A different kind of beat was heard at the 15th annual Live in the Vineyard event in Napa Valley: Salsa, Latin percussion and acoustic ballads in Spanish, performed by the likes of singer/songwriter Kany García, salsa star Luis Figueroa, alt/popsters Monsiuer Periné, pop trio Reik, mariachi singer Lupita Infante, Costa Rican songstress Debi Nova and pianist Arthur Hanlon. Nearly 20 Latin artists took part in Live in the Vineyard’s first ever Latin edition, programmed in response to the surge in Latin music’s popularity and visibility.
The event, which allows rising and established acts to showcase new music in front of top tastemakers in synch and licensing, DSPs, radio and press, has had some 500 acts perform throughout the years in private showcases in Napa Valley vineyards. The long list includes the likes of Carrie Underwood, Jason Derulo, Alanis Morissette, Adam Lambert and Fergie, and the pay-off from performances has been strong enough that in 2017 Jacobs also launched a country-only event. Through it all, Latin acts had been far and in-between. But this year, organizers launched a Latin-only edition, and invited more than 25 music supervisors and executives who are specifically looking to place Latin music.
“I’ve had Latin acts here and there, but never officially launched a full-on Latin event,” says Bobbii Jacobs, the founder and president of FF Entertainment, which puts together Live in the Vineyard in partnership with experiential and entertainment agency Forefront. “But I’ve always followed my heart and taken time to listen to pop culture. I had this feeling in my gut with Latin.”
A little over two years ago, Jacbos decided to do something about it. She admittedly knew very little about the Latin music scene, but she hit LinkedIn and contacted Darlene Rodriguez, Senior Director of music licensing and merchandising at Sony Music Entertainment Latin.
“I messaged Darlene and I said, ‘Hi, this is who I am, I’m legit and I’d love to talk to you. And she emailed me back.”
In Miami, Rodriguez was intrigued. She called Jacbos back and found out she had booked many Sony artists before, but not from the Latin labels.
“I thought this would be perfect — because in my world, the most important thing is to give exposure to our Latin artists here in the U.S.,” says Rodríguez. “While our artists are big [outside of the] U.S. it’s important to have them establish a presence here in the U.S. with these music supervisors. What really clinched it is, Bobbii said, ‘You need to come and experience it.’”
Last year, Rodríguez went to Jacobs’ country music event and saw first-hand the power of having artists perform for a highly curated and attentive audience whose sole purpose was music discovery. She set to work, mining Sony’s roster to find the right artists, both from the U.S. and other countries, and also contacted colleagues at Sony Music Publishing U.S. Latin and Latin America.
Jointly, they decided that rather than focus on radio and DSPs, where they were well-covered, they needed help connecting with music supervisors and synching and licensing agencies. While the presence of music in Spanish has steadily grown on the Billboard, Spotify and YouTube charts, there is still a lack of Spanish-language music on mainstream TV and streaming service content, and there’s a lack of understanding of the different genres within Latin music.
“Our goal is to expose our artists and see them placed […] There’s a ton of competition and there needs to be a little more education of the Latin genres, so they think of us for all sorts of opportunities, not just a scene in a Mexican restaurant.”
“Our goal is to expose our artists and see them placed,” says Rodríguez. “That includes film, commercial, gaming, Zumba. It’s really just to make sure we place our artists’ music in all these different categories in the U.S. There’s a ton of competition, and there needs to be a little more education of the Latin genres, so they think of us for all sorts of opportunities, not just a scene in a Mexican restaurant.”
At the same time, convincing artists and managers to participate in Live in the Vineyard wasn’t automatic. While the event invites supervisors and executives to Napa and partners with local chefs and wineries to put together lunches, dinners and showcases, artists must pay a fee to participate. But Rodriguez –along with Caroline Abs, Sony Latin’s SVP of strategic market development for the U.S., and Amy Roland, VP of synch & new business for Sony Music Publishing U.S. Latin and Latin America — felt the investment was warranted.
“We want general market supervisors who use Latin music,” says Roland, who also invited artists who are signed to Sony publishing but release music independently, like Alih J. “My direct contacts are more in the Latin world, and this event gives me face time with people I mostly work remotely with. I’m excited.”
In the end, some 25 music supervisors and execs who had expressed interest in including Latin music in their projects attended two Latin artist-only events, and three events that featured both Latin and pop acts. And while Live in the Vineyard can’t compel music supervisors to place anything, “our track record is very successful,” says Jacobs. “We put you in front of influential people in the background of Napa, and the core is to break music no matter how big or small the artist is.”
“People are really here to discover new music,” adds Roland. “And given authentic music, my hope is they are going to consume it more.”