Either Lex Borrero can see into the future, or, he just does what he says he’s going to do.
Just over a year ago, on these very pages, NEON16’s founder told us that he was planning to build the label and management company, which he leads alongside mega-producer Tainy, into a “Latin media powerhouse”.
If you tally up their list of achievements since then, it’s hard to deny that NEON16, and NTERTAIN, the Latin-focused content and media company also led by Borrero and Tainy, have already transitioned to independent powerhouse status.
In the past three months alone, NTERTAIN and NEON16 expanded their partnership with the NFL for the 2023 season; hosted an immersive experience during Miami Art Week titled, ‘The Art of Being Latin’, and teamed up with Miami-based tech company Influur to host a three-day entertainment event during Mexico’s Big Race Weekend at the Formula 1 Mexico Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, in June, NTERTAIN, along with music business legend Tommy Mottola, acquired music marketing and social media agency ARRO MEDIA, led by Cristina Arcay, whose client roster includes the likes of Shark Ninja, Meta, Adidas, Red Bull, NFL, Xbox Bacardi and the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation. In doing so, NTERTAIN launched its own heavyweight marketing agency, AM16.
Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the Grammys. Borrero’s partner at NEON16 and NTERTAIN, superstar producer Tainy, released his debut album DATA in June, bagging a nomination for the upcoming 2024 Grammy Awards in the Best Música Urbana Album category in the process.
The nomination follows his success in 2023 in the same category, which was won by Bad Bunny’s smash hit album Un Verano Sin Ti – on which Tainy produced/co-produced nine tracks.
Asked to single out his highlights from 2023, Borrero tells us that “Tainy’s success has to be on this list”.
“From the worldwide success of DATA to his Grammy nominations and other awards, 2023 was a huge year for Tainy and our music label, NEON16,” he says. “We are very proud of how this year went for us and motivated to make 2024 even better.”
Tainy’s debut album’s tracks have already achieved over a billion streams combined on Spotify alone and it features a substantial list of superstars including Bad Bunny, Myke Towers, J Balvin, Rauw Alejandro and more.
The track Lo Siento BB with Bad Bunny and Julieta Venegas has been streamed over 845 million times on Spotify. Tainy released the instrumental of version DATA on Friday (December 15), which is already racking up tens of millions of streams.
“I have to acknowledge [DATA’s] importance, not just as a release, but as a cultural landmark,” adds Borrero. “It seamlessly blends innovation and emotion, leaving an indelible mark on the contemporary music tapestry.”
Now, with hundreds of millions of streams, a Grammy nomination, partnerships with a major sporting league and a major art event, plus the acquisition of an agency with multiple major consumer giants as clients, Borrero says they’re not stopping there.
“My 2024 ambitions for NEON16 and NTERTAIN involve further expanding the influence and reach of our businesses in the entertainment industry,” he says.
According to Borrero, for NEON16, the focus of that expansion will be “to develop and promote groundbreaking talent in music”, while for NTERTAIN, Borrero says his ambition is “to enhance its role as a multimedia powerhouse”.
Borrero adds that the overarching driver behind these ambitions is to “reflect a commitment to elevating Latino voices and narratives in the global entertainment landscape”.
“We remain optimistic that NTERTAIN and our portfolio of companies will become a billion-dollar business.”
Looking again to the future, Borrero tells us that the plan is still the same as it was when we last sat down for an interview: build a billion-dollar business.
“We remain optimistic that NTERTAIN and our portfolio of companies will become a billion-dollar business,” he says.
“When you look at the macro-economic trends in the Global and US Hispanic market, the total addressable market remains attractive and is expected to continue growing.”
He adds: “The globalization of Latin entertainment creates a marketplace that extends beyond the Latino community. The path to becoming a billion-dollar business is by continuing to build IP that has long-term value.”
Over to Borrero to explain how, with NEON16 and NTERTAIN, and in partnership with Tainy, he’s working hard to turn his billion-dollar business prediction into a reality…
How is NEON16 positioned in the global music business today?
