Latin lessons #2: How Latin songwriters became publishing's hottest hitmakers

Sony/ATV

The Latin genre has provided some of the summer’s hottest hits – Spotify have just declared Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Feat. Justin Bieber’s Despacito as the No.1 most-streamed song of the season, with over 786 million streams to date.

On Monday, our magazine cover story brought you a host of top execs predicting long-term UK success for the genre. Yesterday, we spoke to Universal Music’s Angel Kaminsky about the recorded music side of the genre. Now, Music Week sits down with Jorge Mejía, Sony/ATV’s president, Latin America and US Latin. The company publishes Despacito’s writers Fonsi, Yankee and Erika Ender as well as a host of other Latin hitmakers, and recently announced its Latin division was on course for a record-breaking year.

Here, Mejía reveals the opportunities for Latin songwriters right now…

Did you think Despacito was going to be a huge international hit?

This is one of those songs that no one can forcefeed or prepare for. The connection that Despacito has had on a worldwide basis has been extraordinary. It’s one of those things that happens very organically, you can’t really prepare for it and make it up, it just happens. It was a combination of, first and foremost, a beautiful, amazing song and then a video that was just incredible. Then adding Justin Bieber on [the remix] was really just the last element to a perfect storm. But no, it wasn’t something that I was expecting quite at this level. When I saw the video, I called Fonsi and I told him, My god, this is amazing, this is awesome. But I didn’t tell him, Oh, this is going to be a worldwide No.1, because we didn’t expect that to happen.

So what’s changed? Is it streaming? Or has Despacito opened the door for lots of other records to follow?

All of the above. First of all, streaming has made it easier for all kinds of music to be heard in more places. Furthermore, there’s been an absolute explosion of digital in Latin America, so [global] streaming numbers are, in fact, aided by local Latin territories. And then you have great, infectious, fantastic music and, with a song like Despacito, it does its job, which is to bring the incredible rhythms that we’ve known and worked with for a long time to mass worldwide exposure.

There’s been an absolute explosion of digital in Latin America, so streaming numbers are, in fact, aided by local Latin territories.

Jorge Mejía, Sony/ATV’s president, Latin America and US Latin

Is this a summer trend or the start of a true global audience for the genre?

Because of streaming, it’s certainly the start of something bigger than a fad. The music is great music and, because we’re now able to get it to more people faster, this is going to merge into whatever the mainstream locally is. You have a lot of artists who, before, weren’t thinking about Latin beats, but actually you’re starting to hear what would be considered reggaetón beats incorporated into some mainstream songs. It’s already leading to excellent opportunities for our writers, we’re already getting some fantastic collaborations happening. It’s a great new world, really.

Are we going to see more hits from the sector?

There’s so much music that still needs to make it out there. So, yeah, absolutely – it’s just going to keep growing. What Despacito has done is, it has opened minds and allowed those [Latin music] roots to take hold in a stronger way. It’s actually fantastic if you think about the times that we’re living in; what a fantastic thing for the No.1 song in the world to be a melding of cultures.

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