2018 Latin Power Players List Revealed
Manager Walter Kolm leads Billboard’s annual list of genre influencers who, in the wake of “Despacito,” have made the music more mainstream than ever with the help of pop hits by Bad Bunny, Ozuna and J Balvin.
When Walter Kolm left his post as president of Universal Music Latino in 2011, the industry was flailing. Streaming was in its infancy, and labels were struggling to find growth in a post-Napster world.
After a career spent on the label side, Kolm moved into artist management, hitting his stride two years later when he founded WK Entertainment and orchestrated the comeback of Colombian singer Carlos Vives, who, after a 10-year dry spell, returned to the top of the charts.
Today, WKE is the largest U.S.-headquartered management/artist services company dedicated to Latin acts, with a roster that includes contemporary stars such as Wisin, who has landed four top 10 tracks on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart in the past year; Maluma, whose album F.A.M.E. has logged 319 million on-demand audio streams for its tracks; Latin American boy band CNCO; Silvestre Dangond; and Vives.
A stylish Argentine who is known as both a savvy diplomat and ruthless negotiator, Kolm describes his firm as a “360 service” optimized for the streaming age that “provides A&R, marketing and commercial opportunities, from live shows to sponsorships.”
Kolm, who employs a full-time staff of 20 -- many of them former label executives -- says WKE will end 2018 with a 40 percent increase in gross revenue over 2017, thanks largely to touring, which is the primary source of revenue for the firm and its artists. In 2018, for example, Maluma’s first U.S. arena tour grossed over $15 million. In December, after a five-year hiatus, reggaetón duo Wisin & Yandel will kick off a reunion tour with eight dates at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, and in 2019, CNCO, whose second LP has generated 219 million streams, will launch its first U.S. tour.
TV and branding deals have also proved lucrative. Wisin and Vives have served as judges on the TV music competition La Voz (the Spanish-language version of The Voice) in a number of countries and will reprise their roles when a U.S. version debuts in 2019. Vives and Maluma also have deals with Pepsi and Coca-Cola, respectively.
Kolm’s artists are all signed to Sony because, he says, “Afo [Verde] has the best A&R in the industry,” although he adds that his years at Universal also proved valuable -- “especially in regard to how to work together with a label, so that one plus one equals 10.”
Alt-Latin Leader: The New York-born Cookman says revenue for his alternative Latin label, whose artists include Alex Anwandter and La Vida Bohème, and umbrella company Industria Works -- which handles management, music publishing and concert booking -- has risen 85 percent in the past year. (He declines to provide dollar figures.) “The ongoing increase of streaming” has been key, says Cookman, who recently opened offices in Mexico and also produces the Latin Alternative Music Conference.
What's Misunderstood About Latin Music: “That there is a rich, diverse and successful myriad of genres and styles that all have a place at the table.”
ANGEL DEL VILLAR, 38
Founder/CEO, DEL Enterprises
Launched Key Podcast Project: Newly signed act T3r Elemento, up-and-comer Ulices Chaidez and DEL Records veteran Gerardo Ortiz have all had multiple hits on the Hot Latin Songs chart, but del Villar also points to his Puro Pa’DELante podcast as one of his top achievements. “It’s a new way to interact with fans in an intimate setting,” says del Villar.
Music Trend He'd Like to See Retired: “All the hype about marijuana, now that it has been legalized in different states.”
JESÚS LÓPEZ, 63
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula
Broke Out With Balvin and Beyoncé: In the wake of Universal’s 2017 smash hit “Despacito,” Lo?pez oversaw a year of breakout acts, co-management deals and outside-the-box collaborations. J Balvin’s “Mi Gente” with Beyonce? stayed in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart for its entire 56-week run. In June, Balvin briefly became the most-streamed artist globally on Spotify, and the release of his album Vibras was followed by a North American tour and eight Latin Grammy nominations. Karol G, rising star Sebastia?n Yatra, rock veteran Juanes and manager Rebeca Leo?n (Lionfish Entertainment) all inked co-management deals with GTS, Universal’s artist management/booking division. “It’s a consumer’s market for women now more than ever, and music is no exception,” says Lo?pez of the success of Universal’s Karol G and Mon Laferte.
