Tuesday morning (April 22) at Las Vegas’ The Venetian, Billboard Latin Music Week kicked off with opening remarks from Billboard‘s vp/Latin industry lead Leila Cobo. Cobo addressed the crowd in both Spanish and English, because, as a show of hands revealed, about three people inside the conference room spoke solely English (or at least, three people owned up to it).
After her intro, Nielsen Music senior vp industry insights & analytics David Bakula took the stage. And while a slew of numbers might not be everyone’s favorite way to start the day at 9 a.m., the powerful evidence presented regarding Latin music’s revolution was strong enough that everyone was listening in rapt attention and pushing to ask questions well past the allotted Q&A time.
“Latin music is everywhere — this isn’t just about Hispanics, it’s about its impact on popular music as a whole. It’s not a small, niche market anymore,” Bakula said, arguing the growth Latin music is experiencing goes beyond evolution (think: a hip-hop fan broadening their horizons into a new subgenre in 2018) to revolution (think: people starting to listen to a genre for the first time, and non-Latinx stars seeking out collaborations with Latinx talent in 2018).
Unsurprisingly, Nielsen’s data crunching revealed that 85% of Latin music consumption comes from Hispanic consumers. Nothing earth-shattering there, but when it’s put into context, it becomes more attention-grabbing: while 18% of the U.S. population is Hispanic, Hispanics make up 50% of population growth. So in the next decade, Hispanics will constitute 22% of the population by most predictions, which means an increase in 20 million more potential core fans of Latin music, according to Nielsen.
And, in more good news for the music industry — that group will be younger. The U.S. median age is 38; the non-Hispanic white median age is 43; and the Hispanic median age in America is 28. That means younger consumers who seek out more new music and are readily adaptable to new technology.
The Nielsen data bears that out. Hispanic consumers spend two hours more a week with music than the average consumer in America, and spend 15% more money on music (concerts, live events, etc.). Additionally, Hispanic consumers are more likely to share songs, videos and playlists with family and friends on social media and use more devices each week to listen to music.
The group is also more streaming savvy: 87% of Hispanic consumers reported streaming music in the last year. If that seems a bit “well duh, everyone is streaming,” then compare it to the overall U.S. consumer: just 71% reported streaming music in the last year.
Speaking of last year, in 2018, 18.4% of music video streaming came from Latin music, making it the second-largest video streaming genre behind R&B/hip-hop. Visuals are particularly salient for the Latinx community, accounting for 64% of Latin music streaming, which is far more than non-Latin genres. Even so, audio is growing 61% year over year, which is good news for those who see a stronger future in monetizing audio vs. video.
What are the challenges for Latin music’s growth? While streaming is helping it expand beyond the traditional market strongholds in the southern, southwestern and southeastern U.S., there’s still plenty of room to make headway in other U.S. regional markets. And as one question from the audience pointed out, potential shrinkage in the radio market (especially if Latin music consumers trend younger) could affect growth.
But even so, Nielsen’s report on the status of Latin music and its future in America was clear: “That voice is about to get bigger and louder,” Bakula said.