Veteran promoter Henry Cárdenas, whose clients include stars like Marc Anthony, leads Billboard’s annual roster of influencers in a genre whose artists are storming the pop charts and shaping musical tastes around the globe.
Founder/CEO, Cárdenas Marketing Network
As founder/CEO of Cárdenas Marketing Network (CMN), Henry Cárdenas has long been the top independent Latin music promoter in the United States, the man behind a bevy of successful arena tours by megawatt stars like Marc Anthony, Chayanne, Daddy Yankee and, most recently, Maluma and Bad Bunny.
But lately, Cárdenas, 63, has felt others rattling his cage. “We were fat and happy,” he says. “Then, everywhere I looked, there was Live Nation breathing down my neck. And that motivated me to get up and see what was happening.”
What was happening was a flow of talent beyond the big superstars CMN had long promoted. So Cárdenas got to work, looking for emerging talent -- and scooping it up before anyone else did.
Cárdenas opened a booking arm at CMN that he says has grown more than 200% in the past year and now includes 12 acts (with such younger artists as Sech, Manuel Turizo and Becky G among them), as well as stars like Anthony. It is the fastest-growing sector in a company that also pushed beyond music for opportunities in sports events and experiential marketing. The diversification allows Cárdenas to have a footprint in many areas, straddling multiple genres -- from regional Mexican to pop -- with artists big and small in a way he didn’t before.
Between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, CMN grossed $102.5 million and sold 1,046,652 tickets across 161 shows, according to data the company has reported to Billboard Boxscore. That places CMN at No. 9 on Boxscore’s list of top promoters for that period.
In addition to the concerts tracked by Boxscore, Cárdenas says, he produced over 300 events in 2018, his biggest year ever, selling 2 million-plus tickets. Those events include Bad Bunny’s and Maluma’s arena tours, as well as those of longtime client Anthony. Last year, Anthony signed a $160 million multiyear, international touring deal with CMN (in conjunction with management company Magnus Media), perhaps the most lucrative touring deal ever for a Latin artist.
A typical weekend for Cárdenas in September included regional Mexican giants Banda MS performing at New York’s Madison Square Garden and Maluma playing Los Angeles’ Forum, as well as concerts by tropical star Silvestre Dangond in Montréal; Nicky Jam in McAllen, Texas; and Turizo in Mexico.
As for Cárdenas, he was in his hometown of Cali, Colombia, where he produced a stadium show by Mexican diva Ana Gabriel and, the next day, he attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility at Casita de Belén, an organization for at-risk children and families in one of Cali’s poorest areas. The facility was financed by Maestro Cares, the foundation Cárdenas created in 2012 with Anthony that to date has financed 16 facilities in Latin America and one in the United States.
“I never knew what a foundation was, what philanthropy was,” says Cárdenas. “When you’re young, all you want to do is get ahead and receive. But I’m at a stage where I know I have to give back.”
Maestro Cares raises money through an annual gala (this year, that event brought in $1.8 million) and through all CMN shows, which donate $1.50-$2 per ticket to the foundation. But increasingly, “my mission is to involve others, especially artists,” says Cárdenas, who also works closely in his foundation projects with his concert promotion partners in different countries. For example, he has partnered with UNICEF and Bad Bunny’s foundation, Good Bunny, to rebuild baseball fields in Puerto Rico that Hurricane Maria destroyed.
“Before, the only artist who contributed was Marc Anthony,” says Cárdenas. “And I thought, ‘I have all these contacts. Why don’t I motivate them?’ Many people want to help, but they just don’t know how.”
While Maestro Cares is mostly focused on improving conditions for children in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cárdenas’ biggest concern at the moment is the immigration crisis in the United States, where he has lived since he left Siloé, one of Cali’s most notorious slums, to come live with an uncle in Chicago when he was only 16 years old.
“From conversations of building a wall to the separation of families -- these are critical issues influencing the music industry,” he says, noting that concert attendance has been affected as regional Mexican audiences shy away from gatherings that immigration officials could target.
“The political language of discrimination and fear, along with negative news coverage, is creating an environment of uncertainty,” he says. “Naturally, the Latin community is apprehensive. [But] I have high hopes this will change. Music is an art form that helps bring us all together. It encourages unity and inspires harmony in our communities.”