At its core, NEON16 will always be a dynamic organization dedicated to nurturing talent, fostering innovation, and amplifying authentic and captivating Latino narratives, esteemed brands, and vibrant cultural expressions on the global stage.
Tainy (pictured inset) is the perfect example of that, having taken the next step in his culture-defining career this year with his debut album, DATA, which was named album of the year by Rolling Stone and has earned him well-deserved Grammy nominations.
“We are fortunate to have built a reputation where artists from across the globe want to work with us, including Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Young Miko, Thalia, Sean Paul, Manuel Turizo, and Alvarito Diaz to name a few.”
We are fortunate to have built a reputation where artists from across the globe want to work with us, including Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Young Miko, Thalia, Sean Paul, Manuel Turizo, and Alvarito Diaz to name a few. We are also excited about the trajectory of aspiring artists like Alex Ponce and RMAND as well as Nashy-Nashai, Wanda and many others.
At NEON16, we work within an ecosystem that includes NTERTAIN STUDIOS and culture marketing agency AM16, all which function at the intersection of music, culture, and entertainment. We create narratives for our talent, clients and brands, developing authentic storylines that connect in a way that the public enjoys. We look forward to continuing that in 2024 and beyond.
Can you give us an indication of NEON16’s growth trajectory since we last spoke in July 2022?
Since 2022, we’ve grown our team significantly across our three verticals – label, publishing, and management – and we remain committed to finding the next generation of talent.
Additionally, our co-founder Tainy debuted his first project which recently got nominated for a GRAMMY for the first time.
Can you give us an idea of NTERTAIN’s growth since it launched in 2021?
Since 2021, we have structured NTERTAIN to become a holistic entertainment company that encompasses music, film, and now a culture marketing agency (via acquisition earlier this year). As a result, we have a fully integrated ecosystem that has created synergistic opportunities across our portfolio of companies and clients.
In June, NEON16 acquired music marketing and social media agency, ARRO MEDIA. Could you tell us about the agency’s client base and why you decided to acquire the company?
The launch of our culture marketing agency AM16 is something we are truly proud of and that started with the acquisition of ARRO Media. The move just made sense for us because we had been looking to add an agency to our NTERTAIN portfolio.
The opportunity to bring in a reputable entity like ARRO MEDIA, led by a marketing expert like Cristi Arcay, that has established itself in the market was really attractive to us. Our team then hired Gerry Rojas as CMO of NTERTAIN and also serves as Co-President of AM16 and both of them have created such great momentum allowing us to hit the ground running.
“With AM16, we have a finger on the pulse of trends, uniquely positioned to spot them before they happen, across music, television and film.”
With AM16, we have a finger on the pulse of trends, uniquely positioned to spot them before they happen, across music, television and film. The addition of AM16 further differentiates our capabilities from competitors and brings an even more comprehensive offering to our clients and partners. We are proud to represent a portfolio that includes Shark Ninja, Meta, Red Bull, NFL, BMI, Lexus, Pepsi and talent such as Thalia, Tainy, Natti Natasha, Danna Paola and Juan Luis Guerra, among others.
Can we expect to see any more acquisitions in the near future?
We are always exploring opportunities that make sense for the whole of our business. If something can make us better, we are open to considering it. As a company that prides itself on being on the cutting edge of culture, music and entertainment, we are always looking to innovate, improve and expand our capabilities.
NEON16 expanded their multi-year partnership with the NFL earlier this year. How did that partnership come about and could you tell us about the advantages for a music company of collaborating with a professional sports brand like the NFL?
Our partnership with the NFL is in its third season and we have enjoyed collaborating with the league to bring music and Latino culture to its fanbase. The NFL came to us looking for ways to authentically connect with Latinos while also bringing Latino culture to the league.
