Sin Fronteras: Latin Grammys In Spain Underlines Música Latina’s Globalization

REPRESENTANDO MEDELLÍN: Feid is one of many Latin artists who have exploded this year and gone global by touring in Europe, including in Spain. The Colombian star sold 15,734 tickets at Madrid’s WiZink Center and grossed more than $1.3 million on July 2. (Photo by Patricia J. Garcinuno/Redferns)

There have been hundreds of news stories and headlines about the Latin music explosion in the live and streaming industries in the last several years. Even with all that coverage, the cultural shift still feels understated. With the genre soaring past $1 billion in the U.S. alone, música Latina is so massive that it can no longer be contained to a continent, let alone a country, behind global superstars like Bad Bunny, Karol G, Daddy Yankee and Rosalía.

It’s gone worldwide, and the consensus is that the various subgenres under the Latin music umbrella aren’t only trendy but here to stay as artists continue to shatter records and make boatloads of profit for everyone involved, prompting promoters, agencies and touring managers to add departments dedicated solely to the Latin music scene. Its global impact was significant enough for the Latin Recording Academy to make a big leap this year and venture outside of the U.S. for its 24th annual Latin Grammys ceremony.

“We needed to go international,” Latin Recording Academy President and CEO Manuel Abud tells Pollstar. “We decided that part of our strategic plan and growth should come from a stronger presence in international markets, enhancing everything from the telecast to a true comprehensive Latin Grammy week experience. And we thought to do that, it was time for us to take it out of the U.S.”

The Latin Grammys will broadcast from FIBES in Seville, Spain, on Nov. 16, making it a first for not only the Latin Grammys but any Grammy Awards show to be held in a city not located in the States. With Bad Bunny setting an all-time touring record by grossing more than $435 million in 2022 and Karol G selling out stadiums across the Americas this year, the next logical step for the Academy was to grow with its artists and expand into another country to broaden the reach and appeal of the many cultures it represents.

“We got to stay with the times,” Abud says. “Our artists, our music is clearly global, and I truly believe the Latin Academy has that responsibility with its membership to be that global. Latin music is going through an amazing moment.

“You had Bad Bunny performing and hosting ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I don’t normally talk about one specific artist, but I think it’s a part of the movement that we’re seeing. … You see more and more collaborations from different genres and different countries. It’s very exciting. It’s a great time to be where we are.”

While Latin music’s current impact may be unprecedented, it certainly isn’t a surprise. According to a 2022 report from Los Angeles-based nonprofit Cervantes Institute, there are nearly 600 million Spanish speakers in the world, and language software company Babbel wrote in 2021 that there are about 258 million people who speak Portuguese, a language that the Latin Grammys also honors during the ceremony.

Abud wants to create an Olympics-style atmosphere in Spain, a country with a strong musical influence that is going through its own cultural evolution with artists like Rosalía pushing the boundaries of modern flamenco and pop and building on the foundation previously built by Spanish acts such as Carmen Linares, Julio Iglesias and Lola Flores.

“When you say Sevilla, automatically I think of one of the most musical cities in the world,” says Luis Fonsi, a Puerto Rican singer who won four Latin Grammys for his 2017 hit song “Despacito,” a collaboration with Daddy Yankee that many cite as a catalyst for the recent explosion of Latin music. “It’s not just moving and going to this beautiful city and beautiful country — it’s going to this place where magical things happen; where the musical energy of Sevilla is so strong that I think it’s going to be a great fit.”

Most importantly, having a show in a continent outside the U.S. is an acknowledgment and celebration of the remarkable reach that Latin music has at the moment, even if it is a country that speaks Spanish. Streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music have catapulted the genre to heights never before seen, essentially eliminating barriers for Latin artists, who no longer need to cross over into the Anglo market with an English-language song or album as Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias did in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bad Bunny, Karol G and Peso Pluma are finding success in being themselves and promoting their culture and their music in their own native tongue.

“I don’t see it as a wave or trend. I think it’s here to stay,” Fonsi says. “I love how it is evolving. We all know that music is cyclical, and I’m sure three or four years from now, it might be a little different, but I think the important thing and common denominator is that Latin music and culture is being embraced by people who normally 10 to 15 years ago probably wouldn’t leave on a Spanish song on the radio for more than 10 seconds, in areas like middle America. Now, it’s more top 40, more mainstream.

“And it’s not just Latin pop or reggaeton. The regional Mexican culture is really blowing up because Mexico, for me on a personal level, has been such a huge influence, and it’s just great.”

Each year, the Academy likes the show and programming surrounding the Latin Grammys to have an underlying theme. Last year’s was “Pay it Forward.” This year’s theme is another simple phrase: “Sin Fronteras,” which translates to “Without Borders.” The Academy’s decision to honor Laura Pauisini, an Italian-born artist who has had great success singing in Spanish, as the Person of the Year only underlines that notion, as well as that of acceptance and bridging cultures and continents.

“We thought it was the right time to look beyond her nationality because this is not about honoring someone who only speaks your language,” Abud says. “On the contrary, Laura is international and a true global artist and goes hand in hand with the globalization of Latin music and the Latin Recording Academy being a true global entity.”

Abud says this isn’t a one-and-done when it comes to taking the Latin Grammys on the road. Though the show will return to the U.S. for its 25th edition next year, the Recording Academy has been in talks with cities in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia about hosting future ceremonies, and Fonsi is crossing his fingers for one particular territory to host the Latin Grammys, an island that in many ways sparked much of la revolución we are witnessing today.

“I hope in the future they do this more often in other cities that really have that strong energy,” Fonsi says. “I dream one day of the Latin Grammys going to San Juan in Puerto Rico, which — obviously as a proud Boricua — is an extremely musical city.”