For the two decades of the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC), spectators have witnessed a huge pivot in Latin music consumption. So how does one value artistic quality in an age where analytics, data, and quantity have become focal points for measuring success in modern music? That became a hot topic on Thursday (Juy 11)’s panel discussions and event series.
“Instagram is like an Olympic competition. It’s all about who’s Number One, or who broke the record,” Grammy-winning powerhouse Residente pointed out during a Q&A with VP of Billboard Latin, Leila Cobo. “I’ve been out with some colleagues, and they’re only preoccupied with taking their next Instagram photo. How are you going to live life that way? Just take in the moment, and enjoy a beer.”
In an era where ranking, social media popularity and streaming becomes an industry priority, Cobo played devil’s advocate, “If a video has fifteen views, I see it differently than a video with one million, and more so if it has ten million,” she replied. “I’m not saying it’s correct, I’m saying that gets major reaction.”
“We collaborate in a musical culture, and we can also collaborate in taking away that respect for numbers, in respect to creativity,” he replied. “That’s what I want to break.”
He continued, “When Spotify emerged, we knew that it would become a number one platform [for contemporary music]. I love the accessibility and immediacy. The only issue is that it takes away the space for legendary musicians [who didn’t evolve with the platform], because of the number of streams that newer artists boast.”
In contrast to today’s numeric focus in musical content, the Puerto Rican also reflected on how his sardonic pedagogic take on rap disrupted the reggaeton industry back when Calle 13 debuted.
“Note the context: when ‘Atrévete-te-te’ was released, it was brutal because we added a DJ, cumbia, a clarinet, and reggaeton to the mix, and my music peers would dismiss me as ‘not reggaeton’ until I started winning Grammys.” But he also gave props to other contemporaries: “When Ivy Queen emerged, she came hard, without having the need to show her butt, but only her pure lyrical merits. I’m not against butts being shown, but I am when they become more important than your lyrics.”
On the analytics side, panelists from the “Music Strategies for Success in the Playlist Age” assured that track-listing and singles don’t have to be threatening to the artistic merits of the album. Instead, they can lead listeners to new discoveries, and help artists establish their niche.
“That is something that I have worried about,” revealed the Grammy-winning musician iLe, formerly known as PG13 of Calle 13 (and Residente’s younger sister). “Maybe there’s a particular song that has a concept that I want to make, but I don’t want to force it because it’s trending. If my body and soul wants to do a full album, I think that’s important.” At one point, she added, “YouTube should erase the quantities; that’ll make things interesting.”
“Creatively, it’s a beautiful thing to have a concept, an idea and develop it. But I also think that right now some people fall in love with just one song, then the next one and the next one,” chimed in Seitrack US’s Luana Pagani, who helped enhance the careers of Shakira and Ricky Martin during her time at Sony.
Robertocarlos Marroquin from Universal Music Group echoed, “There are no rules [in analytical strategies], it is a case-by-case situation. Your audience will tell you if they are ready to listen to a full album versus a single. If the feeling is correct, that’s why you have your team, family, label or management. Yes, it’s about gut feeling, but data will help you tell the story.”
Later that evening in the East Village at Drom, Amandititita was pure testament of the impact of lyrical genius over her intoxicating cumbia fusion. “Yo no vengo a contar cosas absurdas, estas son historias reales,” (“I didn’t come here to tell silly things; these are real stories”) said the Mexican vocalist. Riffing through early hits like the villera-laden “Metrosexual,” the queen of anarcocumbia slyly derided the troupe of pretty boys and girls whose only concern is to look cute on Instagram.
With the help of accordionist El Licenciado of Kinky fame, the pint-sized spitfire commanded the stage with pure comedic grit. Dance-floor banger “La Criada” then highlighted the dreams and struggles of a working class woman, through irony, candor and a sociological lens. “Ay, me preocupo tanto que les guste esa canción,” she then told the audience with a wink.