-- LEILA COBO
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula
President, Universal Music Latin Entertainment
Managing director, Universal Music Latino, Machete Music, Capitol Latin
Managing director, Fonovisa Disa USA/Mexico
López and his team have seen J Balvin become a global phenomenon with over 55 million monthly listeners on Spotify, according to the streaming service. López also helped engineer Balvin and Bad Bunny’s Oasis, which reigned on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums list for eight total weeks. Now he’s betting big on female artists, from Chile’s alt queen Mon Laferte, a top touring act in Mexico, to Colombia’s Karol G, whose albums Unstoppable and Ocean both have reached No. 2 on Top Latin Albums. Universal’s Global Talent Services co-manages Karol G and Balvin, and fully manages Sebastián Yatra, who is “leading the charge for Latin pop’s global comeback,” says López. Duque, 36, adds Greeicy to the list of rising Latin pop stars he cites on his roster. Overseeing the United States and Mexico, González, 53, says his labels are tapping some 30 different producers to drive artist development. Silva, 54, counts El Bebeto and Christian Nodal as leading regional Mexican artists who are making an impact around the world. “Central America is seeing the genre thrive, among other places,” he says.
Chairman/CEO, Sony Music Latin Iberia
President, Sony Music U.S. Latin
Verde, 52, reports that Sony’s Latin labels are working more closely than ever with The Orchard, Sony’s distribution, sales and marketing division, to drive success for the likes of Ozuna (Billboard’s Top Latin Artist of 2018), Anuel AA and Natti Natasha. The collaboration has boosted the market share of both Sony Music U.S. Latin and The Orchard. “It’s a labor of brotherhood and companionship,” says the artist-minded Verde, who also has worked hand in hand with Columbia Records in developing Spain’s Rosalía, whose album El Mal Querer reached No. 1 on the Latin Pop Albums chart. Verde also has been developing his company’s in-house theaters and studios. Gallardo, 44, rose from senior vp A&R to president of Sony Music U.S. Latin in January, securing Sony’s relationships with Farruko, Paloma Mami and Camilo -- “who is making big noise with his new music.” Verde has partnered with Cirque du Soleil on a new show inspired by Argentine soccer great Leo Messi, for which Gallardo will be the music supervisor.
President, Latin America and Iberia, Warner Music
Senior vp marketing, Warner Music Latin America; GM, Warner Music Latina
Under Zabala, Warner has nurtured rising talent from Latin America like Argentine trap artist Paulo Londra (signed in 2018), whose debut album, Homerun, had a “remarkable” showing, says Zabala, with 92 million on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music, and three entries on Hot Latin Songs. Collaborating with the likes of Ed Sheeran and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Londra proves how Warner is “expanding our A&R in every market,” says Zabala, who opened new affiliate offices in Peru. “Latin music is having a golden era, and we are expanding our A&R in every market. It highlights our confidence in the business.” Martinez points out Anitta’s global reach beyond her Brazilian fan base, calling her “one of the most hardworking and ambitious artists. She’s a force to be reckoned with in the Latin space, and the release of her album Kisses shows we are on the right path.”
President/CEO, Nacional Records/Industria Works
Continuing his career-long focus on alternative Latin music, Cookman, 59, has staffed up his labels to promote his artists worldwide. “Hearing Los Fabulosos Cadillacs’ ‘Matador’ in Japan and Greece” were transcendent experiences, he says. “Having a well-planned global presence is key to our long-term growth.” This summer, Cookman produced the 20th-anniversary edition of the multivenue Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York.
Founder/CEO, Rancho Humilde
“Rancho Humilde has given a voice to the young Mexican-American generation,” says Humilde, 39, who has released music by such artists as Legado 7, Arsenal Efectivo, Fuerza Regida and Herencia de Patrones, giving a refreshing twist to the regional Mexican scene. “We have our own hip-hop, our own reggaeton, our own trap,” says Humilde of the new wave of urban regional Mexican acts. “We created our own sound.”
President/CEO, Carbon Fiber Music
Martinez, 37, co-founded Carbon Fiber Music with Latin urban singer Farruko, who helped propel Pedro Capó’s “Calma” to No. 3 on Hot Latin Songs. “To manage an artist like Farruko from day one is a great achievement,” he says. “I’ve never worked with artists who have an established career; rather, I develop them. That is why my label grows as my artists grow.”
CEO, Pina Records
Pina, 41, is committed to “opening doors for women in the music industry” and successfully boosted Dominican singer-songwriter Natti Natasha. In February, the artist scored the biggest week for a Latin album by a woman since 2017 when her debut LP, ilumiNATTI, bowed at No. 3 on Top Latin Albums and opened with 3.9 million streams. Pina has also partnered with Daddy Yankee for “the development of new projects and global smashes,” he says, including Daddy Yankee’s first show in 12 years at San Juan’s Coliseo de Puerto Rico, coming up in December.
CEO, Afinarte Music
Focusing on regional Mexican music with such artists as Voz de Mando, Kanales, El Fantasma, El Potro de Sinaloa and Inteligencia Norteña, Sánchez, 42, says revenue for his Los Angeles-based independent label has grown over 70% in the past year. Live opportunities for his acts are key. “The company has transitioned from booking at small venues to arenas,” he says. “We are now focusing on getting bigger venues to get bigger audiences.”
