The annual Billboard Latin Music Conference started its first full day Tuesday (April 28) with an emphasis on business and marketing.
It is show business, after all.
That was the message delivered throughout different panels that focused on promoting, marketing and monetizing music and how the lines are blurred between business and art.
Blurred Lines was the name of one of the panel discussions, in fact, but it may as well be the name of the music industry's anthem today. The lines are blurred between radio and TV, between artist and brand, between labels and sponsors. In fact, music and business seem to be merging faster and faster into one big and multi-faceted industry.
But there are two words that are key to everything: content and connecting. The consumer doesn't make a distinction between mobile and digital and radio, said Luis Miguel Messianu, president of Alma, an advertising agency that has connected artists to brands they represent.
"They just go about their own lives," he said. "Us, as marketers, we establish a distinction between old and new media; they don't. They just like what they like. At the end of the day, it's all about content."
Obviously, the way that content is delivered is changing. Social media and platforms like Spotify and Pandora have all had a great impact on that change. Pandora and Spotify help emerging artists gain ground without the bells and whistles of a label or a sponsor.
"Embrace these platforms," said Angie Martinez, an entertainment lawyer. "If any of these platforms put you on a playlist, that could break your career. That's how Lorde broke. On Spotify. Taylor Swift has the luxury to say, 'I don't want my music on Spotify,' because she's Taylor Swift."
The music has to move someone first, before it can go anywhere else. Touring, for example, has become one of the major revenue streams for all artists -- especially since concert ticket sales are replacing record sales.
"Kids are not used to paying for music anymore. There are no record stores," Martinez said. "[But] the only way people are going to pay to watch you perform is if they hear you first."
Judd White, who has done tours with Jay Z and Kanye West and, more recently, with Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, agreed: "People aren't going to come see the show if they don't know the music. If you can get them to hear the music, then you can get them out to the show," he said.
But once you get them to come to a concert and feel the experience, rather than just hear it, that's the pot of gold.
"That's when you start creating a following, creating a career that has a lot of longevity to it."
There is so much more to it these days: Ring tones -- which is still booming in emerging markets like Guatemala and other Central American countries -- as well as Vine and sponsors. Target features Raquel Sofia in one of their commercials. Colombian rising star Maluma has gotten a big break from his partnership with Nickelodeon.
But the vehicle and the artist have to be good partners, and the brand and the artist have to mesh honestly. Because consumers will know when it's just a hard sell. "They can identify when they're being marketed to and they know when it's real and when it's not real," said Ruben Leyva, senior vice president of business development for Sony Music's Latin region.
And that honesty becomes more important as more brands "are playing in the music space."
"Our job is to connect with the consumers. It really is about creating that relationship or that rapport with the consumer... and, boy, music is great at that."
Social media not only strengthens those partnerships, but also the artists' own brand. "If you're a new artist, nobody is going to book you off your single," Angie Martinez told a member of the audience, urging artists to build on every step. "From one piece of music or a song, you can make a music video then the making of the music video. The idea is to bring as much as possible to all your social media audience so that when the video is available, your fans know as soon as possible," Martinez said. "Juice that single to death. Put it online as much as you can... Interview the producer. Interview the writer."
She also said it's important for artists to show their personality. Don't just tweet about your new song. If you are into fashion, tweet about your new outfit. If you are into sports, tweet about the game. "You have to create that personality beyond music."
Maria Lopez, senior vice president of reality programming for Telemundo, told the crowd: "When I look at an artist for something, I look at their social media and then I say, 'I like him. I like her.'"
Martinez said it's time to shed that doomsday attitude about the music industry because of the changes -- the changes are also good. "It's a digital world. What everybody is looking for right now -- every marketing agency, every brand -- they are looking for the Hispanic millennial," Martinez said, emphasizing why it is so important to use Vine and other emerging platforms.
"Social media is the equalizing factor. Record labels have become marketing machines. Now artists can be their own marketing machines," Martinez said. "The music itself is not going to make you rich; it is part of the vehicle that takes you there."
"To be successful, you have to be aware of all of this stuff," said Leslie Zigel, a noted entertainment attorney who moderated the Revenue Streams 101 panel. "You have more stuff you need to know. On the flip side, you have a lot of opportunity because if you become really, really big, you can be your own record label."