Next Latin Trend: “The music coming out of Brazil is strong, and we are going to see that evolve into something very big.”
VICTOR GONZÁLEZ, 52
President, Universal Music Latin Entertainment
Success Through Diversity: Based in L.A., Gonzalez oversees Universal’s operations in the U.S. and Mexico with sharp business acumen and artistic integrity. UMLE has the lion’s share of the regional Mexican market through labels Disa and Fonovisa and the 3-year-old dance label Aftercluv musically bridges Latin America, Spain and Portugal with the rest of the world. UMLE was the first Latin label to have two artists (J Balvin and Calibre 50) achieve over 1 billion streams on Pandora and Balvin became the first Latin act to be the most streamed on Spotify.
ALEJANDRO DUQUE, 34
GM, Universal Music Latino/Machete Music/Capitol Latin
Streaming to the Top: The Berklee College of Music grad is known as a digital pioneer and has been on the forefront of Universal’s streaming successes. Post-“Despacito,” Luis Fonsi's “Échame La Culpa” featuring Demi Lovato, became the one of the most viewed videos in the world with over 1.6 billion views and counting. Sebastian Yatra’s debut album Mantra was certified 3X Platino after a successful single release sequence and Karol G has scored eight Hot Latin Songs hits, including four top 10s.
AFO VERDE, 52
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Latin Iberia
Massive Market Share: Verde oversees a global roster of stars -- including Shakira, CNCO, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez -- whose reach is wider than ever. Sony Latin grew its U.S. market share to a whopping 35 percent. Add other Sony-owned labels, including indie distributor The Orchard and that market share exceeds 50 percent, according to Nielsen. A new London office dedicated solely to Latin artists supported expanded tours by the likes of Maluma and Enrique Iglesias, and nearly 1 billion people watched Sony artist Nicky Jam, Will Smith and Era Istrefi perform the World Cup anthem at the closing ceremony of the competition. Sony’s partnership with Cirque du Soleil for live show Se?p7imo Di?a, based on the music of Soda Stereo, has sold over 1.5 million tickets, and a new Cirque project with footballer Lionel Messi will pair Verde’s passions for music and soccer.
NIR SEROUSSI, 43
President, Sony Music U.S. Latin
Hitmaking For a New Audience: Seroussi has been focused on “figuring out the streaming ecosystem.” He sure did. Sony Music U.S. Latin’s impressive 35 percent market share has much to do with Sony’s strong roster of hit singles. Many of them, including Becky G and Natti Natasha’s “Sin Pijama” and Prince Royce’s “El Clavo” stem from songwriting sessions spearheaded by Seroussi’s A&R team. Seroussi also made a concerted commitment to bring diversity to the Latin music landscape, scoring a record number of hits by female acts. “It’s a trend that we believe will continue for the foreseeable future.”
ALEX GALLARDO, 43
Senior vp A&R, Sony Music Latin Iberia
Finger on the Creative Pulse: Gallardo oversaw CNCO’s eponymous album, which debuted at No. 1 on multiple Latin charts, including Top Latin Albums. He also oversaw Argentine icon Fito Paez’s Ciudad Liberada as well as Thalia’s latest album, Valiente, which includes hit single “No Me Acuerdo” with Natti Natasha. But, “the story of the year has been Rosalía, without a doubt,” says Gallardo of his fellow Spaniard’s rise from underground artist to global phenom. “She’s an example and inspiration.”
Recent TV Show You'd Recommend: I really enjoyed the Quincy Jones documentary and seeing how passionate he is about his work and how he relates to other artists.