Most Pressing Issue: “People have too many options for streaming services. With physical albums it was easy, but now it’s hard to get the audience’s attention under one format. It’s a problem.”
Executive vp, Interscope Geffen A&M
Seroussi, 43, joined Interscope Geffen A&M in February after 15 years with Sony Music Latin, where, as president of the U.S. Latin division and working in tandem with The Orchard for distribution, he oversaw the label’s steady market-share growth. Now the industry veteran is breaking new ground leading Interscope’s first major foray into the Latin world. “No other [major] U.S. label has done this: actually finance a staff and allow you to build a roster,” says Seroussi. “We’re planning to go from zero to 100.”
Defining Crossover: “The old definition was, ‘You’re going to sing in English, and you become famous in the U.S.’ Now you can sing in Spanish and place 10,000 people in the Tel Aviv [Israel] arena like Ozuna. It’s not about language.”
Founder, Vibras Lab/Akela Family Music
With Oasis, a collaboration with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, Acosta’s management client J Balvin (previously co-managed with Rebeca León and now with Scooter Braun) debuted in June at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums, opening with 39.3 million on-demand audio streams, the biggest streaming debut for a Latin album released in 2019. Acosta believes this cements his artist’s rich legacy. “Urbano isn’t another short-lived ‘Latin explosion,’ ” he says, “but instead a realignment of the sound of global pop.”
Best Latin Trend: “Now that Latin America is wired for streaming and the world can accurately quantify our true audience size, we are a permanent force in worldwide music.”
Co-founder/CEO, Rimas Entertainment
Assad, 29, launched Rimas Entertainment, which has 14 artists and 40 songwriters, when the Puerto Rican native was only 24. It is now the label home of Bad Bunny, and for more than a year, Assad has been casting a wider net for talent. “We’ve been developing a lot of acts around the world,” he says, including artists “from Colombia, Spain, Argentina [and] Chile.”
Charity I Support: “The Good Bunny Foundation, which [focuses on] music, arts and sports, and helped a lot of people during Hurricane Maria.”
Frabian Eli Carrion
CEO, Real Hasta La Muerta
Just hours before Anuel AA was released from prison in July 2018 after serving time on gun possession charges, Carrion dropped (via GLAD Empire) the Latin trap star’s debut album, Real Hasta la Muerte, “without any promo,” he says, and watched it debut at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums. The months since have brought calls to his artist for “big collaborations,” says Carrion. “Yes” from Fat Joe, Cardi B and Anuel AA arrived Sept. 6.
Greatest Latin Music Milestone: “ ‘Despacito.’ It’s going to be in the history books for a long time.”
Senior vp artist management and live events, Global Talent Services
For the artist management and booking arm of Universal Music Latin Entertainment, Ducamp, 39, oversees a roster of nearly 100 UMLE and GTS acts, including J Balvin, Luis Fonsi, Karol G and Colombian singer-songwriter Sebastián Yatra. GTS also serves as a booking agent, promoter or co-promoter of concerts by its acts. Ducamp reports that GTS helped Yatra achieve sellouts in Colombia, Argentina and Mexico, with nearly 200,000 tickets sold globally. “A label no longer thinks just like a label,” he says. “We think about the business of the artist.”
Greatest Latin Music Milestone: “J Balvin at Coachella. It has opened doors for Latin music.”
VP Latin/senior artist manager, Red Light Management
Giaccardi, 52, guided pop duo Jesse & Joy to a new worldwide publishing deal with Kobalt Music and renegotiated their recording contract with Warner Music. “Ever since I started working with them [in 2016], my mission was to fix the business side of things for them,” he says. Marquee client Enrique Iglesias has been busy, doing 41 shows across 28 countries in the last 18 months for an estimated attendance of 580,000 and gross of $62 million, according to Giaccardi.
Impact of the Political Climate: “It has made Latinos try to have their voice heard, and music is a voice. So it’s an opportunity for Latin music.”
Founder/president, WK Entertainment
Under Kolm, WK Entertainment continues to increase its ability to serve its artists on an international level. That includes consolidating the operations of a new Madrid office, which was key to booking major European tours for clients CNCO and Maluma. “A manager’s job is to monetize success and translate streaming numbers into ticket sales,” says Kolm, 51, whose client list also includes Carlos Vives and Silvestre Dangond. In this hemisphere, Wisin y Yandel (Wisin is a client) had the biggest engagements of their career, grossing $6.2 million across eight shows at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan. And Maluma, in his continuing quest for multiplatform superstardom, will make his film debut alongside Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in Marry Me.
