Judging based on the recent Billboard Music Awards alone, it’s clear that Latin music is taking over the world one massive hit and chart-topping song at a time. From Cardi B to Ozuna, to Bad Bunny, to Maluma and more, there was a ton of presence of Latin artists at the awards, and this wasn’t even the Billboard Latin Music Awards, which occurred days earlier. It’s an indication of the times and trends in the music world. While musical tastes may vary and popular artists and musical styles may shift over time, one thing is for certain: Latin music’s global takeover is in full-swing, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
For a while Latin artists were featured primarily only on Latin music charts and at Latin awards shows. Latin music was its own industry with its own unique audience. If Latin artists were featured in the mainstream music world they were limited to collaborations with other pop artists and well-established English-language performers. But that is all beginning to shift.
In 2018 Latin music took a 9.4% share of the market as the fifth-biggest genre examined in terms of album consumption. While this is still less than hip-hop, pop, rock and R&B in terms of consumption, Latin music now ranks above country and EDM albums, according to reports from data company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption. And in terms of song consumption (rather than album consumption), Latin music scored even higher with 10.8% of the market. This is a really big deal, because typically country music albums are a part of the top five most consumed music genres in the U.S., but that changed when Latin music took over in 2018.
Regardless of how you judge what is big in music, it’s hard to deny just how influential and popular Latin music has become in the mainstream musical world.
Latin Music is Taking Over at Award Shows, Festivals and More
If we’re talking about awards shows and acknowledgement for the best songs, best albums, best collaborations and best artists, Latin music is taking over. On May 1st at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Latin artists won big at the Billboard awards. Ozuna pulled off a clean sweep and won for Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album and Top Latin Song. In addition, Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin all won Best Rap Song for “I Like It,” and “Te Boté” by Nio García, Casper Mágico, Darrell, Ozuna, Bad Bunny and Nicky Jam also won, taking home the award for the Top Latin Song award.
And the undeniable dominance at the Billboard Music Awards doesn’t stop there. Latin artists also killed it on stage, both performing and presenting awards throughout the night. A highlight of the night was Colombian singer Maluma’s mind-blowing (and hologram-filled) performance of “Medellin” with Madonna, which marks his debut performance at the Billboard Music Awards and their first collaboration (they will be releasing another collaboration, “Soltera,” on Maluma’s upcoming album, set to release May 17.)
If you are more focused on the artists and musical acts that are topping the charts and dominating the airwaves and music streaming services, Latin artists are taking over as well. Consider boy band CNCO, a group that was formed on the Univision TV show La Banda. While the five members are all from the U.S., their backgrounds range from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The band has been churning out hits since their start just three years ago, and recently they announced that they will be headlining their first ever U.S. tour in 2019, a tour that is taking them across the country, including stops in Texas, California, New York and Florida.
Just look at music festivals such as the recent Coachella. It can be argued that Coachella is a barometer for the global musical culture, and considering that there was more Latinx presence this year than ever before, you can safely assume that the Latin music takeover is real. Most notably, J Balvin performed a high-profile set during the first weekend of Coachella, and critics went nuts. The Los Angeles Times wrote “plenty of Spanish-language acts have played here before, but none had the hits and self-assertion that Balvin did about his own place in pop.” Variety called Balvin’s set one of the “greatest Coachella has ever seen.”
Latin Music Revenue is Growing by Double Digits
One could argue that headlining acts at music festivals and recognition at awards shows isn’t the be-all and end-all factor in determining musical success. But revenue growth cannot be ignored. After all, the music industry is a business, and when the industry grows, people start paying a lot of attention.
Recently the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released a year-end revenue report that documented how the Latin music industry performed in 2018 from a financial perspective. The report detailed an undeniable double-digit growth of the Latin recorded music market in the United States. Double. Digits.
And this isn’t the first year that the Latin music industry in the US has experienced growth. In fact, this is the second straight year that the industry has experienced such growth. The market grew 18 percent in 2018 to $413 million — up from $349 million in 2017, according to the report.
Not surprisingly, most of this growth can be attributed to paid streaming subscription services (such as Spotify Premium, Apple Music and others), which comprises 93 percent of the total Latin music market. Because streaming makes up such a huge portion of the Latin music industry, when the revenue from those streaming services increases, the growth is exponential. In 2018 Latin music experienced a near-50 percent growth in revenues from paid subscription services.
Make no mistake about it, “any conversation about the Latin music market starts with one word: streaming,” explains RIAA COO Michele Ballantyne. She continued to say “Latin music’s transformation from a physical-based business to a streaming-driven one is even faster than the overall U.S. music market’s turnaround.” And on-demand, ad-supported services like YouTube and Vevo also had a big year for Latin music, with Ozuna leading the charge as the most-watched artist in 2018. These services grew at 34 percent to $91 million, which makes up 24 percent of the total Latin music revenue.
So what does this mean for Latin music in the bigger picture of the music industry and music consumption? Well, for starters, Latin music is bigger than ever among mainstream audiences. 2018 was a blowout year with incredible growth in terms of recognition and visibility as well as revenue. Latin music’s popularity is undeniable, and it’s here to stay according to recent statistics and popular opinion. In a 2018 interview J Balvin told NBC News “we are defining a new mainstream.” And clearly, he is right. Americans are embracing a more diverse roster of musical talent and musical styles than ever before. They are listening to a new beat and a more diverse type of sound and language. And while the rise of Latin music indicates that the music industry is becoming more global than ever, it’s also a reminder that music is a universal language, a language where rhythm, soul, sound and talent matter more than where an artist is from of what language they are singing.