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Latin Music Is Changing the Way Brands Communicate


This Hispanic Heritage Month, SoStereo co-founders Salo Sterental and Beto Azout break down why - now more than ever - the world of advertising is dancing to a Latin beat

Latin Music Is Changing the Way Brands Communicate

With almost 500 million native Spanish speakers worldwide, any sweeping proclamations about the state of ‘Latin culture’ should be taken with a grain of salt. Just look at the USA; as one of the largest cultural melting pots in the world, almost 20% of the population is Spanish-speaking (a figure that makes it the 2nd largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, which looks to grow to 33% by 2050). And as the largest exporter of culture and entertainment, it’s increasingly implausible to look at Latin music as part of a neat or defined subculture. In 2022, Latin music has been absorbed into the mainstream American music culture and fused with other genres to serve the ever diversifying populace.

Don’t believe it? Consider the success of Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican rapper who has been the planet’s most-streamed artist for the past two years. In fact, his success runs even deeper than that - according to Bloomberg, the 28-year-old has appeared in Spotify’s top 100 streamed tracks on more occasions than Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar combined. He’s also the first Latin Reggaeton artist to feature on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the first male to appear on the Playboy cover aside from founder Hugh Hefner. 

Above: Mi Porto Bonito, from Bad Bunny’s latest album, is sitting on 650 million streams and counting on Spotify. 

Away from that stratospheric success story, however, the last few years have seen music from Latin artists make serious inroads into US and Western culture more broadly. In 2021, Latin music hit a market share of 5.91% - an increase on 2020’s 5.39%, and on 2019’s 4.96%. In other words, Latin music is on a long-term upward trend, and brands need to be aware of it. 

Not long ago, working with a Latin music artist tended to be part of a brand’s strategy to speak to a very specific demographic - Spanish-speaking people. Aside from a few Mezcal or Mexican beer commercials (and there have been some great ones), Latin artists have traditionally been picked to communicate and connect with Latin people. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the incredible success of the likes of Bad Bunny - and the continuing growth in popularity for Latin artists - underlines how our collective appetite for Latin music is now entrenched in the cultural mainstream. 

Just look at 2017 smashes like “Despacito” or “Mi Gente”; adopted into the mainstream by a larger multicultural population in the USA that prompted powerhouse names like Justin Bieber and Beyonce to jump on remixes respectively and take the music to new audiences. Then comes Latin trap, which made its way onto “I Like It Like That” by Cardi B, herself a bicultural American. With such household international names onboard, Latin Music and its fusion with other mainstream genres are now being exported as part of mainstream American culture. More and more, our culture is dancing to a Latin beat - we’ve just become so accustomed to it that we don’t notice anymore.

I’ve seen this trend play out over the long term with my own two eyes. When I first started SoStereo alongside Beto Azout, we set ourselves up as Latin music experts who could help brands tap into that demographic. Being first-generation immigrants to the US, we prided ourselves on our Latin roots and expertise.

But, since we made our start, our journey has been the same as Latin music’s. Just as Latin music has now become entwined with the general market, we’ve expanded to become a company working with artists in whatever genre you can imagine (whilst never losing sight of those Latin roots which define us) mostly for general market campaigns. As the nation becomes more diverse and our cultures intertwine, the lines that used to define our music are becoming more and more blurred as new fusions and subgenres emerge that make part of the general mainstream culture.

This trend shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the US, demographics have been shifting towards increased Latin representation over a number of years. And that doesn’t just stop at sheer numbers - more Latin people means more opportunities to share Latin culture, whether it be at dinnertime or passing a headphone to a friend in the schoolyard. In the US now, Latin music is simply music - and Latin culture is simply culture. 

Bringing this back to brands, the lesson here is that Latin music is becoming less of a tool to reach Spanish-speaking audiences, and more of a connection device to reach people. That’s what all great music in ads has ever done. Just look at the collaboration last year between Miller Lite (one of the most iconic Western beer brands you could think of) and the Colombian singer J Balvin. The campaign, which included Balvin taking up residency in a New York Bodega, didn’t just appeal to Spanish speakers in the US - it appealed to his vast and increasingly diverse legion of fans. The same applies to Bad Bunny showing up alongside Snoop Dogg in the latest Corona beer campaign.

Above: In August 2021, J Balvin joined forces with Miller Lite for a musically-inspired campaign. 

What that campaign shows is how, when done authentically, Latin music can inspire and connect with audiences on a profound level. So, the next time you’re considering what music to build into a campaign, don’t skip past the Latin tracks. In an increasingly Latin cultural environment, they might well be your ticket to cultural and commercial success. 

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Genres: Music & Sound Design

Categories: Media and Entertainment, Streaming Services

SoStereo, Tue, 13 Sep 2022 17:24:25 GMT