Founder, Lionfish Entertainment
In little more than a year, León, 44, signed Rosalía, one of Spain’s most promising crossover acts, and helped transform the 26-year-old singer-songwriter into a global star. “She’s incredible. I am very proud of the team we have with Columbia Records, management, everybody,” says León, who was senior vp Latin talent at AEG/Goldenvoice for 11 years before establishing her own management company, representing Juanes and, until recently, J Balvin. “When we first launched [the single] ‘Malamente’ in May, Rosalía had 300,000 Spotify listeners. Today, she’s at 15.5 million.”
Defining Crossover: “We are living in an era where Latin is the new mainstream. There’s no more crossover because Americans are now crossing over to us.”
Vice chairman, Jak Entertainment
Martinez, 42, along with Walter Kolm’s WK Entertainment, masterminded the highly awaited Wisin y Yandel comeback in 2018. The reggaeton duo’s Como Antes Tour, its first in five years, sold out eight shows at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan. Martinez manages Yandel and co-founded Jak Entertainment with Jose and Karla Torres. The boutique management firm focuses on emerging artists and signed rising star Guaynaa, whose “Rebota (Remix),” with Nicky Jam, Farruko, Becky G and Sech, reached No. 28 on Hot Latin Songs in August.
Most Pressing Issue: “How to create long-term careers. All these new artists that we are working with, we don’t want them to be one-hit wonders. We want them to grow for many years.”
CEO, OCESA Seitrack
President, Seitrack U.S.
At Mexico’s entertainment powerhouse OCESA Seitrack, Mizrahi, 47, scored a coup signing a worldwide management deal with Mexican music icon Alejandro Fernandez and an agreement with MOW Management and Universal Music Latin Entertainment’s Global Talent Services to run Alejandro Sanz’s worldwide tour. In July, Live Nation acquired a controlling 51% stake in OCESA. “This deal confirms confidence in the Mexican marketplace,” says Mizrahi. Pagani revitalized the career of Los Ángeles Azules. The Mexican cumbia band landed its first No. 1 in 19 years on the Regional Mexican airplay chart with the single “Nunca es Suficiente,” featuring Natalia Lafourcade, and sold out Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre in April. “It was a lot of work,” says Pagani, “and a labor of love.”
Greatest Latin Music Milestone: “Shakira’s Oral Fixation in 2006-07. That tour proved that the Latin singer can be global, singing in both Spanish and English in all five continents.” - Mizrahi
CEO, Magnus Media
At the management/booking agency Magnus Media, Vega’s flagship client Marc Anthony released his first studio album in six years, Opus, in May, earning the salsa-rooted star his 11th top 10 title on the Top Latin Albums chart. With a roster that includes Gente de Zona, iHeartRadio’s Enrique Santos, Mau y Ricky and Fonseca, Magnus’ touring artists had a 25% increase in gross revenue in the past year across the board, according to Vega, 53. “Almost 3 million people have seen our artists perform live in 30 different countries on three continents,” he says.
Defining Crossover: “Latin music is now so intertwined in the fabric of global pop culture that a discussion of ‘crossover’ is ridiculous.”
CEO, Loud and Live
Senior vp entertainment, Loud and Live
Albareda, 43, oversaw what he describes as record-breaking box-office success for his roster this year -- including Juan Luis Guerra, Roberto Carlos, Marco Antonio Solís, Franco de Vita, Pedro Capó and Daniel Habif. Martínez, 41, strategized for veteran superstars Guerra and Carlos, introducing the artists to new markets and generating exponential growth in performance revenue. Loud and Live took Roberto Carlos to a $3.8 million gross on his 2019 trek, says Martínez.
CEO, Westwood Entertainment
Founder/CEO, Westwood Entertainment
Carlos Rivera’s Guerra tour has brought the best of both worlds to Westwood. “When an artist like Carlos has streaming volume and heavy ticket sales, it’s terrific,” says West, 56, who sees the success of tours by Rivera and fellow clients Camila and Sin Bandera as further proof of Latin music’s expansion to English-speaking audiences. “Latin music is taking off globally, so now you see Anglo artists wanting to jump on the bandwagon.” While Juarez, 42, brought such artists as Natalia Jiménez and Llane (formerly of Piso 21) to Westwood, he also oversaw Latin pop trio Reik’s transition to urban, with a stronger online presence. “We worked to make them one of the most successful Mexican artists on digital platforms globally,” he says.
Most Promising Latin Trend: “Urban R&B. We’re trying to get our talent to do amazing lyrics and urban sound with amazing voices. That’s what we believe is going to be explosive.” - Juarez
CEO, Saban Music Group
After 21 years at Universal Music Latin Entertainment -- a tenure that included the launch of urban label Machete Music -- López, 46, started his own label, Talento Uno, in 2017. “UMLE treated me very well,” he says. “[I left] to really learn the business of building a company on my own versus having an 800-pound gorilla behind me.” This July, López was appointed head of Saban Music Group, a Los Angeles-based boutique music company with a global outlook and a Latin-focused roster. It launched with a $500 million infusion from billionaire philanthropist Haim Saban. “Ultimately,” says López, “our challenge is to make our model viable and artist-friendly.”
