During Midem this year we were lucky enough to sit down with Mary Nuñez, who was hired by Warner Chappell Music seven months ago to revitalize the Latin Sync department. In our fascinating discussion we chat opportunities for Latin music in sync, emerging trends, licensing challenges and more…
Hi Mary! What was your route into the music industry?
Before working in music, I spent almost 15 years in the hospitality industry working for international hoteliers. I lived in Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, so I’ve always had an affinity towards Latin America. I moved back to Los Angeles for personal reasons and decided to try working in the music industry, starting with a job at BMG in their production music department. From there I started my own pitching and licensing business and went on to work for Sony Music for 10 years. Seven months ago I moved back to the publishing world with Warner Chappell Music.
What was the motivation behind your move to Warner Chappell Music?
The publishing side has much more control creatively and I really wanted to dive into that. I find a lot of publishers have a great catalogue of rights but they don’t really go out and aggressively approach buyers. Whereas on the recording side you have to be very proactive.
How old is the Latin division at Warner Chappell Music, and why were you brought in?
It’s actually relatively new in terms of the majors. The majority of the division was born in the ‘90s, although we have some amazing copyrights that date back to the ‘50s. Warner Chappell Music was looking for someone to bring a fresh and disruptive approach, so I was hired to revitalize the division. I think it’s important to bring in someone who sees things with a different lens and brings in new energy.
It’s also great to see more women at the top!
Warner is very pro-female which I think is magnificent.
So, you’re seeking opportunities for your writers in Latin American territories but also externally in international territories?
Yes, it’s a combined approach. I was brought onboard to bring a breath of fresh air to the film/TV, advertising and video game spaces in the US, but I also oversee the strategy for Latin America, and each territory is vastly different. There’s been a lot of restructuring and revitalization for Mexico, which along with Brazil is one of the main center points I find to be vitally important for sync. I’ve also been focusing on the Andrean Region which is really coming alive. Musically, the Andes and Chile are really where it’s happening.
“There’s been a lot of restructuring and revitalization for Mexico, which along with Brazil is one of the main center points I find to be vitally important for sync. I’ve also been focusing on the Andrean Region which is really coming alive. Musically, the Andes and Chile are really where it’s happening.”
There’s a common misconception that Latin music is just one sound. Do you have to spend a lot of time educating people about the various regions and genres?
Yeah. There’s such a different variety. When I’m pitching to advertising agencies or post production houses, they have no idea of what the availability is. So, I think it’s a really wonderful time for Latin music, especially in the global space. Yesterday I was visiting clients in London and they were really blown away. I think it’s also important to have stats and research because having those metrics really lends itself to doing business with clients.
Latin artists have really taken over the international charts. How have you seen the demand change since then?
I find that the demand has really come from millennials and generation z, they’re the ones chasing that space, and who better to be the consumers of that new urban fusion sound. I think the collaborations you’re seeing with artists like Daddy Yankee and Katy Perry, and Alisha Keys and Pedro Capó are really exciting because the songs are no longer just in Spanish, they have a remixed feel in English and even in Portuguese and French. I think the demand for collaborations with Latin artists is coming less from the Latin side and more from the English-speaking side.
“I think the demand for collaborations with Latin artists is coming less from the Latin side and more from the English-speaking side.”
In terms of Latin music in sync where are you seeing most of the opportunities coming from?
It’s funny because last year I saw a huge increase in the use of Latin music in Latin American markets for advertising, whereas before it’s predominantly been English and European recordings. They want to connect with the youth, and most of the music consumers in Latin America are very young. They’re listening to a lot of the urban sounds, that fusion that has the moombahton and the reggaeton vibe and feel, but has a swag of its own. Brands need to follow that.
How do you balance pitching frontline catalogue with the heritage catalogue for sync?
Since joining Warner Chappell Music I’ve taken a different approach to pitching. When I first arrived, they were only sending out mail-outs with newer playlists, but you have to combine it. You have to have a little bit of what resonates lyrically, what resonates with people of different ages, as well as something new. I tend to do pitching a little differently. I’ll pitch Spanish and Portuguese together and then I’ll pitch the same for English content because there are amazing new artists coming out that are great for advertising, but at the same time you want the feel and tonality and nostalgic feeling that you get from the older catalogue.
