Leila Cobo Is Elevating Latin Music at Billboard

It has been fascinating to see how Latin music — reggaeton particularly — has emerged through the years to turn out to be mainstream. However a long time earlier than Latin music genres reached world domination and have become closely coated within the media, Billboard was already measuring it utilizing the success of songs, albums, and artists and calculating gross sales distribution information and radio airplay. Thirty years in the past, Billboard Latin Music Week was created, which started as a one-day convention and finally developed into per week of conferences in Miami with Latin music artists and executives and finally accompanied by the Billboard Latin Music Awards present. Leila Cobo, VP of Latin content material for Billboard, remembers precisely the way it all started. The Latin music journalist and writer has performed a pivotal function in rising Billboard’s Latin presence and in addition packages the Billboard Latin Music Convention that takes place yearly.

Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, Cobo grew up surrounded by music. “It is a very musical metropolis and it isn’t one thing I actually thought of rising up however now I feel sure, I am very a lot a product of this metropolis,” Cobo tells hollywoodnewsflash.us. “It is a very musical metropolis. It is form of a hardcore metropolis. I would say the equal within the states could be Detroit. It is a gritty metropolis. It is very tough across the edges. Nevertheless it’s very soulful. Music is an enormous element. Salsa is an enormous deal. “

Cobo did not simply develop up in a musical metropolis but additionally in a musical household. Her brother is a classical guitarist, her dad was an enormous music-lover, and Cobo, like her mom, is a classically skilled pianist. She earned a level in journalism from Bogotá’s Universidad Javeriana after which moved to New York, the place she studied piano efficiency on the Manhattan Faculty of Music. She then discovered herself performing reside in numerous cities all through Colombia and in NYC however determined to determine a technique to merge each her love of writing and music. She received a grasp’s in communication administration from the Annenberg Faculty on the College of Southern California and began touchdown jobs in TV and in radio. Her actual introduction into music journalism was a job she landed on the LA Occasions. They have been searching for a Spanish-language, bilingual copy editor and earlier than she knew it, Cobo was overlaying Latin music concert events, albums, and artists. One in every of her first critiques was of a Luis Miguel live performance. Cobo lastly discovered a job doing what she felt she was meant to do. However the column she wrote titled Nuestro Tiempo would finally be eradicated following finances cuts and layoffs.

Cobo received rehired as a metro reporter however finally received pregnant and needed to give up. She later landed a job as a press deputy for town councilman on the time. Then, in 1998, she and her husband moved to Miami, the place she landed a job on the Miami Herald. Little did she know, this was the job that will land her an vital function at Billboard. Cobo coated Billboard Latin Music Week throughout her time on the Miami Herald and finally utilized for a job at Billboard. “The title was known as Caribbean and Latin Bureau Chief. What a bizarre title, proper? On the job I had one story I would write for the column per week. That is all I did. It was cool,” Cobo says. “It was within the journal. That is when the journal would come out each week. It could come out with my little mug shot and it was known as Latin Nota. It should have been 2000 and Latin music was actually occurring again then. That was when Ricky Martin and Shakira have been popping out. It was the Latin Explosion interval, and I feel that was actually pivotal as a result of this was a model that was measuring Latin music, so it was very ahead in that sense. However I additionally thought there are all these items occurring now, we have to do extra.”

Although the music was being measured, the mainstream media protection surrounding it was little to nothing. Cobo instantly noticed a chance. “I bear in mind the primary time I put one thing Latin on the duvet and it was with Marc Anthony. We had these covers, however it wasn’t a single-artist cowl. And it was a Marc Anthony story on branding offers,” she says. “It began gradual, however the factor is we modified homeowners so many instances. However after I received there one factor they already had in place was Billboard Latin Music Week. That existed. And Premio Lo Nuestro Awards is what’s right now Billboard Latin Music Awards. The truth that somebody had the foresight to say let’s do a Latin Music Awards present at a mainstream model, I feel that was extraordinarily revolutionary.”

What started as a one-day convention had finally prolonged to a whole week. The normal keynote was changed with one-on-one Q&A’s with large Latin music artists together with Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, Ricky Marin, Alejandro Sanz, and extra. As Cobo introduced an increasing number of artists to the convention, the larger it turned. The convention not solely turned extra worthwhile however drew much more curiosity from artists, labels, and executives. Programming for the convention quickly turned her child — what Cobo turned recognized for.

