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Canela Music VP on Bringing Latin Music to the Mainstream

Continuing their series on what it takes to create meaningful products and strategies for Latino audiences, Canela Media founder and CEO, Isabel Rafferty, sat down with Canela Music VP Mario Torres, to discuss how they’re bringing a niche product to the mainstream – namely, Latin music. Mario Torres has 18+ years of experience in developing marketing strategies across major brands, music labels, and editorial platforms with a focus on the digital and TV Hispanic space. 

You can listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. The highlights of this episode are detailed below:

On Latin music crossing over to a global audience

Music, like any other product, has the potential to go from a niche market to a global audience. It helps to have a winning product that speaks to a wider audience, but the distribution of that product also plays a big role. 

“Ricky Martin took over at the Grammys. People called it a Latin music explosion back then, but there was no social media. It was hard for a movement to really stay and grow. If people stopped talking about it on TV, it became a moment that fizzled.

“‘Despacito’ came out at the right time, because YouTube was very popular. That song came in and took Latin music to the next level. All of a sudden, a large portion of the audience were not who you’d expect to be consuming Latin music. That trickles down to other artists.”

On making Canela Music stand apart

According to Mario, it’s a two-part equation to make Canela Music a market leader: product and content. The first part was designing and building a product that could create a better Latin music listening experience than existing platforms like YouTube or Spotify. Beyond that, it was delivering content that was compelling to their audience.

“In terms of original content, we’re giving artists who have not had the spotlight before a space to tell their story. Not just to talk about their music, but how they’ve impacted Latin music culture. It’s amazing. For emerging artists, we have the stories of how they came to be and what shaped them. In the 80s, it was different in the way you’d market yourself versus the artists now. I want to showcase that difference with our content.”

On creating a human experience in a world of algorithms

Existing music platforms do have algorithms to serve up music to its listeners, but that doesn’t necessarily account for the flow from song to song and what the audience wants in a given moment.

“Music has to be human. I'm creating an algorithm in the platform with music videos, because nothing like that exists right now. But it's all human. We are watching the music videos, we're tagging the music videos, we are understanding and learning where music videos are being shot, and who's being featured in the music video. All these things happen, but at a human level.”

On the biggest challenge in launching a new platform

For a platform like Canela Music, the challenge is in the content whether it’s existing content or original content.

“The catalog was the first challenge, because we were launching with seven music channels and 25 playlists. We launched with about 700-800 videos, now we're up to almost 5000. It's been a big focus not only to launch with a certain amount of content, but where do we go from here? And how do we get there? 

“The second challenge has been the original content. How can we create content that the audience will like, but also that stands out from other platforms? Finding that formula has been a little bit tricky, but with research and preparation comes the best result.”