President, Warner Music Latin America & Iberia
Senior vp marketing, Warner Music Latin America; GM, Warner Music Latina
HECTOR RUBEN RIVERA*
Senior director of A&R, Warner Music Latina
Maximized Luis Miguel's Return: Mexican icon Luis Miguel’s comeback ranks as Warner’s biggest win during the past year, thanks to a biographical Telemundo-Netflix series that became a pop culture obsession. Synergistic tie-in efforts propelled Luis Miguel’s 2017 album, ¡México por Siempre!, to a No. 1 debut on the Regional Mexican Albums chart, and he has the highest-grossing tour for a Latin artist in 2018 so far. Global team-ups such as Sofia Reyes’ “1, 2, 3” featuring Jason Derulo and De La Ghetto, and a focus on female performers, including Anitta and up-and-comer Alaya, contributed to a U.S. market-share rise of 1.5 percentage points.
Latin or Latinx?: Zabala: “Latino.”
Linking Latin Stars with Luxury Brands: Albareda’s new Miami-based venture, which launched in 2017, employs over 60 people in five cities and encompasses management, live events, talent representation and brand partnerships. Recent tours include dates for Marco Antonio Solís, Laura Pausini and Franco de Vita. Martínez, who manages Beatriz Luengo and Cuban band Orishas, negotiated the latter act’s upcoming HBO special and brokered branding deals with two luxury watchmakers: Nicky Jam’s worldwide ambassadorship for Hublot and J Balvin’s deal with Tag Heuer. “Brands are now 100 percent behind Latinos,” says Martínez.
Latin or Latinx?: Martínez: “Latin.”
JORGE JUÁREZ, 41
CEO, Westwood Entertainment
DAVID WEST, 55
Founder/chairman, Westwood Entertainment
Helped Make Urban Pop: In the past year, Westwood has reaped the benefits of Latin’s urban explosion, booking Mexico tours for Maluma, Bad Bunny and Manuel Turizo. Not that the multifaceted company -- which also has management, publishing and digital divisions -- has abandoned traditional pop. Westwood brought together two bands from the genre, Camila and Sin Bandera, for the 4 Latidos Tour, which, according to the company, sold over 1 million tickets in 12 countries. Westwood also manages crooner Carlos Rivera. On the flip side, “Me Niego” -- the collaboration between Mexicali band Reik (which Westwood manages), Wisin and Ozuna -- was No. 1 for two weeks on Latin Airplay.
Formative Concert: West: “Journey, in San Francisco. I saw that music was conducive to getting laid. I lost my virginity after that show.”
SERGIO LIZÁRRAGA, 43
Made Banda MS a Global Entity: As the manager of regional Mexican act Banda MS, Lizárraga guides the group that has notched two No. 1 singles on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart in the past year and is Spotify’s most-streamed Mexican act globally. Lizárraga also heads an independent label with a roster of five acts. He employees a staff of 40 and remains very much involved in the day-to-day business of his company. “I communicate directly with all platforms,” he says.
JUAN DIEGO MEDINA*
CEO, La Industria Inc.; manager, Nicky Jam
Guided the Rise of Fénix: Medina brought his marquee client, Nicky Jam -- whose Fénix has resided in the top 10 of the Top Latin Albums chart for 91 weeks -- to new heights of success when he secured the artist’s performance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup, which was viewed by almost 1 billion people. “It’s the most-seen event on the planet,” says Medina. “If that’s not good marketing, nothing is.” Meanwhile, Medina’s new artist, Manuel Turizo, who signed to Sony with his brother Julián, has placed four titles on the Hot Latin Songs chart.
Latin Story of the Year: “J Balvin and Bad Bunny on ‘I Like It’ with Cardi B. It continues the path of ‘Despacito.’”
RAPHY PINA, 40
CEO, Pina Records; artist manager; concert promoter
Broke Natti Natasha: Pina’s dogged support and development of Dominican singer-songwriter Natti Natasha led to her breakthrough in 2018 in the male-dominated reggaetón/urban genre. Pina, a longtime business partner of Puerto Rican superstar Daddy Yankee, watched Natti Natasha land the most singles on the Hot Latin Songs list (eight) by a woman this year.
