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Why Latin Music Continued to Dominate YouTube in 2018

Data from the streaming platform shows that Spanish-speaking artists have already bested their striking numbers from last year — and women are big winners

Becky G and Natti NatashaPremios Juventud Awards, Show, Miami, USA - 22 Jul 2018

Becky G and Natti Natasha's "Sin Pijama" is one of the 10 most popular music videos on the planet this year.

Gustavo Caballero/South Beach Photo/REX Shutterstock

Building on a remarkable eruption of global listeners in 2017, Latin music has continued to soar on YouTube this year, according to data provided to Rolling Stone by the platform.

The extent of Spanish-language pop’s domination is impressive. The three artists with the most views on the platform in 2018 so far are all Spanish-speaking: Ozuna (20 million subscribers; 8.7 billion views), J Balvin (18 million, 7.1 billion) and Bad Bunny (13 million, 7 billion).

In addition, while 45 of the Top 100 most-viewed videos in 2017 involved Latin acts, that number rose to more than 50 this year. 17 Latin videos reached more than a billion views in 2017; that number climbed to 19 this year. Six of the top 10 most-viewed videos in 2017 were made by Latin artists; that number inched up to eight in 2018. In total, over 30% of the songs that appeared on YouTube’s global chart involved Latin acts.

“We’re seeing extraordinary growth,” says Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music. “People often don’t understand that when your base is already high, and your growth is off that base, it’s really impressive. This is a massive cultural statement that’s being made by the Latin community.”

In addition, there are some signs that YouTube is enabling a new group of Latin artists to reach a global audience of women. In 2017, Shakira — an already established star — was the only woman who managed to make a music video that garnered a billion views.

This year, however, listeners made room for new female artists. Chief among them is Natti Natasha, who vaulted into YouTube’s Top 10 most-watched acts this year with 3.9 billion views, 98% of which come from outside her native Dominican Republic. Also performing strongly is the Brazilian star Anitta, who amassed 1.7 billion views. And Becky G successfully crossed the billion views threshold with two different videos.

“This year, Karol G, Natti Natasha and Becky G exploded — and exported their content outside of Latin America,” says Sandra Jiménez, Head of Music, LATAM, YouTube and Google Play Music. “In the past, we had some barriers for women [in Latin music]. Now we don’t. When you are listening to songs in the urban genre and there is a suggestion, it doesn’t matter who it is — there’s no, ‘because it’s a female I won’t click.’ The new generation just clicks.”  

Cohen, who once led the Def Jam label, has been present for other moments of remarkable growth in popular music. But Latin music is spreading around the globe an order of magnitude faster, according to him. “The momentum and the word of the mouth and the strength of the movement is undeniable and has relationships to hip-hop,” Cohen says. “But I had to use the DJ network; back then I didn’t have this global platform that rap could use to circumvent traditional radio. It’s unique that [Latin artists] have such a megaphone.”

And thanks to that megaphone, traditional radio is now taking note of Latin music’s dominance in ways that would have been nearly unthinkable five years ago. Top 40 is known for its tight playlists and narrow-minded approach to what constitutes “pop,” but J Balvin and Nicky Jam’s “X,” a compact club missile, enjoyed play on some stations. The relentless reggaeton posse cut that is Casper Magico, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Ozuna’s “Te Bote” remix is still hanging out on Mediabase’s Rhythmic Radio chart. (It also reached one billion views on YouTube in just 119 days, the sixth-fastest trip to the billion-views club; 20 of the 50 fastest trips belong to Latin videos.) Notably, Neither “X” nor “Te Bote” involve any words in English.

“They’re not being deferential in any way,” Cohen says of Latin artists. And “radio cannot ignore what’s happening.”  

Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking artists — don’t overlook the fact that the Brazilian star MC Fioti’s “Bum Bum Tam Tam” video became the first ever baile funk clip to reach one billion views — are so effective at using YouTube to get their music out there that Cohen has started advising other acts to study their approach. Nigerian afrobeats stars, he believes, “are looking to Latin artists and absorbing their best practices.”

“Yesterday I was in Amsterdam for a conference,” Cohen adds. “The independent Dutch music industry asked me, ‘What is specifically happening with Latin artists that they are getting such powerful growth and international recognition?’ I said, get one of those artists to come in and speak to your team. It’s amazing to watch.”

Top 10 Most-Viewed Music Uploads of 2018

  1. Casper, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny, Ozuna – “Te Bote” Remix
  2. Nicky Jam and J. Balvin – “X”
  3. Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B – “Girls Like You” Remix
  4. Daddy Yankee – “Dura”
  5. Ozuna and Romeo Santos – “El Farsante” Remix
  6. Becky G and Natti Natasha – “Sin Pijama”
  7. El Chombo featuring Cutty Ranks – “Dame Tu Cosita”
  8. Drake – “God’s Plan”
  9. Reik featuring Ozuna and Wisin – “Me Niego”
  10. Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin – “I Like It”

Top Artists: Ozuna

  • Ozuna is the Number One artist globally across YouTube in 2018, amassing over 8.7B views this year alone. He’s held the Number One spot on the Global Artists chart for 20 weeks throughout 2018 to date, a record for the year.
  • With five videos in the billion views club, he’s tied for the second most to hit the milestone. Four of those five videos crossed this year.
  • His official artist channel has gained over 10M subscribers in 2018, doubling its count since the beginning of the year.

J Balvin

  • J Balvin is the Number Two artist globally across YouTube in 2018, amassing over 7.1B views this year alone. He’s held the Number One spot on the Global Artists chart for six weeks throughout 2018 to date.
  • He has four videos in the billion views club. “X” with Nicky Jam is the seventh fastest video to hit the milestone, doing so on July 4 in only 125 days.
  • 90% of his views are coming outside of Colombia, his home country. Out of that 7.1B, he’s earning huge views in Mexico (1.23B views), the United States (842M views), and Argentina (568M views).

Bad Bunny

  • Bad Bunny is the Number Three artist globally across YouTube in 2018. He’s had over 7B views this year alone.
  • Both of his videos with over one billion views hit this year. The “Te Bote” remix hit the milestone in only 119 days, making it the sixth fastest video to do so.
  • He broke his personal 24-hour debut record this year with his Drake collaboration “Mia.” It earned over 12M views in one day.

Natti Natasha

  • Natti Natasha is a top 10 artist globally across YouTube in 2018, earning a massive 3.9B views this year alone.
  • Both of her videos with over a billion views crossed the milestone this year.
  • 98% of her views are coming outside of the Dominican Republic, her home country. Out of that 3.9B, she’s earning huge views in Mexico (813M views), Argentina (444M views), and Colombia (370M views).

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