With newer platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu there are so many great opportunities
There’s a lot of really great series and we’re having a lot of success with our Brazilian and Mexican catalogues. We just placed one of our Brazilian artists, Pabllo Vittar, in a Netflix series called Super Drags, and since we’re celebrating Pride Month I had to make a push for that! Then there are other shows looking at new programming, for example Amazon are developing a biopic series on Maradona so of course they’re going to select music that’s from that pop period of the ‘90s.
Can you talk us through some of the classic writers you have on the Warner Chappell Music roster?
We have many classic award-winning composers and producers. Some of my favourites that are also heavily requested for sync include Draco Rosa, who has written global hits like ‘Livin’ la Viva Loca’ and ‘She Bangs’ for Ricky Martin. He’s actually seeing a revitalization of his rock catalogue at the moment because he’s touring with his new album Monte Sagrado. We have a lot of success with Franco De Vita, he’s sort of considered to be our Billy Joel. He’s fantastic for advertising and he’s very open to finding the right creative meaning with a brand. Another great heritage artist is Maná – they’re touring at the end of this year so they’re going to be collaborating with newer artists and we’re pitching their catalogue to come back out.
Another of my favourites is Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, an Argentinian ska rock band from the early ‘90s. They have a really memorable sound that really resonates with film and TV, especially promos. Promos are the real sexy side of the business. It’s an area I target quite a bit for Warner Chappell Music – I think it’s important to make trailers and TV promos a priority in my region, whereas before it wasn’t really a targeted space. And it doesn’t have to be an up and coming artist, it can be those great heritage acts that carry through.
And then you’ve got your frontline writers and composers
We have lots of different writers and composers. Jhay Cortez from Puerto Rico has been absolutely fantastic, he’s on all kind of tracks from Cardi B to Daddy Yankee. He’s simply exquisite as a writer/composer and he collaborates quite a bit. Another amazing composer is Sky who is J. Balvin’s producer and writer. Another one of my favourite duos is Andrés Torres and Mauricio Rengifo who are based in LA but from Colombia originally. These guys are geniuses, they were the producers behind ‘Despacito’ and they are amazing writers to go to for original compositions. We’ve been working a lot with them to create new music for advertising campaigns ranging from Pantene to Pepsi all through Latin America. Original composition is huge. I’ve really been focusing on that at Warner Chappell Music and trying to bring that enthusiasm to other territories.
What licensing challenges are you seeing with Latin music?
The main challenges relate to the urban side. With urban music there are eight to ten writers on a composition, and I really firmly believe in servicing a client and not just saying, “This is our percentage and forget about the other percentages.” I train our staff to say, “These are the other pieces to the puzzle” because you’ve got to have all of the writers onboard to make any placement happen. The other challenge is that you need to have commercially savvy people pushing the envelope. If you’re not pushing it things don’t happen. Sync moves incredibly fast, so you have to find people who have the agenda of making things happen. And it’s a 24-hour business, even in the Latin space. It’s all about business acumen. So much publishing income is coming from sync, and publishers need to revitalize the way they look at their business.
“If you’re not pushing it things don’t happen. Sync moves incredibly fast, so you have to find people who have the agenda of making things happen.”
What trends are you noticing with new genres/sub-genres in the Latin music space?
It’s funny, we just did a couple of commercials in Argentina with some big telecommunications companies with a very hard reggaeton/trap sound. I would never in my dreams have thought that would happen just two years ago. It’s happening with telecommunications companies, with banking companies. They’ll often want the original recording, or they’ll ask to modify the lyrical component, and a lot of reggaeton and urban artists are open to doing that, which is really exciting. That tells me these companies are listening to who the consumer is.
A new trend I see happening now is a lot of ambient electronic music. I see that happening with artists that we have out of Chile, which is currently a hub of fire for more alternative indie artists. We have an artist named Rubio that we’re having a lot of great success with, and then we have a Colombian artist Acido Pantera who are actually performing at Midem. They’re one of my favourite artists because they fuse traditional Colombian sounds with EDM, and it really creates a universal language. That music is taking off through streaming and through sync.