“I made the artists an even bigger a part of it and within the final six years, it turned more and more vital for the trade and for the labels. I abruptly had a gross sales division that was promoting this. It turned a enterprise,” she says. “Folks began speaking about it and yearly I might attempt to get essentially the most outstanding artists for the time being.” The Latin column that Cobo oversaw was really written in English and gave Latin music artists — like Marc Anthony on the time — the mainstream protection they weren’t in any other case receiving. “It turned greater than I am right here doing a job and my job is writing about music. It turned a calling,” she provides.

Earlier this month Billboard formally launched their new, all-Spanish-language digital model, Billboard Español, serving because the premiere in-language world vacation spot for Latin music. The Billboard Español launch really makes it the primary US mainstream media firm to launch an all-Spanish website dedicated to music. “I am a kind of folks that at all times stated and I nonetheless suppose this, I feel it is actually vital to cowl Latin music in English as a result of I do suppose that Latin music is a part of the entire. And after I say Latin music, I am speaking music in Spanish. For a few years it was seen like OK that is Spanish, so this goes over there with the Spanish channels and the Spanish newspapers and we do not have to take care of it however I at all times stated however you do. It is a part of you,” Cobo says. “You go anyplace and activate the radio and you’ll at all times discover a Latin music station. You stroll the streets of New York and also you hear La Mega and also you hear reggaeton. That is a part of the soundtrack of the nation. However I felt writing about it in English gave it the respectability that it deserved. However now persons are actually changing into pleased with embracing their Spanish and the music is in Spanish.” Cobo goes on to elucidate the inspiration she had behind launching Billboard Español. “I really feel very strongly that we’re the authority. My crew is bilingual. All of them. We interview in Spanish. We’re doing this already. Let’s do it in Spanish. I really feel that there’s an viewers that is going to devour it in Spanish and that manner we will attain audiences in Latin America that do not converse or learn in English.”

Throughout her time at Billboard, Cobo has been part of the protection behind a few of Latin music’s greatest moments like when Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” made primary within the Scorching 100. It is what impressed her to put in writing her ebook “Decoding Despacito: An Oral History of Latin Music.”

“In 2017, ‘Despacito’ was No. 1 for 16 weeks within the Scorching 100 — which was a report. It was in every single place. ‘Despacito’ was a really transformative track. Whether or not you appreciated it or not, the track was already an enormous world hit however for the US, the truth that you had a track that was in Spanish and then you definitely had a remix with the most important pop star on the planet as a result of that is what it did,” she says. “Lots of instances folks say it turned primary due to Justin Bieber. Wonderful however Justin Bieber, the most important pop star on the planet, determined that he was going to do a remix of this track and that he was going to sing in Spanish on it. That is such an announcement. That is saying the tradition is vital. This language is vital and their followers are vital. And my followers ought to check out this music too.”

This spring Daddy Yankee introduced his retirement from music after three a long time of an ever-evolving profession and shortly after launched his remaining album “Legendaddy,” which dropped on March 24th and kicked off his “La Última Vuelta” tour in Portland, OR, on August 10. Whereas many confused Daddy Yankee for being the originator of reggaeton, the style really started in Panama as Afro-diasporic music created by Black Panamanians of West Indian descent. A number of the originators embrace El Common and Renato. However what Yankee did was popularize reggaeton, bringing it to the mainstream within the early 2000s after his megahit “Gasolina” off his “Barrio Fino” album went world.

“Reggaeton was very underground music. It was occurring in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t actually occurring right here. There have been no radio stations actually enjoying it. There have been a few albums that hit the charts. However the first album to hit primary on the Latin charts ever was “Barrio Fino” and the only was “Gasolina” however it was by no means primary as a result of it received no airplay.”

“Reggaeton was very underground music. It was occurring in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t actually occurring right here. There have been no radio stations actually enjoying it. There have been a few albums that hit the charts. However the first album to hit primary on the Latin charts ever was “Barrio Fino” and the only was “Gasolina” however it was by no means primary as a result of it received no airplay,” Cobo shares. “So what occurred with “Gasolina” was that it was an important track so it began getting remixed in English apparently sufficient. So, it began enjoying on the ability stations and the Latino radio stations however it by no means received the rotation essential to make it primary. Nevertheless it nonetheless turned an enormous hit as a result of it additionally traveled to Latin America.”