Impact of the Political Climate: “Music is bigger than politics. [But] is the political climate impacting those who cannot move freely? Yes. The struggle of regional Mexican artists to get visas is a reality. It’s a shame.”
Juan Diego Medina
Founder/CEO, La Industria
As the manager of Nicky Jam, Medina, 32, gets credit for the reggaeton star’s move into film, with a role in the upcoming movie Bad Boys for Life opposite Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. “As a company we had been very focused on Nicky Jam, but now we have more artists,” says Medina, including Manuel Turizo, ChocQuibTown and recently signed reggaetonero Mati Gómez. This year, Turizo has tallied nine entries on Hot Latin Songs, while ChocQuibTown’s “Pa’ Olvidarte” remix has surpassed 92 million views on YouTube.
Impact of the Political Climate “They are not giving me visas for Nicky Jam’s Colombian team because they argue that since he is American, he should be giving opportunities to Americans. But Nicky Jam wasn’t even known in the U.S. until not too long ago. He rose to fame in Colombia.”
Nelson “Polo” Montalvo
President, La Buena Fortuna
This year, Montalvo, 39, signed Kany García and achieved success with Pedro Capó’s “Calma” remix with Farruko, which landed the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Montalvo also added iLe, Residente and Jorge Drexler to his roster and supported artists who joined protests to oust former Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. “Music united us, and the result was historical,” he says.
Greatest Latin Music Milestone: “ ‘Latinoamérica’ by Calle 13. I can’t explain the power of that song.”
Camille Soto Malavé
CEO, GLAD Empire
Under Soto, 38, GLAD Empire, a digital label and distributor, backed the release strategy behind Anuel AA’s Real Hasta la Muerte, which debuted at No. 1 on Top Latin Albums in July 2018 as the artist got out of prison. She guided Anuel AA’s “Te Bote (Remix),” which reached No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs, and declares: “It’s a classic we’ll hear 20 years from now, [at] the club, the cookout and the nursing home.” With her husband, Alberto Mendoza, who performs as MC Ceja, they’ve expanded their Orlando, Fla.-based studio complex.
CEO, Elite Media and Marketing
Casals, 46, helped push Ozuna into new markets in the United States over the past year and promoted the singer’s Aura tour. It grossed $14.5 million over 17 shows. “We work hard at bringing our music to new places,” says Casals, “to break that barrier of languages and different mentalities or races.”
Greatest Latin Music Milestone: “Romeo Santos doing two sold-out Yankee Stadium [shows in New York in 2014] opened windows to what was possible in Latin music.”
Bruno del Granado
Agent, Creative Artists Agency
Del Granado’s star client Luis Fonsi performed the official 2019 Special Olympics song “Right Where I Am Supposed to Be” at the opening ceremonies in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) alongside Avril Lavigne in March and kicked off his Vida world tour in Spain in June. Now, “we’re gearing up on our second U.S. run with him” in the fall, says del Granado, 54, whose roster includes Gloria Estefan, Ednita Nazario, Danna Paola, Jencarlos Canela and Isabela Moner.
Greatest Latin Music Milestone: “Ricky Martin’s ‘Cup of Life’ performance at the 1999 Grammys. Gloria and Emilio Estefan had already [opened] the door with ‘Conga’ several years before, but Ricky blew the door off its hinges and, 20 years later, we’re still ‘livin’ la vida loca.’ ”
Agent, Paradigm Talent Agency
Landau, 33, has a roster of rising young artists who are first-generation Latinos, the group “often referred to as the Dreamers,” he says, including Cuco, Omar Apollo, Inner Wave, Jean Dawson and Boy Pablo. He has doubled the roster of Latin artists to 70 in the past year, he reports. “It’s this group of artists who are really seeing some significant strides in the touring space even if some of their music might not always be obvious Latin music,” he says.
Charity I Support: “Cuco’s manager Doris Muñoz does incredible work with a nonprofit concert series called Solidarity for Sanctuary. The money goes to different immigrant causes.”
Markus, 51, helped book J Balvin as the Saturday-night headliner for Chicago’s Lollapalooza in August, which he called a “massive achievement for the entire Latin music scene.” This summer, WME had 11 Latin acts simultaneously touring Europe. “In my time here, we’ve never had anything like that,” he says. Lom, 42, reports that Mexican rock band Caifanes sold out two shows at Movistar Arena in Bogotá, Colombia. “Nobody thought that was going to do well,” he says, “and we ended up establishing sales records at that venue.”
