Trailblazers is an MBW interview series that turns the spotlight on music entrepreneurs making waves in their local markets, who have the potential to become the global business’s power players of tomorrow. This time, we speak to Luis Sánchez, the founder and CEO of independent Mexican label, AfinArte. Trailblazers is supported by Believe.
The blockbuster commercial status of Latin Music is now strongly established. Just last week, new data from the RIAA led MBW to predict that Latin recorded music will surpass $1 billion in revenue in the US alone this year.
It’s fair to say, however, that this performance is largely being driven by superstar artists from certain regions, in particular, Puerto Rico (Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro, Ozuna) and Colombia (J Balvin, Karol G).
Luis Sánchez, the founder and CEO of Mexican independent label, AfinArte, is very proud of his home nation’s appetite for music. But also he’s hopeful that, in the future, more Mexican artists will join the hit parade of Latin music globally.
According to IFPI data, Mexico was Latin America’s second biggest recorded music market (behind Brazil) in 2021, with revenues up 27.7% year-on-year.
Mexico now generates over $280 million annually for the global record industry. That’s more than territories like India, Sweden, and Norway.
AfinArte is making no small contribution to this commercial performance.
The label – which has over 4 million subscribers to its YouTube channel – focuses the majority of its resources on ‘Regional Mexican’ music, and has enjoyed major success with artists such as El Fantasma (currently: 7.2 million Spotify monthly listeners), Los Dos Carnales (6.9 million Spotify monthly listeners), and Voz de Mando (2.3 million Spotify monthly listeners).
As Sánchez explains in this MBW Trailblazers interview, AfinArte is very pleased with this level of success for its roster of acts.
However, he says his company is also ready to grasp the opportunity of a global streaming breakout hit for a Mexican artist when it inevitably arrives…
How did AfinArte come into existence, and what would you rank as some of the company’s greatest achievements to date?
My passion for music and the desire to keep the traditional sound of Regional Mexican music alive, drove me to start AfinArte Music.
Some of our greatest achievements include establishing AfinArte as a leading independent Regional Mexican label, producing high-grossing tours in the US and Mexico and developing artists that represent our culture and traditions.
Your label specialises in ‘regional Mexican’ music. What kind of growth have you seen in the genre in the past 5-10 years?
The genre has become more commercial, more international, and there’s more diversity within the different sub-genres (banda, norteño, sierreño).
Also, now artists from other genres are reaching out to us for collaborations. For example: Los Dos Carnales and [Sony-signed] pop act, Camilo [who collaborated on Tuyo y Mio, which has over 48 million streams on Spotify, and over 50 million on YouTube].
What are your hopes for Mexico’s own recorded music industry in the decade ahead?
Mexico has always been a key market for Latin Music – it’s [one of] the biggest markets in terms of consumption, but it has paused a bit in regards to generating new talents.
I want Mexico to be once again the mecca of new Latin artists; I want Mexico to generate, export and consume more local talent.
What is the biggest challenge in the music market for a company like yours today, and how can this challenge be overcome?
The biggest challenge is the saturation of music and all the avenues available for distribution.
We must keep up-to-date with all the music trends and platforms, making sure our artists continue to connect to their current fan bases, while expanding their reach and gaining exposure to wider audiences.
El Fantasma has over 7.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify – more than, for example, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon. Is your label – and your artists – able to earn good money from streaming as things stand today?
Fortunately, our artists and label success is positively reflected in our yearly growing streaming revenue.
There is a trend at the moment for large companies to pay massive prices for the song catalogs of classic Anglo/American artists (Bob Dylan, Sting, Neil Diamond etc.). But some suggest the bigger future is actually for music, like AfinArte’s, that speaks to streaming’s fastest-growing audiences in their own languages (across Latin America, Africa, China etc.). What’s your view, and how could that future affect the value of your company?
I think people are becoming more nostalgic about their roots and embracing their own culture more, and Latin artists are now global artists.
Thanks to this shift, our market share will start growing in other markets as well.
Sony Music last year ACQUIRED THE CATALOG of a big indie Mexican music company – Remex Music. How can you compete with large-scale ‘major’ music companies like Sony in your home market and beyond?
I see an opportunity. Major labels have a bigger infrastructure and a larger roster, but sometimes lack expert individuals in certain music genres.
We are dedicated 100% to Regional Mexican music and that is our advantage.
Which one thing would you change about the modern music business and why?
I would love to see more opportunities for female musicians, especially in the Regional Mexican genre.
Tell us something that would surprise people in the industry about your company and its business.
The world is full of opportunities: I started as the driver for my brother-in-law, Jorge Gaxiola [lead singer of the band Voz de Mando] during their tours and promo days. Today we are partners at AfinArte Music.
What’s your ultimate ambition for AfinArte, and how will you get there in the future?
I want AfinArte Music to become the leading label of Regional Mexican music not only in the US and Mexico but globally.
We must continue to develop new talents and make sure our established artists help the new generation of musicians.
It’s fundamental for AfinArte Music to keep the culture and preserve Regional Mexican music.
Trailblazers in supported by Believe. Believe offers advice to independent artists and labels, in addition to distributing and promoting their music through a portfolio of brands including TuneCore, Nuclear Blast, Naïve, Groove Attack and AllPoints.Music Business Worldwide