‘Latin music has gone mainstream in the US and is having a huge creative and commercial impact.’

MBW’s World Leaders is a regular series in which we turn the spotlight towards some of the most influential industry figures overseeing key international markets. In this feature, we speak to Alejandro Duque, President of Warner Music Latin America. World Leaders is supported by PPL.

Latin Music is making serious impact on the global music business.

MBW’s own forecast, based on data released by the RIAA, suggests that the recorded music market for Latin artists in the US is on course to generate over $1 billion dollars in revenue across the 12 months of 2022.

Commenting on this growth trajectory, speaking with MBW, Alejandro Duque, President of Warner Music Latin America, says: “Latin music has gone mainstream in the US, and is having a huge creative and commercial impact.”

“You’ll see pure Latin music generate more than US $1 billion again in the US this year, but it’s still only around 6% of the market up from just 4% a few years ago,” he adds.

Miami-based Duque notes that there is still “plenty of room for growth” in the sector, and points to “a lot of exciting experimentation with Latin artists collaborating with others from different genres and backgrounds” as evidence for further even further success for Latin music.

Such cross-genre collaborative efforts can be seen with the likes of Versions of Me, from Warner Records-signed Brazilian superstar Annita.

Released earlier this year, it features US-based star guest artists from Cardi B to Ty Dolla $ign and Saweetie.

Duque was named President of Warner Music Latin America in June 2021, having spent 16 years prior to that at Universal Music Group, most recently as Managing Director of Universal Music Latino, Machete and Capitol Latin.

Duque joined Universal in 2005 via Universal Music Colombia, where he was New Media Manager and rose to Digital Manager of Latin America for Universal Music in 2007, before being promoted again to Head of Sales & Business Development for Universal Music Latin America (Southern Cone) in 2009.

In this role, Duque managed all of Universal’s revenue-generating activities in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia, where he achieved a +200% growth in Digital Revenues across a two-year period.

In 2012, Duque was promoted to VP, Business Development & Digital – Latin America for Universal, before stepping up again in 2016 to General Manager of Universal Music Latino, Machete and Capitol Latin. In 2019, Universal upped Duque to become Managing Director of those same three companies.

Here, Duque gives us an overview of his role as President of Warner Music Latin America and his predictions for the growth of the Latin music industry.

how and why did you first get into the music business?

I feel like I’ve been in the music business my whole life, or at least for as long as I can remember, as my father was also in the industry. So ever since I was very young, I’ve had a passion for music, for studios and for the business as a whole. 

After school, I would usually go to a studio and annoy people. However, my first official job in the industry was doing digital licensing for an independent label in Colombia called JAN Music.

What advice would you give to a young executive starting out in the business today?

My advice is that you need to be truly passionate about music and the role you play in it. You have to be open to learn from everyone and you have to show up – you need to be there at shows, at events, at conferences and at any possible networking and learning opportunity.

“Building strong relationships and connections is such an important part of our job.”

It’s really important that you show up and try to gain as much experience and information from as many people as possible. Building strong relationships and connections is such an important part of our job.

Who were some of your mentors, and what were a couple of the biggest lessons you learned from them?

I’ve been very lucky to have a number of great mentors and the most valuable lesson I learnt from all of them is that it’s all about the team. You have to surround yourself with a great team that’s all pushing in the same direction. 

Even with the artists, if they don’t have the right team around them, it makes things a lot harder and sometimes it’s the reason things don’t always work out.

You were named President of Warner Music Latin America in June 2021. Tell us about your objectives going into the role?

There were several key areas I wanted to focus on. One of them was digging deeper into Mexican music. It’s a very substantial opportunity that I felt we could do more to tap. 

So we’ve put a real focus into that market and have had some great results, signing DannyLux and having a No.1 with his debut album. And we’ve recently signed a group called Pesado, who we’re really excited about. We’ve really upped our release schedule in that market. 

The other thing we did was to restructure our marketing team and reshape our regional marketing strategy. This has already resulted in some very successful campaigns for artists such as Anitta and Paulo Londra, who were recently at No.1 and No.2 on the Spotify Global Chart, as well as for Danny Ocean, who’s just enjoyed a global Top 20 hit.

What have been some of the highlights so far, in terms of artist success stories, signings etc?

Signing Ovy On The Drums has been a massive highlight, as he’s the biggest Latin music producer right now and one of the top five biggest producers in the US, so working with him is really exciting. 

Another great artist we are very excited about is Tiago PZK, who has already had four Top 100 songs on Spotify and is starting to make waves on the live side, with appearances in Lollapalooza Argentina and Chile, and with shows in Mexico that sold-out in under two hours. 

What are your long-term predictions for Latin music artists globally? 

Latin artists will continue to account for an increasing proportion of global hits, driven by high streaming numbers in the region and by winning new fans over around the world. 

“Latin artists will continue to account for an increasing proportion of global hits, driven by high streaming numbers in the region and by winning new fans over around the world.”

We’ll also see more and more cross-cultural collaborations, not just with Anglo stars, but with artists from all over the world. For example, there are particularly strong connections between Latin and African music that offer all sorts of exciting opportunities. 

In which specific Latin American markets is Warner Music seeing the most growth, and potential for growth, this year?

Our biggest growth market is the US, which I realize isn’t technically in Latin America, but it has a Latin population of more than 60 million people and Americans of other heritages are increasingly engaging with Latin music and culture. 

You’ll see strong growth for a number of years. We’re also excited about ramping up our activity in markets such as Argentina and Mexico, so there’s a huge spread of opportunity. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about the wider Latin music business?

People who don’t know too much about the Latin music business tend to lump everything together in one genre. That’s a massive misconception – there is a whole universe within Latin music! There’s a huge variety of rhythms, cultures and music from Brazilian funk to Argentine trap, Musica Mexicana to commercial pop and everything in between.

What are the biggest challenges for the global music business in 2022?

We’re still looking to bring more people into the music ecosystem. In many Latin American markets there are challenges around billing and payments if we want to get all music fans signed up to licensed streaming services. 

We can always do more to improve drive neighbouring rights revenue in emerging economies and we’re working with collecting societies to do that. If we can overcome such challenges there are potentially huge rewards that’ll enable us to do even more to build up local artist rosters. 

If there was one thing you could change about the global music business, what would it be, and why?

I’d love to dispel some of the myths around the music business. There’s a lot of misinformation about the role of the record label and we need to redouble our efforts to show how we add value to artists. 

I would hate artists to miss their chance at building long-term careers in music because they focus on short-term goals rather than a strategy that’ll take them to a global audience and enjoy lasting success.

World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international neighbouring rights collector, with best-in-class operations that help performers and recording rightsholders around the world maximise their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has collected over £500 million internationally for its members since 2006.Music Business Worldwide

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