Co-founder/CEO, Shots Studios
Co-founder/chief creative officer, Shots Studios
Put YouTube Stars on the Charts: After becoming a leading force in the creation of YouTube content, the Shahidi brothers entered the Latin music world with a flourish. Brazilian client Anitta broke into Spanish- and English-speaking markets with a succession of hits, including “Downtown” with J Balvin. And Venezuelan-American Lele Pons, who started in comedy, notched her first top 20 single on Hot Latin Songs, with “Celoso.” She also hosts TV music competition La Voz México. “The listener really connects with the individual,” says John of Shots’ artists. “It’s not just about the song.”
Recommended Read: John: “[Sun Tzu’s] The Art of War. It teaches patience.”
MICHEL VEGA, 51
CEO, Magnus Media
$160 Million for Marc Anthony: Under Vega’s leadership, the Latin-centric management and talent agency secured a multiyear touring agreement worth $160 million for chairman and flagship client Marc Anthony -- the largest such deal in history for a Latin artist. Vega, the former head of WME’s Latin division, says he saw the commercial potential of Anthony’s music in the United States well before the metrics arrived. “The general market is waking up to something that always existed,” says Vega, whose Miami firm also represents Gente de Zona, Fonseca and Alex Sensation and in 2018 added Mau y Ricky and Zion & Lennox.
Latin or Latinx?: “Latin.”
Breaking Records with Balvin: Acosta’s client J Balvin, whom he co-manages with Rebeca León, crossed into superstar territory in 2018. He leads this year’s Latin Grammy nominations with eight, and in June briefly dethroned Drake as Spotify’s most-streamed artist in the world. The Colombia-born Acosta, who also manages Jowell & Randy, says that Balvin’s ability to transcend genre is historic: “Balvin, performing in Spanish, can proudly stand alongside anyone,” including Beyoncé at Coachella, Cardi B and Bad Bunny at the American Music Awards and Barack Obama during a recent midterm campaign stop.
Guilty Pleasure: “Sneakers and art toys.”
FERNANDO GIACCARDI, 51
VP Latin/senior artist manager, Red Light Management
Keeps Enrique Running Strong: Giaccardi, whose roster includes Enrique Iglesias and Jesse & Joy, cites the latter act’s 2017 Grammy win for best Latin pop album as one of the highlights of the past year. He’s particularly proud of both clients’ longevity in a world where, he says, “artists now come and go so fast.” Giaccardi has kept Iglesias a top live draw by pacing his appearances outside of Latin markets. In 2018, the manager says Iglesias played a select 33 shows, including sold-out appearances in Kiev, Ukraine, for an audience of 84,000, and Tel Aviv, Israel, for 41,000.
Formative Concert: “Billy Joel at Palacio de los Deportes in [Mexico City]. I’m a huge fan, and it was one of the first mainstream concerts to come to Mexico.”
REBECA LEÓN, 43
CEO, Lionfish Entertainment
Building Balvin, Juanes and Rosalía: A year ago, León left AEG, where she worked for 11 years, most recently as senior vp Latin talent, to focus full-time on her management company. Clients include Juanes, who is also a partner in Lionfish, and J Balvin, whom she co-manages with Fabio Acosta. The latter artist hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 alongside Cardi B and Bad Bunny with “I Like It” (725 million streams and counting). León also signed rising star Rosalía. “She’s breaking all preconceptions of what it is to be an artist,” says León, who serves on The Recording Academy’s diversity and inclusion task force.
Next Latin Trend: “R&B.”
JOHNNY MARINES, 45
Manager, Romeo Santos
Helped Santos Soar: Marines stepped down from his role as president of Roc Nation Latin in 2017 to focus on the release of longtime client Romeo Santos’ Golden LP, which reached No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart in August 2017. The singer’s ongoing tour of the same name is the third-highest-grossing U.S. Latin outing of the year so far -- $29.3 million and counting. “Numbers don’t lie,” says Marines of Santos’ longevity -- the artist’s catalog has generated a combined 3.8 billion streams -- and the growth of the genre. “We’re slowly starting to become the majority.”
