For the first time in nearly two decades, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has a new CEO, who assumed the mantle just weeks before the 22nd annual Latin GRAMMYs. For Manuel Abud, filling the imposing shoes of founding President and CEO Gabriel Abaroa and running the preeminent international Latin music association is a challenge he is uniquely well-suited for. With a diverse background that includes growing up in his father’s record store, creating entertainment content for prominent Latin media properties, including Azteca América, Telemundo and Televisa and working as the COO of LARAS for the last two years, Abud’s philosophy of “leave it better that you found it,” portends great things for the organization’s future. Here, Abud gives his thoughts on Abaroa’s legacy, this year’s Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Rubén Blades, 2021 ten-time nominee Camilo, why his parents are his mentors and two favorite venues.
Pollstar: Congratulations on becoming the CEO of the Latin Recording Academy. You’re the first since founding President and CEO Gabriel Abaroa, who served from 2003-2021, what do you see as his legacy?
Manuel Abud: I am incredibly honored to have been chosen as the new CEO of The Latin Recording Academy and to be given the opportunity to serve our Latin music community as we head into a new chapter. Gabriel was the driving force behind the remarkable progress and success that The Latin Academy has achieved over the past two decades. His leadership and guidance have left an indelible mark on our organization and we will be forever grateful to him for the passion and grace which he instilled in everything he did.
What are your plans and initiatives for the Latin GRAMMYs?
Since I became CEO in August 2021, I’ve been on a listening tour. I had multiple meetings with our members, labels and key stakeholders in the music industry to really understand their needs and how to best serve them. Our vision is to be the authority on Latin music and ensure the Latin GRAMMYs represent the ultimate standard of excellence in Latin music. I’m proud of the work we have accomplished with and for the music community, but the work continues. We have in our plan very specific goals, from the economic side to the global-reach side. Latin music has experienced huge growth, and the way to maintain our relevance is to protect the brand, but also stay with the times. There’s a major cultural revolution happening, and we’ve got to make sure we’re in tune with it and stay up with it.
How has your experience in the private sector working in Latin media companies like Azteca América, Telemundo, CBS Telenoticia and Televisa informed your perspective, vision and strategies?
Much of my professional background is in entertainment, content creation, and content distribution, so my experiences are adjacent and relevant to music. I consider my new role and background in entertainment, coupled with my fresh perspective to the music industry as a strength, as I bring a new point of view, with deep experience from adjacent industries. Ultimately, I am committed to growing the size, reach and relevance of Latin music, and to do that, we need to be very strategic but also flawless in execution.
Who are your mentors and what did you learn from them?
There are so many people throughout the years who have helped me grow in my career, I couldn’t possibly name one. But my parents have always been great role models to follow: from my father, integrity and work ethic, from my mother, tenacity and resilience. One thing I learned when I was young was to listen. This is something I try to pass on. In this industry we move so fast that we forget to take a step back and really understand the key needs of those we are serving, and truly listen to what people need.
What does this year’s Latin GRAMMYs theme, “Rediscovering Life Through Music,” which seems especially apt right now, mean to you?
Music is the ultimate universal language, and this year’s show theme – “Rediscovering Life Through Music” – allows us to take an introspective look at our world and our shared Latin heritage, through the lens of beautiful and powerful Latin music.
What kind of music were you raised on and who are some of your all-time favorite musicians?
I come from a home of music lovers and my dad owned a record store, so you can imagine the diversity of music I grew up with. The soundtrack of my life is quite diverse and is in many languages, and if I give you names and decades you’ll definitely know how old I am!
As Pollstar is the live industry trade magazine, what are some of your favorite music venues and live performances?
Live music is always special so it’s hard to pick one. I will never forget the first time that I went to Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City or the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Luis Carlos Garcia / LARAS – Persona del año 2021
Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Rubén Blades who, Abud says, “has been a champion for positive, meaningful change in Latin communities and beyond. Rubén is simply a living legend who continues to reinvent music making.“
What are your thoughts on this year’s Person of the Year Rubén Blades, his many talents and his impact on Latin music and culture?
We are honoring Rubén not only for his incredible music contributions but also for his deep commitment to fighting for social justice around the world, by supporting initiatives that raising awareness towards political oppression, hunger, poverty and more. Through his music, he has been a champion for positive, meaningful change in Latin communities and beyond. Ruben is simply a living legend who continues to reinvent music making.
With the addition of Tanya Ramos-Puig in April to head up the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation, what do you see as its role going forward?
Tanya brings an amazing background running charities and a personal energy. I know she will take the Foundation to the next level. Via our Foundation, scholarships have allowed students, from every walk of life, to attend some of the most renowned colleges and universities in the world. Through top-tier education, these students are promoting and keeping Latin genres and traditions alive.
What do you think Camilo having the most nominations this year indicates for this year’s Latin GRAMMYs?
All the artists nominated for this year’s Latin GRAMMYs represent incredible excellence in music, and a celebration of artistic and creative expression from around the globe, and Camilo is a clear example of excellence and hard work. This year’s show will be filled with many breathtaking moments and surprises for all.
What do you hope will be your legacy at The Latin Recording Academy?
I don’t have an answer to this question now, I strongly believe in “leave it better than you found it” with everything I do. We have a solid strategic plan that I helped create; right now I’m very focused on listening to our members and executing on our mission of nurturing, celebrating, honoring and elevating Latin music and its makers around the world.