Latin Music Is Growing Faster Than Overall U.S. Music Market - Rolling Stone
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Latin Music Is Growing Faster Than Overall U.S. Music Market

The RIAA’s latest report shows a new boom in the genre. “All the trends that we’re seeing in Latin are ahead of where they are in the market,” says Josh Frielander, senior vice president of research and economics

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 11: Bad Bunny performs during Mega 96.3 FM Calibash 2020 at Staples Center on January 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Bad Bunny performs during Mega 96.3 FM Calibash 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 11th.

Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Latin music’s streaming surge only intensified in 2019, according to new research from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The trade body revealed Thursday that revenues for the genre in 2019 reached a new high of $554 million — roughly one-third, or 28% more than the previous year. It is the highest figure the market has seen since 2006.

Latin music’s revenue growth outpaced the overall U.S. music market, the RIAA study shows. The market as whole grew 13% last year. Latin music accounted for 5% of the recorded music business last year, up from 4.4% the previous year.

Josh Friedlander, senior vice president of research and economics at RIAA, says that even putting aside Latin’s notably higher ad-supported streaming revenue — which he calls an outlier to most streaming trends — the genre’s statistics give hints of how the rest of the music market will shift in streaming habits.

“Because Latin over-indexes so much on streaming, it’s really a leading indicator for the market in terms of where things are going,” Friedlander tells Rolling Stone. “All the trends that we’re seeing in Latin are ahead of where they are in the market.”

Streaming revenue holds an overwhelming majority of Latin’s revenue at nearly $529 million, or 95% of its total 2019 revenue. Of that sum, 65% came from paid streaming subscriptions. Another 23% came from ad-supported streaming options like YouTube, which was much higher than the 10% for the U.S. music market as a whole, the study reports. The last of streaming revenue came from digital radio services such as Pandora and from SoundExchange royalties. Paid subscription streaming revenue alone grew 36%, the biggest increase of any metric in the study, reflecting the wider trend of listeners adopting premium services like Apple Music and Spotify premium. Paid subscriptions jumped to 60.4 million in 2019, up from 46.9 million the year before, according to another RIAA study published in February.

Latin’s resurgence has been going strong for years, Friedlander says, pointing to the growing percentage share Latin music has in the overall market. “It was 4% two years ago, 4.4% last year and now 5%. For me, that speaks to the more mainstream acceptance of Latin, the bigger crossover hits,” he says. “They’ve taken off and opened the door to more latin crossovers. ‘Despacito’ is already a couple years old and we’re still seeing that share increase.”

As is the case in recorded music as a whole, digital downloads and physical sales continue to drop for Latin music. CD sales dropped by nearly 30%, down to about 500,000 in 2019, while single and album downloads dropped by nearly 16% and 26%, respectively.

Latin had a strong 2019 with popular high selling releases from artists like Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Luis Fonsi and Ozuna, and Latin music has already had a notable 2020, spearheaded by Bad Bunny’s “YHLQMDLG”, which debuted at No. 2 on the Rolling Stone Top 200 albums chart at the beginning of March and has hovered in the top-10 since.

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