How the world became obsessed with Latin music

  • Latin Music Streaming Growth Up 33% in 2022
  • The rise of Latin music has grown exponentially in recent years thanks to artists like Bad Bunny.
  • Streaming helped introduce the genre to a larger, more global audience.

A lot is attributed to “Despacito”. The Spanish-language track took the international scene by storm and introduced a largely unsuspecting audience to a new genre. The hit single became one of the most streamed songs in history and spent 16 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It was an instant success.

But long before Justin Bieber remixed “Despacito” and caused a boom, the consumption of Latin music had already increased. From the Latin explosion of 1999 that saw Ricky Martin, Shakira, Marc Anthony and others cross over to the American mainstream, to Daddy Yankee’s mega-hit “Gasolina” that cemented reggaeton’s global presence, countless innovators have shaped the Latin music industry in , which it is today.

“Latin music is already firmly entrenched in the musical landscape and will only continue to grow,” said Leila Cobo, vice president of Latin at Billboard and author of “Decoding ‘Despacito’: An Oral History of Latin Music.”

Now Latin music microgenres like reggaeton, the driving force behind Latin pop, dominate North America with artists like Bad Bunny, Rosalia, Rauw Alejandro, J Balvin and others topping the charts.

Rauw Alejandro performs during Uforia Mix Live 2022 at FLA Live Arena on October 01, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida.

Rauw Alejandro performs during Uforia Mix Live 2022 at FLA Live Arena on October 01, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida.

John Parra/Getty Images

Re-recording of songs in English

For years, famous Latin artists re-recorded their hits in English or tweaked their songs to make it into the American mainstream. In the 90s, the crossover became a movement.

Ricky Martin’s captivating English-language album Livin La Vida Loca broke sales records and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Soon after, other US-born stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera found similar success. Other internationally known artists such as Shakira, who first debuted in Spanish, and Marc Anthony, who sings primarily in Spanish, later recorded albums in English. The Latino crossover has become a phenomenon.

“Each of these pieces was pivotal in the development of Latin music,” Cobo said. “They were unique for their time.

More recent artists such as Bad Bunny and Rosalia have found success with American and international audiences without the need to sing in English, pointing once again to the well-documented growth of Latin music. Much of this growth is due to the rise of music streaming.

How streaming changed the game

Thanks to the rise of streaming services, access to Latin music has increased exponentially.

Data from subscription-based streaming service TIDAL shows that since 2020, the monthly share of the platform’s users streaming Latino content has increased by 9%. Within TIDAL RISING playlists, a vertical dedicated to highlighting up-and-coming artists, it nearly doubled with a +91% increase.

Latin music streaming growth shows a 33% increase in 2022, based on Luminate’s 2022 US Mid-Year Report. In May 2022, the week after Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” was released, Latin music surpassed country music for the first time to become the 4th most popular genre in the United States.

“Thanks to the power of streaming, the Latin American diaspora around the world, and the increased production of music that connects with many people on many levels, Latin music today is truly part of every music fan’s menu of options and is being consumed like never before.” Cobo said.

The power of collaborations

The pre-internet Latino music industry also didn’t have much of what it has now: artist collaborations.

“The difference between this generation and the previous ones is that they collaborate more with each other,” said Jesus Trivinho, music journalist and senior director of Global Latin at TIDAL. “Because of the Internet and streaming services, there are no barriers anymore. So that changed the game and made the bigger artists get smaller, hyped artists.”

Headshot of Jesus Trivino

Music journalist Jesus Trivinho.

Eric Espino

According to Luminate, nearly 1 in 4 Latin songs in the top 10,000 most streamed songs in the industry this year were collaborations, and 79% of Latin music listeners report that they enjoy it when their favorite artists release new music or collaborate with others .

Trivigno defines it as the Drake model, where established artists collaborate with newer artists to stay relevant to the audience of the time.

The collaboration brings not only many new hits, but also new sounds. “Artists are experimenting more with pop sounds,” Trivinho said. Artists like Rau Alejandro in his “Todo de Ti” era are what we’ll be hearing more of as Latin artists continue to experiment with other genres, Trivinho said.

“The reality is that there is some reggaeton fatigue. Now reggaeton is pop culture. It’s pop music. When it becomes popular, people start hating it. So we will see its constant evolution.”

The internet, streaming and social media platforms have allowed new discoveries for artists. Industry leaders scour what Triviño calls the “cyber streets” for new talent.

Leila Cobo speaks onstage at Billboard Latin Music Week 2022 held at Faena Forum on September 27, 2022 in Miami, Florida.

Leila Cobo speaks onstage at Billboard Latin Music Week 2022 held at Faena Forum on September 27, 2022 in Miami, Florida.

Billboard / PMC

The barometer of change

At Billboard’s Latin content department, Kobo has seen much of Latin music’s trajectory firsthand and hopes to continue following that rise.

“Billboard has played a huge role in catapulting artists into the international arena. We were not only the first mainstream publication to feature Latin artists on its cover, but we are also the only publication over the years to feature artists representing all major genres of Latin music – pop, tropical, urban, regional Mexican – on the cover.” Thanks on Billboard, Cobo said, tastemakers were able to discover artists like Bad Bunny, Karol G, Ozuna, Grupo Firme and others.

Billboard recently launched Billboard Español, an extension of the Billboard brand, in the company’s mission to globalize and meet its Hispanic audience.

“Music in Spanish is now the second most used in the world after music in English. It also makes perfect sense to give the audience and this industry our news and information in their language,” Cobo said.

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