New Radio Formats Shut Out Latin Pop

The 21st Billboard Latin Music Awards underscored an emerging trend in Latin music.

(from Billboard Magazine, February 23, 2013)  The 2013 Billboard Latin Music Awards saw reggaeton singer, Don Omar, leading the pack with 18 finalist nods, increasing from the 16 he received in 2012.  Although his continued success demonstrates the importance of digital business to Latin music, Don Omar’s popularity can also be attributed to the blurring of the Latin music genre with urban, dance, and tropical genres.  “What we call today ‘traditional pop’ has been naturally excluded, because pop stations are really playing rhythmic music,” says Luis Estrada, Managing Director for Universal Music Latino/Machete, “it’s a problem because clearly audiences still have a strong appetite for pop.”  Estrada cites Universal Music Latino artists Alejandro Sanz and Juanes as examples.  Sanz received just two nods from the Billboard Latin Music Awards despite having the top-selling Latin album during the holidays.  Juanes, a Grammy Award winner, had none.

Although up-tempo dance tracks have taken over romantic fare on top 40 radio, part of the issue is the increased incursion of English-language tracks on Latin stations. “Pop artists lack radio because a lot of American and urban music has taken their slots,” says George “Pongy” Major, CEO of Promovision Music.  There are 9 English-language tracks featured in the top 50 of Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart.  Similarly, Pop Airplay’s top four slots are maintained by Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin & Yandel, and Tito “El Bambino”—artists considered primarily urban.  Major says, “Reggaeton evolved.  They mixed in samba, meringue, and tropical.  Daddy Yankee’s ‘Limbo’ is a pop track, even if it’s urban.”

The trend doesn’t affect bigger stars like Don Omar or Daddy Yankee as heavily as it limits new artists, especially more traditional, romantic pop acts.  Major says, “New artists have to really analyze what they’re going to record.  Today’s young listener is not leaning in that direction.”  Beyond considering listener tastes,  another barrier to pop artists is the playing of “recurrents” on many pop stations, which is not reported to the Billboard charts.