Alex Gallardo: Using Passion to Expand Latin Music
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Growing up in Spain, Alex Gallardo was in a band with his friends and wrote songs. But he never dreamed that his enthusiasm for writing and performing music would eventually lead him to becoming president of Sony Music Latin.
Gallardo recently joined City National Bank's CEO Kelly Coffey for a conversation about his decades of experience, changes in the music business and the rapid growth of Latin music in the U.S. and worldwide.
Making Business Out of Music
Despite being interested in the arts, Gallardo took his parents' recommendation and studied business in college. However, he did not give up on his dreams — Gallardo realized he could combine his education with his passion by working at a record label.
Gallardo's mother , a teacher at a secretarial school in Spain, was the catalyst for his entrance into the music world when she told him about a receptionist position with Warner Music. He jumped at the chance to get his foot in the music industry's door.
Streaming Into the Future
Gallardo's role as president of Sony Music Latin builds on his experience in artists and repertoire (A&R), the division of a record label that scouts and develops talent. He's also developed expertise in finance, HR, sales and more.
He credits his willingness to learn as part of his success in the music industry.
“The best thing is to have a 360-degree view of this business and to be able to make an impact," Gallardo said. “Now I have more leverage over decisions."
Latin music has always been exciting, but it has recently reached new heights. The industry has experienced double-digit growth over the past six years, which Gallardo attributes to the convenience of streaming platforms.
Instead of needing to navigate gatekeepers to expose people to great Latin artists, anyone can find a musician — and their entire catalog — with a few quick taps on their phone. From there, social media serves as an explosive catalyst for people to share a newly discovered artist with others., no matter where they are from or what language they use.
While collaboration has always been important for music creation, artists now use it to take advantage of music streaming. Each collaboration enables an artist to reach an entirely new set of fans.
“Latin musicians started doing something very smart, which was to collaborate with each other," Gallardo said. “Each brings their own fan base, so when you have three or four artists on one song that helps a lot with the growth."
Another change is that people don't see language as a barrier anymore, Gallardo said. Growing up in Spain, Gallardo listened to music from the U.K. and the U.S. even before he could speak English because he liked the melody and the energy of the songs.
Today, he believes more people are open to listening to songs in Spanish because they have an emotional connection to it even if they can't completely understand the words.
"You don't need to understand everything to connect with it, to vibrate with it," Gallardo said.
Building on the Work of Latin Giants
Latin music currently represents more than 7% of the U.S. music market, but Gallardo anticipates getting to 10% to 12% in the near future. Despite its rapid recent growth, Gallardo is quick to point out that Latin music has been gaining traction for years. Artists that extended the reach of Latin music such as Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony paved the way for the industry's current growth.
Gallardo constantly searches for the next great artists and nurtures their careers, including the phenomenal success of Rauw Alejandro and his #3 Billboard hit “Todo De Ti" in 2021.
The great success of that song came in part simply because “it's an amazing song," Gallardo said. In addition, Alejandro's song stepped closer to a retro 80s pop song and away from reggaeton, which in recent years has been the style of the Latin music that has dominated music charts, Gallardo said.
“It helped to change the status quo and now we're hearing more Latin music with different influences and genres besides reggaeton," Gallardo said.
Multiple Paths to Success for Latin Musicians
Today, Latin artists aren't only focusing on music. Many of them are also using video streaming platforms as a creative outlet. Now, album releases from Sony Music Latin include documentaries, long-form videos and mini-series.
“The way we see ourselves is like a complement to the artist to develop their dreams and goals, not only a music release," Gallardo said. "In the year 2023, record labels need to ask themselves, 'Why does an artist need me?'"
For Gallardo, answering this question includes helping an artist find multiple revenue streams from branding, merchandising, sponsorships as well as other business ventures.
"We need to add value to the artist," Gallardo added. "Adding value, of course, is being the best partner."
City National Bank's Latin Entertainment Division specializes in support for Latin artists, so Coffey asked Gallardo about trends in Latin music that the bank should be aware of to enhance their understanding of the business.
The variety of music styles beyond reggaeton is one trend, Gallardo said, but another difference is that younger generations of immigrants and Latin musicians are proud of their heritage. Instead of putting their roots behind them, they often reconnect with the music of their parents and grandparents, he said.
"We have some artists on the label who talk to you in English because it's their native language. But when they write songs, they write them in Spanish because it comes out naturally for them," Gallardo added. "I think it's fantastic because no one has to be afraid or ashamed of their roots."
Don't miss the rest of the conversation between Alex Gallardo and Kelly Coffey. You can learn more by listening to the entire podcast above.
This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.
This podcast is for general information and education only and is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank. It is compiled from data and sources believed to be reliable, however City National Bank does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates given are those of the speaker as of the date of the podcast with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change.