Most Promising Latin Trend: “What’s really exciting is Anglo artists doing features on songs by Latin acts.” - Markus
Norkin, 38, increased UTA’s Hispanic and Latin American touring income by 50% during the last 18 months, guiding a roster of Latin artists like Natalia Jiménez, Duki, Paulina Rubio, Eros Ramazzotti and Monsieur Periné. He also handled Post Malone’s first Latin American dates. “I’m proud,” he says. “He has had tremendous worldwide success, and getting to book him into my neck of the woods was a wonderful moment.”
Charity I Support: “The National Immigration Law Center. I was born in the U.S. to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came here with nothing but hope for a better life. It’s important to me that others have the same opportunities.”
Senior vp, Live Nation Latin
Schafer, 37, doubled -- to 14 -- the number of Live Nation Latin’s major tours in 2019. “We’ve helped build opportunities for Latin artists where they’ve not been before,” says Schafer, who also oversaw milestone shows including Maná’s seven-night run at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. “Romeo Santos [is] the first Latin artist to perform at MetLife Stadium” in East Rutherford, N.J., he says of the Sept. 21 show. “That’s huge right there.”
Best Latin Trend: “So many female Latin artists are having a bigger voice, a bigger platform. It’s something that I absolutely love to see.”
VP, Latin division, East Coast and Puerto Rico, peermusic
VP, Latin division, West Coast, peermusic
Bagué, 51, notes that he achieved a 160% rise in peermusic’s revenue in Puerto Rico -- despite the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the economic crisis -- while also producing albums for Luis Enrique and C4 Trio’s Tiempo Al Tiempo, which he describes as “a remarkable musical experience.” Drazan, 49, reports a 157% increase in revenue from synch placements and focused on new female artists like Lupita Infante, Chiquis, Gaby Moreno and Sofia Reyes. “I want to help female musicians, singer-songwriters and writer-producers grow in a very male-dominated industry,” she says. “Particularly on the Latin side.”
Most Pressing Issue: “The lack of tolerance for risk. It’s a disservice to music fans to not bring music that’s interesting and new to market.” - Drazan
President, Latin America, Kobalt Music
Casonú, 69, added new talent to an already star-studded publishing roster this year by signing Anuel AA, DJ Luian, Natti Natasha and Jesse & Joy, supported by the work of senior vp creative Leslie Ahrens. On Casonú’s watch, Kobalt artists won 15 Billboard Latin Music Awards, while Ozuna was a finalist for a record-setting 23 awards in 15 categories -- taking home 11 trophies, the most of any performer.
Most Pressing Issue: “We are living in an extraordinary moment. The traditional format of the development of an artist has changed. The artist is the protagonist now. We’re here to help them progress.”
President, Latin America and U.S. Latin, Universal Music Publishing Group
Lioutikoff talks of “outstanding growth and fantastic new signings” at UMPG, and her claim is backed up by the publisher’s deals with J Balvin, Anitta, Sebastian Yatra, Rosalía and others. She signed a deal with Rich Music, home to Justin Quiles, Sech, Dalex and Dimelo Flow, and struck a new partnership with Brazilian executive and creator Konrad Dantas and his entertainment company, KondZilla, which counts 52 million subscribers on its YouTube channel.
Charity I Support: “She Is the Music, a global nonprofit aimed at increasing and empowering women of all walks of life working in music. The organization, started by our global chairman, Jody Gerson, and Alicia Keys, champions equality, inclusivity and opportunity for female creators and industry professionals.”
President/CEO, Latin America and U.S. Latinm Sony/ATV Music Publishing
With Mejía, 46, guiding a roster that includes Nicky Jam, Maluma, Farruko and “Despacito” songwriters Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Erika Ender, Sony/ATV won the 2019 Latin publisher of the year award from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC -- its third triple crown. “It’s a great moment for all of us,” says Mejía, himself a Latin Grammy-nominated composer. “It’s a recognition to our writers.”
Most Promising Latin Trend: “Collabs, features [and] remixes. The cross-pollination of artists and music genres is creating this global music climate, of which Latin is very much a key part of.”
President, U.S. Latin & Latin America, Warner Chappell Music
Under Menéndez, Warner Chappell Music subsidiary WB Music was named publisher of the year at the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards in April, while honors went to Warner Chappell writers Gaby Music and Chris Jeday as songwriter and producer of the year, respectively. As of early September, the publisher has had a share in 15 No. 1 songs on Latin Airplay so far this year.
Most Pressing Issue: “We must keep evolving to maintain the global status Latin music has earned.”