What started out as having some of our talent attend games as influencers has evolved to include the creation of the Por La Cultura Mixtape and, this year, an original song by RMAND inspired by a Latino NFL player.
“We loved the concept of having our artists collaborate with Latino NFL players to create something as unique as an original song.”
We loved the concept of having our artists collaborate with Latino NFL players to create something as unique as an original song. We know that artists and athletes share a common drive to succeed, the talent to shine and the work ethic to thrive in their respective careers. Unifying these traits and the mutual love and respect for music led to some incredible art that fans loved this season.
In June we reported that Firebird has invested in NTERTAIN, could you give us some insight into this investment and what made Firebird an attractive company for NTERTAIN to partner with?
Partnering with Firebird was attractive to us because there is a lot of synergy in what NEON16 and Firebird believe in and want to do in the music industry.
“Partnering with Firebird was attractive to us because there is a lot of synergy in what NEON16 and Firebird believe in and want to do in the music industry.”
Nat, Nathan and the Firebird team have a vision for maximizing artists and we are always looking to elevate our artists to new and different levels. Firebird and NEON16 are an excellent match and we have enjoyed being partners with them.
When we last spoke in July 2022, you told us that NEON16 was potentially interested in pursuing a merger or sale to a bigger company within five years. Is this still something you are exploring for NEON16 and do you have any other news to share in regards to potential investors in the company?
Mergers and acquisitions are an important part of every company’s growth roadmap long-term. However, I believe it has to be done strategically and with intention.
“If the right partner presents itself within the next five years, I would be open to exploring a partnership but only if it is aligned with our mission.”
If the right partner presents itself within the next five years, I would be open to exploring a partnership but only if it is aligned with our mission.
On the flip side, I believe that within the next five years, NTERTAIN will be in a position to acquire businesses. Our only partnership to date has been with Firebird.
Latin Music surpassed $1 billion in US recorded music revenue in 2022. What are your predictions for Latin Music’s growth over the next couple of years?
Latin music has grown to unprecedented heights in the US and it speaks to both the appeal of Latin music as well as the rapidly evolving population in the US and globally. The stars of today have transcended genres and their music has grown beyond just Latinos and into the mainstream.
“Latin music has grown to unprecedented heights in the US and it speaks to both the appeal of Latin music as well as the rapidly evolving population in the US and globally.”
With so many talented Latino artists and the way Latino culture is influencing US culture, I expect Latin music and Latinos in entertainment to continue this trajectory of popularity and growth in the future.
We’re seeing new players enter the wider Latin Music space, such as HYBE for example, who recently launched a new Latin Music Division in Mexico. What are your thoughts on new players and investment like this coming into the market?
The growing interest in Latin Music is a testament to its impact on the global stage. New players and investment in the market show that people across the globe are recognizing the power and influence of Latin Music and entertainment and that only strengthens the market and those in it.
At NEON16, NTERTAIN STUDIOS and AM16, we all strive to drive culture forward and the additional players and investment in the market only drive us to continue innovating and leading in the industry.
What are some of the key music industry trends and talking points you predict for 2024?
Growth of Latin Music Globally: Continued expansion of Latin music’s influence worldwide, with more cross-cultural collaborations and mainstream acceptance.
Technological Innovation: Increased use of technology in music production and distribution, including advancements in streaming services and virtual reality concerts.
Artist Empowerment: Greater focus on artist independence, with more artists taking control of their music rights and distribution channels.
Diversification of Revenue Streams: Artists and labels ongoing exploration of new revenue models, exclusive content subscriptions, and enhanced merchandise.
Focus on Social and Environmental Issues: Increasing integration of social and environmental awareness in music and events, reflecting artists’ and audiences’ values.
Expansion of Music in Gaming and Metaverse: Integration of music experiences in gaming platforms and metaverse environments, creating new opportunities for artists and fans to connect.
Personalized Music Experiences: Advancements in AI and data analytics leading to more personalized music discovery and listening experiences for consumersMusic Business Worldwide