Sony Music Sur's Damián Amato talks to Billboard Argentina about going from doing telephone polls 30 years ago to being chairman in charge of promotion of vinyl records, rock and Argentine music.
How do you see the industry?
I see the industry in terms of searching for new talent and in making the most of the opportunities that present themselves for these new artists to grow. We still have to renew our roster. The essence of this business encourages coexistence between classic superstars such as Charly [Garcia], LFC or David Lebón, more modern stars such as Abel [Pintos], Lali [Esposito] or Axel, and even newer artists such as Joystick, Valen [Etchegoyen] or Rocco [Posca].
There are a few cases such as Nahuel Pennisi that stop being promises and become the real deal. At the same time, there are reknowned artists such [Gustavo] Santaolalla, which we have to respect and give them the importance they require. We need to support them all simultaneously.
What margin is there for decision making in a multinational company such as Sony?
My boss, Afo Verde, trusts me completely and gives me the freedom to take decisions, but I always do it along the lines of our shared vision. We respect the regional criteria of the company. Besides, Afo and I are good friends, I love the man. We talk constantly and we go back and forth on the projects that come up. I develop relationships with people, sharing information and making decisions based on what I feel and hear from them. It's not something unilateral. I am not alone either. Everything we build here is based on teamwork.
What are the most important things in your team?
The first thing they taught me when I started was that you have to stick close to talent. I don't believe in a company where executives are distant from the artists. Everyone, from Mariela [Croci, marketing director], Agustín [Sarricchio, marketing manager] and me, in fact, everyone in the Sony team, develop relationships that go beyond professional arrangements, not only with the artists in the Sony Argentina roster, but also with more regional artists. We get to know each other as people, a step further than the executive-talent relationship.
On the other hand, it is not the same for us to work in music as in any other industry; we are not indifferent. We like to listen to demos, go to shows and share moments with artists, even from other companies. I am a pro-industry person. I want it to grow. I understand our growth in terms of market growth. We encourage win-win scenarios among managers, promoters, artists, media and companies. We work a lot to make that. From there we thought and came up with the Este Año Rock or the Nuestra Musica campaigns, where music and rock are everyone's. That's my opinion.
In what position is Argentina in comparison to the rest of the world?
In terms of musical content and market size, we're in No. 20. But it's a bit of a fake position, because they're not taking into account the live shows nor the credibility we give. If you didn't make it in Argentina, you can't say you did well in Latin America. It's amazing, but it's true. The weight we carry, bearing in mind what it means to triumph in here, is very important for artists all over the world.
I don't believe U2 wants to play in Argentina because of the artists that came out from here, such as [Luis Alberto] Spinetta or [Gustavo] Cerati. It has more to do with the fact that the Argentine audience has a rocker attitude and is one of the hottest audiences. What foreign artists go through when they come and play is amazing. The screams, the amount of people and the passion for music. In Argentina, there are two big passions: soccer and music. The rivalry felt during the days of the Redonditos de Ricota and Soda Stereo is very much alike to the [iconic Argentine soccer teams] River Plate / Boca Juniors rivalry. That's the way it works, it's exactly the same.
Given the technological changes and the rise of streaming: Are we living in a golden age of music consumption?
I think we are in the middle of a transition. We have to bear in mind that music has never had bad days. Maybe the business models were in crisis and thusly had to reinvent themselves due to piracy. We'll have to wait to see if streaming will be the ultimate model and how it will go developing, and the amount of players involved. Although you can still see signs of growth, I imagine that it can become bigger and exponential.
Thanks to streaming platforms, we can anticipate a more prosperous time for music, but we still should not leave the physical format behind. We see a decrease in sales, sometimes for circumstantial economic reasons, but there are people that still enjoy playing and feeling a record. Vinyl is a part of that, CDs are still a noble product that artists consider important. The art, the sleeve design, the photos, the booklet, the message and the lyrics are things that a lot of people and artists still value. I don't like that habit people have of pronouncing the death of the record. I don't believe it's true and I don't think it helps anyone.
Have singles returned?
The world of the single returned when the digital world became legit with Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Vevo, Movistar, Claro Música, Personal and the rest of the platforms. This was always a market of songs, like when we were kids. The song is what makes the difference.
For current pop music, or reggaeton, urban and whatever comes from the U.S. such as Future or French Montana, it's something very valid, and it shows a world of songs that sooner or later wind up in an album. It happened with The Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, Maluma, J Balvin, Ed Sheeran or Bruno Mars. Everything leads to a concept or more general body of work that the artist needs to show.
How did you get to lead your team?
I always worked in something related to music, from the very start of my career. I believe I came to lead the company because Afo gave me the chance. I wasn't in the best moment of my personal life back then. I did have a lot of experience because I had been marketing director at BMG. Then I worked two years in Chile for the Sony merger. After getting to know the market there, I became the general manager for a year and a half.
When I came back, they asked me to be the director for marketing in the south cone, and while keeping that managerial post. To this day, it is still a country in my orbit. I really think that it has to do with maturity and experience. I learned a lot. Life hit me hard too.
Seven years ago, I was hit a K.O. punch when the mother of my children died. I had become company chairman only a year before and a lot of people helped me, and that's something I'll always value. It gave me a huge sense of maturity and I began to understand things from a different perspective, being more sensitive, and choosing my priorities in life. That pain taught me to be a better man. I don't like working with cruelty, and I try not to hurt anyone. I know what it feels like to feel down and it's not good. If we do well, I believe that, to some extent, it has to do with the fact that we are good people who love what they do.