Bad Bunny, good business

Puerto Rican rapper leads unstoppable rise in the popularity of Latin music.

For the last two years, Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, known professionally as Bad Bunny has been the most streamed artist on Spotify alongside US rapper, Drake. Bad Bunny became the first number 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart to be recorded exclusively in Spanish and, at the end of August, he became the first non-English language artist to win the MTV Video Music Awards artist of the year.

An international music producer commented, “Latin music is expressing what a generation feels through crudeness, sexual freedom, a lack of inhibitions and rebellion with an anti-establishment perspective – Bad Bunny represents all of this. The most popular Latin music globally is that which makes you move your body without much depth in the lyrics, it’s instinctive like much of society today.”

“Latin music is expressing what a generation feels through crudeness, sexual freedom, a lack of inhibitions, and rebellion with an anti-establishment perspective – Bad Bunny represents all of this.”

International music producer, New York

Bad Bunny’s success proves the consolidation of Latin music as a global commercial force and artists like J Balvin, Camila Cabello or Karol G transcend the label of Hispanic artists. This summer, six of the top-10 most played songs on YouTube and six of the top-10 most streamed songs on Spotify are creations of Latin artists.

The popularity of Latin music has shifted from niche to mainstream in the last decade. From the late 1950s to the 1980s, US artists invited Latino colleagues to cross over Latin rhythms which included samba, pasodoble, rumba, mambo or bossa nova. It was only in the mid-1990s when Latin music became a movement in itself. The success of Ricky Martin’s La Copa de la Vida in 1998 or the France’98 FIFA World Cup and its bilingual edition sold an unprecedented 22 million copies.

Leila Cobo, vice-president of Billboard, said that the emergence of artists like Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera was a combination of planning and accident. But it was the streaming and the success of Despacito by Luis Fonsi, that gave a global dimension and momentum to the genre. Justin Bieber’s remix of Despacito stayed for 16 weeks at the top of Billboard Hot 100.

Alberto Gaitán, Panamanian singer-songwriter and member of the duo Los Gaitanes said, “Latin music has been steadily climbing in popularity worldwide for decades. Lately, it’s common to see popular English-speaking singers doing collaborations with Spanish-speaking artists. Songs like Despacito, which has been a global musical phenomenon. Bad Bunny’s formula is to be Bad Bunny, he’s original, he’s not a copy or he doesn’t look like anyone… We can’t compare him to anyone, that’s the key to his success.”

“Latin music has been steadily climbing in popularity worldwide for decades. Lately, it’s common to see popular English-speaking singers doing collaborations with Spanish-speaking artists.”

Alberto Gaitán, Panamanian singer-songwriter and member of the duo Los Gaitanes

Latin music has cemented its place in global pop culture and it looks like it is here to stay in. The genre generated USD 881 million in revenues in the US in 2021, and it still only makes up 6% of the country’s music industry and there is plenty of market potential elsewhere, as Alberto Gaitán explained, “Europe is one of the largest markets right now for Latin music, the people there love Latin music, and even without speaking Spanish they sing the songs 100%. The rhythm is catchy and the lyrics are like a magnet that calls for the party and the rumba, the perfect formula for young people who like fun. Elsewhere, there is growing popularity for Latin music in sub-Saharan Africa where French and Portuguese are spoken there is an immense acceptance, because their musical rhythms are similar to Latin ones due to those African roots that are in every Latin American. In Asia the contagious fever of Latin music has also arrived and can be heard in Manila, Macao, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.”

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