ALEX MIZRAHI, 46
CEO, OCESA Seitrak
President, Seitrak U.S.
220 Shows in 2018: Seitrak U.S., the stateside arm of the Mexican entertainment firm OCESA Seitrak, had its strongest year since its 2012 launch, says Pagani, adding that it booked over 220 shows, including 60 dates for Grupo Bronco, 21 sold-out dates for the pop duo Ha*Ash and Luis Miguel’s comeback tour, which is the highest-grossing Latin tour of 2018 so far, raking in $64.9 million from 72 shows. Says Mizrahi: “[Those] are huge numbers for an agency that promotes Mexican and Hispanic music.”
Story of the Year: Pagani: “Women empowerment campaigns.”
CEO, The Sixth House; president, Rebeleon
Terrific Year for Trevi: Rosas, who manages Gloria Trevi, convinced his star client to tour with Mexican diva Alejandra Guzmán. The resulting Versus Tour sold over 129,500 tickets in the United States and grossed close to $10 million. “It demonstrated the power of that generation,” says Rosas, who also signed up-and-coming acts Mon Laferte, Mitre and La Santa Cecilia to Rebeleon, his indie label/management joint venture with producer Sebastian Krys and Universal Music Latin Entertainment.
Fonsi and Maluma's Brand Aid: Del Granado co-booked Luis Fonsi’s most recent U.S. tour, with 20 stops. In collaboration with CAA’s Music Brand Partnerships, Del Granado has also scored lucrative branding partnerships, including deals with McDonald’s, Bacardi Rum and NCAA deals for Fonsi, and AT&T and Brazilian sandal company Havaianas for Maluma.
Recommended Read: Hippie by Paulo Coelho. “It’s an ode to when his generation challenged the established order. Appropriate reading for today.”
ROB MARKUS, 50
RICHARD LOM, 41
Agent, music; WME
Flowing Latin Acts into the Mainstream: Since 2017, Markus has helped WME increase its roster of Latin artists by 40 percent. They include J Balvin, Luis Miguel, Anitta, Juanes and Rosalía. Lom, meanwhile, co-booked 30 dates domestically and 40 dates internationally for Balvin’s Vibras Tour. “The lines between Latin and non-Latin are becoming more and more blurred, [and] the artists we represent are getting more integrated into [WME] and thus getting more opportunities,” says Markus, who adds that the mainstream industry still doesn’t understand the genre’s “massive influence.”
Latin or Latinx?: Markus: “Global.”
Latin's Touring King: Cárdenas’ company, the largest producer of Latin music concerts in the United States, made news when it signed Marc Anthony to a $160 million multiyear deal. Cárdenas says CMN also booked over 200 U.S. concerts in 2018, sold more than 1.3 million tickets and promoted four of the top 10-selling Latin tours of the year, including Bad Bunny, Maluma and Ricardo Arjona.
PABLO CASALS, 45
CEO, Elite Media & Marketing
Expanding Ozuna's Aura: Casals was the first promoter to book Ozuna in the United States in 2016, and has continued guiding the Puerto Rican superstar to new heights as a live performer. EMM booked, produced and promoted Ozuna’s 30-plus-date 2018 U.S. Aura Tour, which sold out the 19,000-seat Madison Square Garden in New York in September and set an attendance record for a Latin artist at Miami’s American Airlines Arena -- over 18,000 tickets sold. “This is the biggest thing I have been involved in in my life,” says Casals. “It’s like working for Latin Michael Jackson.”
HANS SCHAFER, 36
Senior vp, Live Nation Latin
Grossed $117 Million in Six Months: Schafer joined Live Nation Latin last November to head its large arena/touring division, and between January and June worked on seven tours -- including outings by Luis Miguel, J Balvin and Romeo Santos -- that, the executive says, grossed a total of $117 million. Schafer also saw Latin growth across Live Nation’s clubs/theaters business, an indication of a strong future, he says. “Latin music is not crossing over,” says Schafer. “We are mainstream.”
