] But I really believe that with everything that’s going on in the world, athletes and entertainers have a real, unique platform to shine light. Whether it’s for Puerto Rico or cancer or a government that’s railing against our human rights, we have to speak up and we have to use our platform. It can’t just be about going to the club and having a good time. That can’t be the only function of art, and it can’t be the only function of sport.
I just watched the World Series, and you see so much xenophobia [outside], but the minute a Dominican player steps up to the plate or a Puerto Rican player steps up to the plate, you know, everybody is rooting for the team. It’s the way it should be. People should really pause and think about these things and how they really impact our society. It’s our job to bring them to light. We can’t just do the job of simply entertaining people. We have a responsibility.
Delia: In the end, music serves as a healing mechanism during difficult times. People turn to music to feel better about whatever situations they’re in. It’s the world’s language. It helps to heal and make sense of things.
Along with Luis Fonsi, you're helping to rebuild La Perla, which today is a site for tourism. You might not have the answers, but maybe you can lend your thoughts at least: With all that’s happened on the island, why is a town like Loiza -- a historically black region that accounts for a large ratio of black Puerto Ricans there -- is continuously being left out of the conversation? How do we begin to change that?
Sebastian: It’s tough. I’ll be the first one to say that being so far away from the ground, it’s really tough when you’re doing charitable work to make an impact on everybody. I will definitely look into what can be done. I can tell you that for me, one of the first things I learned early on in doing this is that you want every dollar to help. You want every dollar to go where it needs to go and not get lost in the shuffle of administrative work or infrastructure. You want these dollars to actually go to the people that will receive the benefit.
The opportunity presented itself to work with Luis Fonsi on the La Perla project, and we felt pretty confident that the way that he’s doing it, is going to make an impact, just with the amount of money especially that he’s put up personally so far to help.
The real answer is I don’t have enough information that you might have to who else needs real help. And I’ll be happy to see what we can do and how we can shine a light on that. You definitely don’t have the resources to help everybody, at least we don’t, but we do want to make sure that our money is making a direct impact to the citizens that it’s intended for.