It was just five years ago that “Despacito” went to number one in the US and stayed there for another 15 weeks, making history. It is only the third predominantly Spanish-language song ever to top the Hot 100, the other two being “La Bamba” in 1987 and “Macarena” in 1996. “Despacito” became the most watched YouTube video of all time (with nearly 8 billion views today) and sparked a cultural revolution that subsequently broke down barriers of genre, language, and nationality.
A wave has been set in motion that has seen Latin music go from strength to strength globally, producing more and more global stars and, of course, generating huge sums of money. In the United States alone, it is expected that recordings of Latin artists will generate more than a billion dollars in revenue by 2022. According to figures released last month by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Latin music generated $886.1 million on a retail basis in the US in 2021. That $886.1 million in U.S. revenue is up more than a third, or 35.4%, from Latin music’s revenue in the previous year. This annual revenue only needs to grow by 12.9% (+$114 million) in 2022 to reach the magic $1 billion mark. Considering that Latin music revenues in the US grew by 19.6% year-on-year in 2020 and 28.5% in 2019, it will almost certainly break the $1 billion mark in 2022. Otherwise, Latin music’s $886 million in revenue in 2021 represented a 5.91% market share of the total US music market.
Over the past decade, many mainstream pop musicians such as Ed Sheeran, Sia, and Major Lazer have used Latin beats as a foundation, generating hits such as “Shape Of You”, “Cheap Thrills”, and “Cold Water”. Subgenres like tropical house and of course dancehall defined two classic albums in the mid-2010s, Rihanna’s ANTI and Justin Bieber’s Purpose. Let’s not forget that it was Bieber whose English remix of Despacito finally gave the music a global spotlight and became the highest-grossing hit of the summer in 2017. Combining reggaeton, Latin music, and hip-hop, the genre has entered contemporary pop music with great success. Today, eight of the top ten most viewed music videos on YouTube feature Spanish artists. Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello have embraced their Spanish roots in their latest projects, but we can also mention Cardi B’s mega-hit “I Like It” with Bad Bunny and J Balvin.
The waning of Covid-19 is yet another boost for Latin music, with people finally wanting to travel, dance, and party, a feeling they don’t want to lose anytime soon. With their infectious grooves, positive energy ,and natural-sounding beats, Latin artists are steadily moving into the spotlight they deserve.