Ramping Up a Star Roster: Casonu embarked on a signing spree in 2018, adding chart-toppers Ozuna, Prince Royce, Enrique Iglesias and Natti Natasha to Kobalt’s publishing portfolio. “There wasn’t a Latin roster when we started in Miami in 2015,” says Casonu. “In three years, we’ve built this star-studded [lineup].” Ozuna’s Aura scored the year’s biggest sales and streaming week for a Latin album, debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. Royce earned his 11th No. 1 on the Latin Airplay chart with “El Clavo,” and Natti Natasha charted eight tracks on Hot Latin Songs in 2018.
Recommended Read: “The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.”
Executive vp Latin music, Universal Music Publishing Group
Another Year of Hits: Lioutikoff marked her second year at UMPG with a number of wins. “Te Boté” producer Young Martino, “Sensualidad” co-writer Brasa and Brazilian singers Ananda (“Quero Que Tu Vá”) and Anitta (“Downtown”) are among the acts she signed who scored hits in 2018. UMPG talent also racked up 41 nominations for this year’s Latin Grammys.
Guilty Pleasure: “Shahs of Sunset.”
JORGE MEJIA, 46
President, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Latin America & U.S. Latin
Building on "Despacito": After a 2017 in which Mejia signed Maluma globally and saw Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Erika Ender, who are all repped by Sony/ATV, write the game-changing “Despacito,” it’s no wonder that his division took home Latin publisher of the year honors from performing rights organizations SESAC and BMI. In May, Mejia extended a worldwide deal with Fonsi, the latest in a string of renewals he has brokered with Sony/ATV talent, and post-“Despacito,” the Colombia native is now setting his sights on collaborations.
GUSTAVO MENÉNDEZ, 53
President, Warner/Chappell Music Latin American & U.S. Latin
His Roster "Está Rico": Menéndez’s division claimed publisher of the year at ASCAP’s 26th annual Latin Music Awards in March thanks to such rising stars as DalePlay, the producer behind “El Anillo” (Jennifer Lopez) and “Está Rico” (Will Smith, Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny); and Jon Leone, whose writing credits include “Sin Pijama” (Becky G and Natti Natasha) and “Medicina” (Anitta). While it was clearly a year for reggaetón, Menéndez sees another rhythmic trend on the horizon: “Cumbias,” he says.
Performing Rights Power Trio: “Latin songwriters now have an open door to move into other genres and perform where we were never invited before,” says Gonzalez, and each of these executives has been on the leading edge of finding and developing talent. Gonzalez signed Bad Bunny early in his career and more recently added Lele Pons, Natti Natasha and Anitta to ASCAP’s roster. Orjuela notes that BMI was an early believer in Ozuna, signing him in 2013. This year, she scooped up the members of CNCO and The Rude Boyz and hosted a songwriting camp with Warner/Chappell. SESAC, meanwhile, notched 16 No. 1s on Billboard’s Latin charts, and Zendejas snagged rising stars Christian Nodal and Manuel Turizo.
Thinking Local on a Global Level: Deezer rebooted its U.S. strategy to include focusing primarily on the Hispanic market. Since then, Castellanos says registrations have increased over 70 percent and paid subscribers have grown 60 percent year-to-year. “We know Latin culture,” he says, pointing to Deezer’s “local hero” approach that targets local genres like sertanejo in Brazil and vallenato in Colombia.
Head of U.S. Latin music business, Apple Music
Made Good with Bad Bunny: Apple Music ramped up its urban Latin focus in 2018, selecting Bad Bunny as the first artist from the genre chosen for a global, multiplatform Up Next campaign that D’Cunha says was “seen all over the world.” The service also relaunched the Puro Jefe regional Mexican playlist and unveiled its new ¡Dale Play! playlist in conjunction with the release of Bad Bunny’s “MIA” featuring Drake. It became the first Latin track to top Apple Music’s U.S. Top Songs chart.
Music Trend That Should be Retired: “Excessive Auto-Tune, for sure.”
