Billboard’s Latin Music Executive of the Year Interview – Billboard


Afo Verde is sitting in a brightly lit convention room in Sony’s Manhattan headquarters, texting with Rosalía. The Catalonian singer, songwriter, dancer and all-around dynamo was in São Paulo, the evening earlier than, performing in entrance of some 8,000 folks on her Motomami world tour, and now she’s in Buenos Aires, in Verde’s native Argentina, with a while to kill earlier than she performs two nights again to again on the metropolis’s Movistar Enviornment. “Final evening she killed it in Brazil; now she’s in Buenos Aires, asking me, ‘The place can I’ve nice pasta?’ ” Verde says with amusing. “I’m sending her suggestions.”

Restaurant critiques for South American cities aren’t usually among the many companies supplied in normal recording contracts. However Verde, the chairman/CEO of Sony Music Latin-Iberia for the previous decade, doesn’t run his firm like a typical document label, and his artists usually don’t signal typical contracts.

Over the previous a number of years, Verde has as a substitute positioned Sony Latin as extra of a central hub for creativity, with an online of intertwined contractual connections with many prime Latin acts via quite a lot of offers and associations (an strategy he’s in a position to take, he says, “due to an individual known as Rob Stringer” — and the Sony Music Group chairman’s ethos of “a music firm attempting to do the proper issues”).

Afo Verde and Rosalia on the Sony Music Latin conference in 2019 in Miami.

Kike San Martin

Some, principally veteran, artists are signed on to the label (Marc Anthony, Shakira, Romeo Santos); others are signed in partnership with Sony-owned distributor The Orchard (Anuel AA, Ozuna), with Sony Latin dealing with advertising and different companies; and nonetheless others are related via minority investments and joint ventures that Sony has made via artists’ administration corporations and unbiased labels resembling Walter Kolm’s WK Leisure (Maluma, CNCO, Prince Royce), Federico Lauría’s Dale Play Data (Bizarrap, Duki, Nicki Nicole) and Nelson “Polo” Montalvo’s La Buena Fortuna (Residente, Kany García), amongst others.

Nonetheless extra partnerships — most notably with Noah Assad’s Rimas label, residence to famous person Unhealthy Bunny — contain distribution offers instantly via The Orchard (although Verde nonetheless refers to each the corporate and people artists as “members of the family”), whereas he initially signed Rosalía in Spain earlier than inking a frontline deal for her with Columbia Data. (Sony additionally purchased main Brazilian label Som Livre in a $255 million deal that closed in February.)

It’s a formulation that has led Sony to an industry-leading 45.1% market share in Latin music in the US in 2022 to date, in line with Luminate. “I didn’t need to be a tax company, asking for percentages,” Verde says, explaining his strategy. “So we purchased percentages of administration corporations within the area; so in some instances, artists need one among our corporations to be their managers, and that’s cool. So long as they really feel that they’re receiving what they need, I’m pleased. And that’s what is occurring. I like that, from the pure distribution settlement to a full-service marriage, in the event that they’re pleased, in the event that they’re having fun with that, we’re doing the proper factor.”

Afo Verde

Afo Verde photographed on September 1, 2022 at 5020 Studio in Miami.

David Needleman

Verde received his begin as a musician and producer in Argentina earlier than making the soar to A&R within the mid-2000s, then to president of Sony Music Latin in 2009 and his present function in 2012 — and he has honed that artist-first philosophy alongside the best way. “Sony, at the least as a solo artist, has been a part of my progress, and Afo has been my ally,” says Romeo Santos, who has been signed to Sony as each a solo artist and with boy band Aventura for many of the previous three many years. “He has understood all my musical whims. He has at all times been there for me. His total crew has, however he’s the individual I at all times flip to.”

Animated, fast to chuckle and self-conscious about his grasp of English regardless of his clear proficiency, Verde is keen on metaphors, describing the enterprise, and the corporate, through which he arrived greater than a decade in the past as a soccer crew with the proper gamers within the unsuitable positions, and himself because the coach who wanted to reorient the squad with a brand new, music-first philosophy. So he did what any document government would do in that state of affairs, on the nadir of a enterprise that had been decimated by piracy and freely accessible music: He signed a chef.

“It didn’t occur in our world, {that a} document firm would signal somebody who wished to prepare dinner, who doesn’t need to sing in any respect,” he says. But it surely pressured his crew to suppose exterior the field about methods to market and promote her, partnering with a cleansing firm (“After you prepare dinner, you must clear,” he reasoned) and releasing a collection of cooking-class movies paired with music from Sony Latin artists. “I realized greater than ever that any individual can have the proper abilities to achieve wonderful targets, however it’s about doing all your half as a frontrunner and serving to them and studying, ‘OK, this can be a goalkeeper, this can be a striker, she could be the coach.’ It was about that.”

Considering creatively to search out options that match particular person artists is a calling card of kinds for Verde, and one which has led to a deepened relationship between The Orchard and Sony Latin lately. “Afo is passionate and pushed,” says The Orchard chairman/CEO Brad Navin. “In some methods he’s forward of the remainder of the {industry}, which is simply catching as much as what he has been saying for years concerning the Latin market’s wealthy and various expertise pool. He has been there, he lives it, he walks the stroll, and he talks the discuss, and I feel whenever you put the artist first, the remainder will observe. That’s the enterprise that we’re in. And that’s what he does as nicely or higher than all people.”

Ricky Martin, Afo Verde

Ricky Martin and Afo Verde at Hit Manufacturing facility Standards Studios in 2019 in Miami.

Chino Lemus

For some document executives, it might sound irritating, even counterintuitive, to not be within the Unhealthy Bunny enterprise at a time when the artist is the main mild of not simply Latin however all common music in the US — his Un Verano Sin Ti is the No. 1 album of the yr to date, in line with Luminate, and he has a pure distribution deal via The Orchard. However Verde doesn’t see it that manner; to him, the broader Sony infrastructure is an extension of the choices he himself additionally gives for his artists.

“I like Noah, Unhealthy Bunny, and I like Rimas — they’re an incredible, 100% unbiased firm, interval. We are able to have a beer, we are able to have enjoyable; in the event that they want us, we’re there; however they do the whole lot on their very own,” he says. “It’s not about, ‘That is mine.’ It’s about, ‘How can we assist these human beings which are extraordinarily proficient to allow them to attain their targets?’ And typically, I want my companions.”

Finally, “We’ve got success when the artist is having success,” Verde says. “It’s an individual that determined to take a position his or her life into being an artist and determined to imagine in what we are able to do at Sony Latin.”

Afo Verde

Afo Verde photographed on September 1, 2022 at 5020 Studio in Miami.

David Needleman

This story will appear in the Sept. 17, 2022, issue of Billboard.

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