When the 2023 Latin Grammy Awards take place at the FIBES Conference and Exhibition Centre in Sevilla, Spain, it will mark the first time in 24 years the ceremony has taken place outside of the United States, and a first for broadcaster TelevisaUnivision, in collaboration with Spain’s Radio Televisión Española (RTVE).
Not only is the event and broadcast historical in terms of “firsts,” but it matters to Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud, TelevisaUnivision President of U.S. Networks Ignacio “Nacho” Meyer and Latin Grammy Awards Executive Producer Jose Tillan to represent the explosive worldwide growth of Latin music and the Latin Grammys as a global event.
“We needed to go international,” Abud says. “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.”
For Meyer, not only does it underscore the power of the Latin music market but helps to strengthen the union of two powerhouse Spanish-language broadcast networks – Televisa in Mexico and Univision in the U.S. – that officially merged less than two years ago.
“It does tie back to the growth and influence of Latin culture in the mainstream, in the U.S. and around the world,” Meyer says. “It also ties back to our corporate evolution and transformation. … Less than two years ago, we merged two media powerhouses, one in Mexico and one in the U.S. We became a global company that now addresses 600 million Spanish-speaking people worldwide.”
Tillan is not only a veteran of Latin Grammy broadcasts but has a lengthy resume of work behind the scenes as well with MTV, where he moved from being a director of music and talent to spearheading the music network’s “Unplugged’ series for MTV Latin America, as well as playing a role in launching the MTV Video Music Awards Latin America. If that weren’t enough, he’s also won three Latin Grammy Awards as a musician and producer, bringing not only an award show veteran’s experience but an artist’s eye to the televised proceedings.
“I worked in and managed MTV Latin America, so I’ve worked overseas and I’ve done award shows in other places,” Tillan says. “It’s always important to find the best vendors locally and best producers locally, and that’s what we’ve done. A good friend, the executive producer of the Emmy Awards, has done four shows in Spain, including one in the [FIBES] venue. So he gave me a lot of background, and who to call and what to look out for. It’s been a lot of work but, at the end of the day, we’re all going to be very proud to be the first ones to do [the Latin Grammys] there.”
Broadcasting an awards show is much more than a matter of lights, camera, action. Sets have to be designed and built, equipment leased locally, and even accommodations made for the difference between American and European electrical voltages for basic equipment and outlets before plugging in. There’s not just linguistic challenges, but at best a four-hour time zone difference and governmental red tape to be wrangled. It only made sense to make a partnership with an experienced Spanish broadcaster in RTVE.
For Meyer, the team’s philosophy was to call on and partner with those with the most local knowledge and experience on the ground “and operating things en Español,’” Meyer says. “It’s an opportunity to bring resources to the table. It is significantly more complex and expensive to produce this overseas. And [RTVE] believe in the partnership, and the power of Latin music. They are also living the power of Latin music in Spain locally, and they wanted to make this the biggest Latin Grammy event.”
Tillan welcomes the creative challenges inherent in a bilingual, international working environment.
“They make you think differently,” he says. “This show cannot look like the show that we do in Las Vegas. If it does, we fail. We welcome the challenges. And we embrace the local culture and art, and also the local costumes as a creative element in the show.”
Tillan acknowledges that there’s elements of producing a big show in a large American arena that are easy to take for granted. “Things like bathrooms for the talent and IMAX screens and being able to hang stuff [from ceiling rigging and infrastructure]. We’re walking into a big convention center, and constructing a super rig so we can hang [light and sound equipment]. We’re building everything, so it’s a challenge that way.”
Despite the challenges, “I think everybody should be prepared to embrace some differences and let’s just enjoy the ride because there are not many times in your professional life that you have the opportunity to do something for the first time and of the magnitude of what we’re doing here,” Abud says. “In 65 years of Grammys and 25 years of Latin Grammy Awards, this is the first time that a gramophone will be awarded outside the States. That’s a big deal.”