“I feel it was an enormous significance since you had this style that folks weren’t actually placing cash behind it as a result of they thought it wasn’t going to work. They thought it was too regional, it was too Puerto Rican, it was too raunchy, it was too vulgar, it was too hood. The sentiment was like this music is widespread in Puerto Rico with a sure group of folks that like this reggaeton factor however it’s by no means going to turn out to be mainstream as a result of folks listed below are listening to Luis Miguel and pop ballads and Shakira,” Cobo continues “And what ‘Gasolina’ did was like what ‘Despacito’ did. It was like OK this may work. You possibly can have a track like this and it may be an enormous hit. I feel that was the second. I feel what Yankee did was that he was very enterprise savvy. What he at all times stated was that nobody actually needed to launch his music, so he launched it himself. He constructed his enterprise one little step at a time. He confirmed that OK, nobody goes to do that for me so I can do that for myself and I can do it successfully. I feel he is very methodical.”

It is due to Yankee that artists like Dangerous Bunny have been capable of finding world success with reggaeton and Latin lure. El Conejo malo, is undoubtedly not simply one of many greatest reggaeton or Latin music artists proper now but additionally one of many greatest artists on the planet. Not solely has he damaged information together with his “Un Verano Sin Ti” album and took home nine wins at the Billboard Latin Music Awards on Thursday, September 29, together with artist of the yr, tour of the yr, songwriter of the yr, Latin album of the yr, high Latin rhythm album of the yr for “Un Verano Sin Ti, Scorching Latin Songs, and High Latin Albums of the yr, male and tropical track of the yr for “Volví.” He additionally leads this yr’s Latin Grammy Nominations with 10.

“Nicky was very instrumental within the growth of reggaeton worldwide and a pioneer in mixing city beats with pop. His musicianship versatility, multitude of hits and on high of that, his profitable profession in movie, make him the right Corridor of Famer.”

Nicky Jam was honored at this yr’s Billboard Latin Music Awards with the Corridor of Fame Award after performing his newest single “Sin Novia.” His father offered him with the award and shouted out Cobo in his acceptance speech for at all times supporting him and arranging for his father to be there that night. “Nicky Jam is a rare artist who regardless of his younger age of 41, has had a rare life, and one which traverses the historical past of reggaeton,” Cobo says. “He got here from nothing however constructed himself up, turned a star, had addictions that completely derailed his profession, after which, he began once more, from the bottom up. That he was in a position to do that twice is a testomony to his grit but additionally to his musicianship. Nicky is that uncommon reggaetonero who writes stunning melodies and evocative lyrics. I can not consider one other artist within the style who is sort of as lyrical. Nicky was very instrumental within the growth of reggaeton worldwide and a pioneer in mixing city beats with pop. His musicianship versatility, multitude of hits and on high of that, his profitable profession in movie, make him the right Corridor of Famer.”

Latin music protection has come a great distance since Cobo’s early days at Billboard. She’s proud to be a part of the change however nonetheless has large hopes for the long run. Cobo needs to develop Billboard’s menu of Latin music occasions to incorporate tentpoles each quarter of the yr each out and in of the US, together with shopper occasions like festivals in addition to enterprise and thought gatherings. She additionally needs each verticals — Latin and Español — to proceed to develop to precisely replicate the music, the enterprise, and Latin tradition total.

“I by no means wish to hear somebody say, ‘Oh, that is actually good for Latin.’ I would like folks to say, ‘Wow, that is superb, interval.'”

“I by no means wish to hear somebody say, ‘Oh, that is actually good for Latin.’ I would like folks to say, ‘Wow, that is superb, interval.’ As for Billboard Español, I’ve little doubt it is going to turn out to be the highest vacation spot for Spanish-speaking music followers worldwide. And undoubtedly, I would like Latin Music Week to turn out to be absolutely the level of reference and gathering for Latin music at a global degree, not simply US, one thing we’re already starting to see,” Cobo says. She needs folks to know that Latin music is a part of the cultural cloth of the US. “It could or might not be in one other language, however it’s nonetheless a part of that great mixture of cultures that make this nation so fascinating and distinctive. We’re not an different’ and we enrich this tradition.”

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