Head of music, Latin America; YouTube/Google Play Music
Latin Fans "Like It" on YouTube: Jimenez has overseen the Latin American music market for two years, during which the genre has registered significant growth on YouTube. In 2017, a 300 percent increase in Latin videos pushed past the 1 billion views mark -- and the good news keeps coming. “I Like It” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin has earned 725 million global views, and Bad Bunny and Drake’s “MIA” collaboration generated 12 million views in its first day. “It’s confirmation,” says Jimenez of YouTube’s importance in enabling “Latin music to expand and cross borders.”
MARCOS JUÁREZ, 39
Head of Latin music programming, Pandora
Set Pandora's El Pulso Racing: Juárez joined Pandora in 2012, drawn to the platform’s “first-to-market mentality,” he says. He saw an opportunity to build the streaming service’s Latin offerings and says, “I was the first person there at the time to focus on [that goal].” In April of this year, he helped launch the service’s El Pulso contemporary Latin program. According to Juárez, the show now attracts over 706,000 listeners per month.
NOAH ASSAD, 26
Co-founder/CEO, Rimas Entertainment; manager, Bad Bunny
The Energizer: Bad Bunny keeps going and going -- and Assad makes sure no one gets in his way. The Puerto Rico native, born to a Lebanese father and a mother from St. Croix, manages every aspect of the reggaetón and Latin trap singer’s career in-house at Rimas, with an 18-person team. Assad’s no-detail-too-small approach has paid off in a big way. Bad Bunny’s catalog has generated 771 million total streams, and his first arena tour grossed over $17 million in U.S. ticket sales. He has also landed six hits on the Hot 100, including his No. 1 collaboration with Cardi B and J Balvin, “I Like It”; and his top five hit, “MIA,” featuring Drake. Rimas is not an island unto itself, however. “We bring partners to our projects,” says Assad, citing Drake’s collaboration on “MIA.” “It was legendary,” adds the father of two of Drake’s decision to sing in Spanish on the track and in the music video. It’s also a measure of Bad Bunny’s pop-star appeal.
VICENTE SAAVEDRA, 36
Founder, Dímelo Vi; manager, Ozuna
Charting a Crossover Odisea: “Mainstream artists now understand very well who we are and what we can do,” says Saavedra of Ozuna, who is No. 1 and No. 2 on the Top Latin Albums chart with Aura and Odisea, respectively. It’s a coup for Dímelo Vi, which also serves as Ozuna’s indie label (distributed and marketed by Sony Latin). Saavedra, who shares Ozuna’s devout Christian faith, still operates by gut, taking risks and often sealing deals with a handshake. “Some people think we’re just two Puerto Ricans who don’t know anything,” he says. “I know full well Ozuna’s value.” Ozuna’s stock has only risen with his global crossover hit “Taki Taki,” a collaboration with DJ Snake, Selena Gomez and Cardi B, and a 30-plus-city U.S. tour, which sold 19,000 tickets at Madison Square Garden in New York. Says Saavedra: “We’re breaking barriers.”
MIA NYGREN, 45
Managing director, Latin America; Spotify
Latin Growth Agent: In June, J Balvin became, for a moment, the most-streamed artist on Spotify, marking a “historic moment and tremendous achievement,” says the Miami-based Nygren, who’s responsible for growing Spotify’s usage in Latin America. Her strategy is working. She says monthly active users from Latin America now account for 21 percent of Spotify’s total consumers. Thanks to young listeners’ embrace of streaming, Nygren adds that Latin music consumption is growing faster than most other genres on Spotify.
Operating Latin's No. 1 Station: SBS’ 17 stations are key to Latin Airplay chart hits. New York’s WSKQ-FM is once again the most-listened-to Latin station in the country in 2018, and the network launched Play 96.5 FM, a new format on its Puerto Rico station, WRXD. “We had the best ratings in our company history,” says Salas. In the live space, SBS inked a five-year deal with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for signature events Calibash and regional Mexican showcase Dia Nacional de la Banda, plus the newly launched Ocean Fest themed cruises.