Latin music is also merging with music from different international territories, such as K-pop
Yeah, it’s great to see that. The K-pop boy bands are really big and successful in Latin America. It really doesn’t matter what language they’re singing in. If people like the beat and they’re enjoying it with their friends it sort of just sparks a new topic of music. This new track that just came out, ‘Con Calma’, features Daddy Yankee, Katy Perry and Snow, who’s Canadian and most well known for his smash hit ’90s track ‘Informer’. So, you have all of these trends and cultures on the track and it makes sense.
Is collaboration something that you strive to do more of at Warner Chappell Music?
We do. Part of me coming on board is thinking outside the box and saying, “Why aren’t we collaborating more with writers in Lebanon? Why are we not doing more with artists and writers from Tel Aviv?” I was just there for Christmas with my family and I was blown away by how much Latin music was playing in the clubs! It’s a really good moment for publishers to think outside the box. How are you going to move the needle? How are you going to make Latin artists more relevant in markets like Asia? And how are we going to make Asian artists more relevant in our territories?
We’re all working together as a team worldwide and looking at the trends for the future. I think it’s also about being more service orientated with clients. I think the publishing world needs to be a little more proactive and stop playing it safe. Playing it safe is boring, you need a mix of attitude and pioneering. If you make a mistake, okay, but at least you made an effort to change the paradigm. That’s what I love about my career.
“I think the publishing world needs to be a little more proactive and stop playing it safe. Playing it safe is boring, you need a mix of attitude and pioneering. If you make a mistake, okay, but at least you made an effort to change the paradigm.”
What kind of activities do you create for your writers?
We do a lot of song camps at Warner Chappell Music, whether that’s for a specific superstar artist or just general collaboration opportunities. We also put together forums – we’ve been putting out forums called Behind the Sync to teach people the essentials of sync. Music supervision is becoming a more important role in Latin America, so I think as a publisher we have to be on the forefront.
Are you seeing the advertising/branding space really taking off for Latin American artists?
Definitely. We recently did a sync for Sky in Colombia for a beer brand. J. Balvin is in the spot and it’s a brand-new song called ‘La Rebelión’. They actually used a sample from Joe Arroyo to start the track off and the production is really delightful. What makes it so nice is that the song is on J. Balvin’s new album, so there’s an incentive for the brand to get people engaged and make that song a success. What better way to do that than through streaming platforms and to support the artist? And the artist also supports the brand, so it goes both ways. I’m seeing a lot more of that. We’re doing a lot more collaborative work, for example with Pepsi in Mexico and Coca-Cola. Big beverage companies are spending a lot of money on these global deals.
In terms of strategy how do you know when it’s the right artist/brand partnership?
It’s trial and error. What might work like magic for a Brazilian artist in Brazil could also work for a market like The Netherlands. It’s really important to take a deep dive when you’re talking to music supervisors and ad agencies so understand what the brand ultimately wants to achieve. I think a lot of times people aren’t really listening. You need to do a lot of listening in sync to really understand what the pitch is. It’s important to have patience.
“I think a lot of times people aren’t really listening. You need to do a lot of listening in sync to really understand what the pitch is. It’s important to have patience.”
What are your plans for the future of the Latin division at Warner Chappell Music?
We have an amazing A&R team and we’re doing a lot of collaborative work. I think a big push for the future is going to be, at least in the sync space, creating a brand awareness in our language and giving our Latin writers an online presence. Another big push for us is going to be participating in more shows globally and having more of a sync presence globally. With all the invigorating changes that are happening at Warner Chappell Music it’s a really great time to step in and establish that presence.
Can you talk us through some more recent syncs?
There’s one that just came out last week, it’s a TV promo for a new HBO series called Los Espookys and they selected Rubio, one of our artists out of Chile, to provide the music with their track ‘Hacia el Fondo’. The series looks hilarious… truly a bi-lingual and bi-cultural production for those of us who enjoy horror & goth comedy. Fred Armisen and Lorne Michaels are geniuses. Another really exciting spot that we just closed is for Puerto Rican telecommunications company Claro and features ‘X (Equis)’ which was the number one reggaeton song of last year. The majority of the composition is with Warner Chappell Music writers the Afro Brothers from the Netherlands, so we have a nice piece in that.