The Latin music industry’s preeminent conference is ramping up the volume to celebrate its 25th anniversary in Miami next week, with more panel discussions, artist question-and-answer sessions and performances than ever.
The Billboard Latin Music Conference, presented by State Farm in association with Pepsi, will begin Monday, and is expected to attract 1,000 industry executives, Latin music artists, leading brand marketers, prominent music producers and others from the United States, Latin America and Spain.
The three-day conference, held in English and Spanish at the JW Marriott Marquis, blends the “business and sound of music,” said Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin Content and Programming for Billboard.
“It started as a music industry conference, and particularly in the last six or seven years with the tremendous evolution of the music industry, it’s become a conference about Latin entertainment, focused on music,” said Cobo, who has programmed the conference for the past 12 years. “We recognize the changes, so we have branding, marketing and advertising as part of the conference — always related to music.”
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For its 25th anniversary, the event will include “a lot of star power,” she said, citing double the number of Q&A sessions, with participation from such celebrities as Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, Laura Pausini and Juanes.
Among other Latin superstars on hand will be Latin pop singer-songwriters David Bisbal and Luis Fonsi, who are headlining the 25th Anniversary Concert and “ Mano a Mano with the Superstars: Q&A with David Bisbal & Luis Fonsi,” where they will share their musical process, their new albums and what they have learned from the past 25 years of Latin music.
“The highlight is music in all its forms,” Cobo said. “The artists are there to inspire and to tell people things we don’t know about them. The panels are there to educate. They are giving essential information you can’t get elsewhere and access to stars you can’t see anywhere else — at least not in this kind of setting.”
The conference also creates opportunities to sign acts and make distribution deals and partnerships, she said.
And it provides a venue to meet new talent, said Bruno del Granado, an agent with Creative Artists Agency in Miami, who managed Ricky Martin for 10 years and launched Maverick Musica, the Latin division of Madonna’s record company, in 2000. That year, he met the singer songwriter Jorge Moreno at the Billboard Latin conference, and soon signed him and recorded his debut album. In 2002, Moreno won the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist.
This will be del Granado’s 22nd year attending the conference, and he has watched it grow.
“The conference has gone from being one room where 20 or 30 people would get together and share ideas and plan how we were going to work in our respective areas, to a humongous meeting place that takes place three days in a hotel, with talent being the centerpiece of everything,” del Granado said.
“This is the only music industry conference that focuses on the Latin space. It is the one time a year that I can connect with everybody from the agents to the managers to the artists themselves. It really is the preeminent meeting place for the Latin music industry, hands down,” he said.
A key feature of the conference will be nightly performances, including a concert Wednesday evening at Liv at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Other musical showcases and presentations will include appearances by Benavides, Cabas, Domino Saints, Frankie Negron, J. Balvin, Karlos Rosé, Los Rakas, Luis Enrique, Renzo and Sky Blu of LMFAO.
The events all lead up to the Billboard Latin Music Awards, a three-hour production Thursday evening that will be broadcast live on Telemundo. The awards honor the biggest music stars, based on Billboard’s weekly charts, and feature performances by top artists across all genres of Latin music.
“Billboard is the bible of the music industry. We all read the magazine. We get it every week and follow it,” said Jorge Mejia, Miami-based executive vice president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing-Latin America & U.S. Latin, speaking by telephone from Quito, Ecuador.
“It [the conference] is a natural extension of the magazine — a chance to connect with people, and to basically see the artists,” said Mejia, whose company will present “The Iconic Songwriter Q&A with Omar Alfanno” Tuesday morning. “We see them all the time, but to get everyone together in one place, there is real value to that.”