PEPE GARZA, 52
Music producer; program director, KBUE Los Angeles
Multimedia Master: Garza’s main gig is programming the regional Mexican format of Liberman Broadcasting’s KBUE (105.5/94.3 FM), which drew 2.5 percent of the Los Angeles radio audience in September, but his influence is not limited to the airwaves. The 30-year radio veteran has over 1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, Pepe’s Office. Also in September, his Premios de la Radio awards show on the Estrella TV network celebrated 19 years with a special live broadcast from Mexico to “show solidarity with families separated at the border,” says Garza.
JESUS LARA, 45
President, Univision Radio
ISMAR SANTACRUZ, 42
VP/managing director, radio strategy; Univision Radio
Spreading "Uforia" in 15 Markets: In addition to scoring ratings successes in several key markets -- in the second quarter, Univision had the No. 1 station overall in Chicago and the top Spanish-language stations in San Antonio and San Diego -- Lara launched the large-scale Uforia Music Series (named after the broadcaster’s music brand) with 10 shows, including Las Que Mandan at The Forum in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, featuring Thalía and Gloria Trevi, among other female performers. And with 58-plus radio stations and the added muscle of Univision’s TV platforms and digital reach, “we are privileged to be the largest [Latin] music multiplatform [company] in the country,” says Lara.
Director of Latin Music programming, SiriusXM
The Tastemaker: In addition to hosting intimate “town hall” events with J Balvin and Nicky Jam, Pino has stayed ahead of the curve with fresh acts like Piso 21 and Karol G across the nine Latin music channels he oversees. An early supporter of the popular Latin trap sound, the native New Yorker says he curates “by gut.” Lately, that has included everything from Brazilian funk artist MC Kevinho to flamenco sensation Rosalía. “Whoever has a taste for something,” says Pino, “they’re going to find it [here].”
Latin or Latinx?: “Latinx. It’s a new generation, musically and culturally.”
FRANCISCO SUÁREZ, 62
Executive vp primetime realities and specials, Telemundo
Fueling Telemundo's Resurgence: The former Univision executive, who started at Telemundo in February, has continued to spur the latter network’s come-from-behind rally to frequent No. 1 in primetime and the advertiser-coveted 18-34 demographic. Suárez oversees Telemundo’s production of such annual programming events as the Billboard Latin Music Awards, the first U.S.-based Spanish version of The Voice and reality sports competition Exatlón.
ENRIQUE SANTOS, 43
Chairman/chief creative officer/on-air host, iHeart Latino
iHeart's Latin Ambassador: When Santos is not entertaining iHeart Latino’s listeners -- his weekday morning Spanish-language show is syndicated to 17 stations and his weekend English program to 105 -- he’s looking for ways to attract more of them. In 2018, he hired Pedro Javier González as senior vp programming to expand iHeart’s Latin reach, and in July, Bad Bunny became the first artist to perform entirely in Spanish at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. “More non-Spanish-speaking artists are gravitating toward us,” says Santos of iHeart Latino’s pull. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Guilty Pleasure: “Sleeping in.”
*Declined to provide age
Contributors: Justino Águila, Trevor Anderson, Pamela Bustios, Tatiana Cirisano, Griselda Flores, Adrienne Gaffney, Jenn Haltman, Lyndsey Havens, Taylor Mims, Gary Suarez, Desire Thompson, Andrew Unterberger, Christine Werthman, Xander Zellner
Methodology: A committee of Billboard editors and reporters weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2018 Latin Power list, including, but not limited to, Billboard’s 2018 Top Artists and Top Tours rankings; nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors; impact on consumer behavior as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance, social media impressions and radio/TV audiences reached using the latest data available as of Oct. 18. Career trajectory and industry impact -- especially in the Latin American market -- are also considered. When available, financial results are considered. Where required, U.S. record-label market share was consulted using Nielsen Music’s current market share for album plus track-equivalent and streaming-equivalent album-consumption units and Billboard’s quarterly top 10 publisher rankings. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and Nielsen Music are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively. Nielsen 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.