In 2017, Spanish song “Despacito”. It’s currently the most viewed video on Vevo, reaching nearly five billion views. “I had no idea it would become a worldwide phenomenon,” singer Luis Fonsi said of the surprise hit.
But “” is part of a much larger picture — a movement of Reggaeton beats known for their fusion of reggae and Latin rhythms. The genre is nothing new, but a new wave of artists is reaching outside of their usual fan base and changing the musical landscape on a global level.
“In 2016, there were five Spanish songs on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2017, there were 19. That’s unprecedented,” Leila Cobo, Billboard’s Executive Director of Latin Content, told CBS News.
The names of artists like Fonsi, Nicky Jam, Maluma, J Balvin, and CNCO may not sound familiar, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard their music recently. Artists like Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Post Malone and Cardi B are just a few of the mainstream U.S. performers collaborating with them.
You might not even realize when you’re listening to a song with Reggaeton’s influence. “Even on‘s ‘Shape of You,’ I hear Reggaeton,” Cobo said.
But what peaked this recent rise in interest in Reggaeton? The legalization of streaming is partially responsible, which swayed the success of a song from the record label into the hands of the fans.
“I don’t think that phenomena could have happened without streaming,” Cobo said. “Streaming raised the awareness that this was happening and it has become the new revenue driver.”
Gustavo Lopez, a former senior executive at Universal, agrees that platforms like YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music have transformed the meaning of success in the music industry.
“has become the most powerful source of artist development, music exploitation, and even now monetization. We began to identify artists that were being viewed more than artists that were on the Billboard charts,” Lopez said.
And this new generation of Latin artists has billions of views to go around. They came of age when the streaming model was turning the music world upside down, forcing industry titans to rethink how to turn a profit. Album sales slumped, and record labels closed.
So performers got creative. They cultivated authentic relationships with their fans on social media, YouTube, and eventually Spotify to give them free access to music.
“All these artists break out of this [model],” Lopez said. “You see someone like Nicky Jam, he has 20 million Instagram followers.”
Perhaps no more than anyone, Nicky Jam knows how important those followers are. He’s one of today’s hottest Reggaeton artists, first appearing on the scene over two decades ago with another pioneer, Daddy Yankee. But he fell into drug use, and lost everything he’d built. When he got clean and made his comeback in Colombia, he did it by rebuilding his base online.
Read more and see photos, here.