The Latin Music Industry in 2014: Romeo Strikes Again as Streaming Breaks Through

Omar Cruz
Romeo Santos

Throughout the week, Billboard will be publishing pieces from our staff writers, each an outstanding authority on their specific area of coverage. From Nashville to Miami, the industry at large, publishing and retail, and the year in touring, we'll be taking comprehensive looks at the biggest stories -- good, bad and in between -- from 2014. Today, we continue with the analysis of Leila Cobo, Billboard's executive director of content and programming for Latin music.

YEAR IN MUSIC: Best Latin Albums | Best Latin Songs

It was a year of optimism -- yes, optimism -- for Latin music as new revenue streams finally started to materialize in tangible ways. That, in turn, fueled new signings and expanded promotions. Here's a look at key events for Latin music in 2015.

THE ROMEO EFFECT

Billboard's Business Year-End

Bachata star Romeo Santos ended 2014 as the Top Latin artist of the year, breaking sales records on multiple fronts. This wasn't a one-off phenomenon. Santos' strategy for this year's Formula, Vol. 2 was very carefully laid-out and planned. Santos is Santos, of course, one of those singular acts who can't be replicated. But his marketing can definitely be extrapolated to other Latin releases. Santos says he "test-drives" every track he includes on a set and plays it for multiple people before deciding to actually record. On its end, label Sony Music Latin, armed with Santos' previous impressive sales and radio data, broached Dr. Pepper for a major sponsorship that included TV and radio spots. They succeeded and had it timed to launch weeks prior to the album's release in tandem with performances in major shows (like The Bachelor). A very smart social media strategy -- the first Santos had ever systematically endeavored -- had him engage with fans steadily week of release. The resulting social awareness also translated to sales. Santos' single "Odio," featuring Drake, sold 55,000 downloads its first week of availability, according to Nielsen, entering Latin Digital Songs at No. 1 and setting the mark for the highest sales week for a Spanish-language track since the chart's inception in January 2010. As for the album, it delivered the best-selling week for a Latin album in the past eight years and ended the year as the top-selling set of 2015.

BAILANDO

It had been years since a Spanish-language song crossed over so effectively into mainstream. And it had been years since any Latin song had so much success, in any language. This week, "Bailando" by Enrique Iglesias feat. Gente D' Zona and Descemer Bueno notches 32 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, an extraordinary run. "Bailando" long ago sped by Shakira's "La Tortura," which in 2005 spent 25 weeks at No. 1. The song's success has been fueled by millions of streams weekly and its strength on the digital downloads chart coupled with a bilingual remix feat. Lil' Jon.

STREAMING GROWTH

Streaming reaches its tipping point in Latin America, becoming a determining factor for the Latin business. Latin America already saw its digital music revenues grow by 27.6 percent in 2013, more than any other region in the world, according to IFPI. In 2014, the region stayed ahead. In December, VEVO announced that VEVO Mexico, launched just last May, had already attained 1 billion monthly views. This makes Mexico VEVO's second-largest market after the U.S. Google Play launched in 17 Latin American countries via a partnership with Samsung. Spotify and Deezer have also exploded, namely through mobile. Stats suggest the best is yet to come. Last year, Spotify users spent more than two hours per day listening to the service and created over 18 million playlists in Mexico alone. More telling, one of every six smartphones in Mexico uses Spotify.

LOLLAPALOOZA TAKES LATIN AMERICA

After successful editions in Brazil and Chile, Lollapalooza opens up shop in Argentina and sells out. In 2015, it returns for part two. 

NO WOMEN, LET'S CRY

Women are noticeably absent from the 2014 Latin charts. In the year-end tally, only one woman, the late Jenni Rivera, made the top 25 for the Top Latin Artists.

LATIN + EDM

Universal Music Latin Entertainment formerly launches Aftercluv Dance Lab, an EDM label, during the Latin Grammys. It will function region-wide with offices in nine countries. 


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