VP, U.S. Latin and Latin America, ASCAP
Executive director, creative, Latin, BMI
Director, creative services, SESAC Latina
“When you have people like Bad Bunny rapping entirely in Spanish and topping [the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Like It” alongside Cardi B and J Balvin], that’s huge,” says González, 50, who has seen Afro-Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés, Venezuelan singer-songwriter Franco De Vita and Puerto Rican trio Los Rivera Destino join ASCAP’s roster. Mercado, 49, stepped up for BMI’s Latin membership in September, working with senior vp creative Alex Flores following the departure of vp creative Delia Orjuela, who resigned after a 22-year tenure with the PRO. BMI added salsa legend Willie Colón, producer Sky and songwriter Karen Sotomayor to a roster that already includes J Balvin and Ozuna. Zendejas, 42, continued to solidify SESAC Latina’s status in regional Mexican music, with hitmaking members including Gussy Lau and Calibre 50, whose frontman Edén Muñoz was recently the genre’s only representative on Billboard’s Latin Songwriters chart. “My success is due to them,” says Zendejas.
Head of U.S. Latin music business, Apple Music
From reggaeton to Latin trap, salsa to merengue and cumbia to bachata, D’Cunha and her team have made Apple Music home to a staggering diversity of sounds. “We literally have hundreds of playlists,” says D’Cunha. “Latin is a culture, not a genre.” She remains focused on expansion, launching three new playlists this year: Norteño Machín (Norteño music), La Fórmula (Latin trap and reggaeton) and Suave (a multilingual, multicultural R&B fusion of artists from the Spanish-, Portuguese- and English-speaking worlds). “We’re always looking for new trends,” she says. “Our work never ends.”
Most Pressing Issue: “Music moves at the pace of culture, faster than it ever has.”
Head of music partnerships, Latin America, YouTube
Jimenez helped launch YouTube Music and YouTube Premium in 16 Latin American countries in the past year and began monetizing music content in 12 of those locations since March, creating a new revenue source for artists. YouTube aims “to incentivize new talents such as Jão and Vitão in Brazil, Rauw Alejandro in Puerto Rico or Pedrina in Colombia through new artist programs such as Foundry and NextUp,” says Jimenez.
Defining Crossover: “Content without limits. If you are collaborating across genres, you are creating something new and expanding your audiences.”
Head of Latin music, Pandora
Juárez, 40, oversaw the launch of the Pandora station El Pulso in April 2018, working with fellow Latin programmer Leticia Ramirez to focus on artists who are pushing the limits of the Latin genre. He reports that El Pulso has reached more than 1 million Pandora users. Juárez next is focusing on the regional Mexican genre with another station, RMX, while El Detour will show the diversity of Latin music, from electro-pop to tropical fusion.
Most Promising Latin Trend: “Promoting young creators from regions that are not hyper-represented in mainstream Latin music. That’s the key to keeping the industry vibrant.”
Managing director, Latin America, Spotify
Nygren, 46, is responsible for the fastest-growing region in the world for Spotify. Today, 21% of the streaming service’s monthly active users, and over 20% of paying subscribers, are in Latin America (according to the company), despite the continued presence of piracy in the market. “We have a joke at Spotify that one year here is like a dog year because we pack seven years’ worth of work into one; we can never relax,” says Nygren. “We have to make sure that we can compensate artists, while also taking into account the differences in culture and how much people are able to pay” for streaming services, she adds, touching upon the hot topic of royalties in the streaming age. “It’s about jointly bringing everyone to the table to find a solution.”
The Impact of the Political Climate: “It has made the people in Latin America determined to speak with one voice. Clearly, nothing can stop Latin music. You can see that in the collaboration of musicians. That’s a positive.”
Music curator, Amazon Music
At Amazon Music, Latin-music monthly streams have doubled year over year worldwide as of July, according to Mendizabal. “There’s a growing movement toward authenticity, and it’s attracting non-Spanish speakers as well as Latin listeners,” says the 35-year-old programmer (and former Billboard Latin chart manager). “Artists are sticking to their authentic selves, and people are gravitating to that.” Mendizabal’s Fuego Latino playlist also has attracted new customers, with monthly streams exploding sevenfold since May 2018. “People who weren’t listening to Latin are doing so now,” she says. “There are Latin music fans all over the world.”
Charity I Support: “A dog sanctuary in Costa Rica called Territorio de Zaguates -- zaguates means ‘mutts’ or ‘strays.’ I’m a huge animal lover, and my partner is from Costa Rica.”
Raúl Alarcón Jr.
Chairman/CEO/president, Spanish Broadcasting System
Executive vp programming, Spanish Broadcasting System
President, SBS Entertainment; vp, SBS West Coast, Spanish Broadcasting System
Raúl Alarcón, 63, leads SBS, which in its financial filings for the second quarter of 2019 had the No. 1 and No. 2 Spanish-language stations in both New York and Los Angeles, the nation’s largest radio markets, “as well as three out of four of the most-listened-to Hispanic stations in America,” says the chairman/CEO/president in the filing. Salas, 42, is on the front line of programming moves that have led to market dominance for WSKQ (La Mega 97.9) New York; WPAT (93.1 Amor) Paterson, N.J.; KXOL (Mega 96.3) Los Angeles; and KLAX (La Raza 97.9) East Los Angeles. That’s a first in the company’s 35-year history, says Salas. SBS also runs the top five stations in Puerto Rico, the company reports. Meanwhile, SBS’ digital and live business is growing. Alessandra Alarcón, 32, is working for her father’s company and has been expanding the SBS Entertainment concerts division, including adding a second night to the annual Calibash event in L.A. and launching the two-date summer concert series Megaton. “I want [us] to be a place where artists -- world renowned and just starting out -- are supported across markets,” she says.
Most Pressing Issue: “Sound needs to continue to be innovative, needs to keep the styles fresh and avoid sounding redundant in many songs.” - Salas
President of radio, Univision
Senior vp entertainment and music, Univision
VP/managing director of radio strategy, Univision
In March, Univision rebranded its Uforia Audio Network to combine the reach of its Uforia music app and its 58 owned-and-operated radio stations (which the company says reaches over 17 million listeners across terrestrial radio and digital platforms). The digital initiative is the core of a strategy to convert “a traditional portfolio of radio assets into the largest Spanish-language music-media platform in the country,” says Lara, 46. The Uforia Music Series has “expanded Univision’s footprint in Latin music,” says SantaCruz, 43, who reports that 19,000 fans turned out in Dallas to see J Balvin and Bad Bunny perform at a benefit concert in August for victims of the El Paso, Texas, shooting. Univision also has extended its deal with the Latin Grammys through 2028, while revamping the network’s Premios Lo Nuestro and youth-oriented Premios Juventud awards properties. “The fans know who the artists are,” says Meyer, 42, “and we have an obligation to show them something different and spectacular.”
Most Pressing Issue: “An incredible amount of clutter in an industry in which thousands of tracks are released every day. And the fragmentation of audiences is certainly a challenge.” - Lara
Director of Latin music programming, SiriusXM
Pino oversees nine Latin music channels for SiriusXM that range from reggaeton to jazz. He has hosted over 30 specials and “town halls” -- performances with artists like Anitta, Mala Rodríguez and Juanes -- in the past 18 months. Among those programs was an audio livestream of J Balvin’s performance at Lollapalooza in August as the festival’s first Latinx headliner. And there’s also room in his programming for breakouts: On the Caliente Discovery channel, Pino handpicks “early bets” like Sech and Jhay Cortez. “The new generation is really great,” he says.
Most Pressing Issue: “A lot of music that’s being dispersed very quickly. Artists are dropping music constantly. I would love to see where we can go back to just getting albums, where an artist can fully promote and market a song, so we can make classics.”
Chairman/chief creative officer, iHeartLatino; On-air personality, iHeartRadio
Santos, 44, plays a behind-the-scenes role to complement his public radio personality. He was involved in bringing the iHeartRadio app to Mexico in partnership with Grupo ACIR and produced iHeartLatino’s first podcast hosted by youngsters, Are You Kidding, with brothers Sebastian and Brandon Martinez, 11 and 13, respectively, which helped raise funds and awareness during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month in September. As host of Miami’s top-rated morning radio show among Hispanic young adults, as well as the syndicated On the Move With Enrique Santos, he also will produce and host iHeartLatino’s Fiesta Latina in Miami in November, with stars including Jennifer Lopez, Ozuna and Daddy Yankee.
The Impact of the Political Climate: “Latin music is in its best moment despite the current negative, aggressive and racial climate. Latin musicians are using their voice, music and social platforms more than ever to call out injustices and to give a voice to the disenfranchised. Latin artists are woke!”
Executive vp primetime, realities and specials, NBCUniversal Telemundo
After more than a decade at Univision, Suárez is the executive in charge of production for such NBCUniversal Telemundo shows as La Voz and the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards, which had an 11% increase in viewership over 2018, the company says. With an all-star lineup of performers, the show reached 2.4 million viewers and 2.1 million global views across social media, according to Telemundo. Suárez’s programming touch has led the network to success in reaching the key 18-34 and 18-49 demographics. He is also the executive in charge of production for the Latin American Music Awards, which Telemundo will air live from Los Angeles on Oct. 17.
Contributors: Justino Águila, Rich Appel, Dean Budnick, Judy Cantor-Navas, Britina Cheng, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Camille Dodero, Suzette Fernandez, Griselda Flores, Adrienne Gaffney, Taylor Mims, Alex Pham, Isabela Raygoza, Jessica Roiz, Desire Thompson, Xander Zellner
Methodology: Billboard editors and reporters weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2019 Latin Power list, including, but not limited to, Billboard’s 2019 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 Aug. 7. Data in profiles updated as of Sept. 25. 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.