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Authenticity is key: What we learned at the Power of Music

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Music is a language without barriers, an instinct. Its power is multilayered, but its purpose, ultimately is to make us feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Last Thursday, March 22nd, Bridges Unite, in partnership with Viacom, hosted its Power of Music panel with the purpose of learning about women in the music industry, and what goes on behind the spotlight. Latin Grammy nominee Sofia Reyes, Viacom VP of Programming Natalia Juliäo, and VP of Talent & Music Marc Zimet, spoke about the current Latin music explosion around the world, the importance of artist’s involvement in the community and more.

Here are our main takeaways from the panel!

The Latin Explosion

“We always believed that we [Latin artists] were going to get our time,” said Sofia Reyes when our panel kicked-off.

In the last couple of years, the momentum for Latin music has risen exponentially, not only because of how its reaching the world but also because of unlikely collaborations with non-Spanish speaking artists, some of which include Beyoncé, Jason Derulo, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato.

“Old school thought was, if I’m a Latin singer and I want to break into other countries I have to learn English or change the sound of my music to mean something,” said Marc Zimet.

Full house! [Photo by Majo Grossi]

What the Latin explosion proves is that, like Sofia says, “music has no rules.” The ability of music to go beyond such culturally ingrained barriers such as language, is an indication of a world that is constantly changing. In the end, music often reflects the social nuances of a specific time and space; what is relevant and what is not.

Today, like Natalia Juliäo said, “audiences are more connected, more global. They don’t think in their own country anymore.”

More than the Music

In the age of technology, the music industry has undergone some of the most drastic changes. Today, artists don’t depend as much as they used to on record labels and connections within the industry.

“Is there teams that look through YouTube for that next person?” asked Azul Girola, part of our younger generation of ambassadors. The answer is yes, although per Marc that’s not the only thing their job entails. Still, artists can now take their chances into their own hands, they don’t necessarily need someone else to expose them, and many of them come into stardom with an already built fan base. For young girls like Azul, aspiring musicians and artists, watching someone else get recognized through these platforms makes the dream more approachable.

But platforms like YouTube, Spotify and Instagram have not only opened the doors to new artists looking to expose their art, they have also changed what it means to be a musician today, as well as how we listen to music.

“Nowadays when you produce something and you want to assume its successful, you not only recognize ratings. Engagement is a big part of it,” said Natalia Juliäo. “When we look at an artist we want to know who they are as a person, how they relate to society, how they feel about women, about the hungry, how they connect to their fans.”

Today, interaction between artists and their fans extends beyond concerts and music. It’s about establishing a daily connection so that people feel close to the artists they love.

Sofia Reyes [Photo by Majo Grossi]

“People connect with artists. They want to know what you do every single day, because were all human, we’re not always on stage” said Sofia Reyes. “It’s cool that you can tell them what you’re doing and they feel that they’re there with you. You couldn’t do that before.”

In this way, social media platforms have turned the music industry, and the entertainment business, into a multi-dynamic product that is more than itself. “Because people are looking at

their phones the entire day, there is something about connection that is important. People want to be a part of something,” said Natalia Juliäo. For example, she explained that audiences still want to watch the live premiere of a show or a new music video because they want to talk about it, and be part of the conversation.

Authenticity is key

“It has to be authentic, it has to be real, I think that’s the number one rule. Because everything is so fake nowadays,” said Natalia Juliäo.

When it comes to grasping people’s attention in a world where attention spans are short and the quantity of messages we are exposed to daily continues to increase, the music industry, like many other industries, looks towards authenticity when supporting an artist.

“Don’t be boring,” says Marc Zimet. “If your content is not interesting or exciting in any way you’re already losing.”

Sofia Reyes’ authenticity lies in the creation of bilingual music- mixing Spanish and English in her songs- something seldom seen in music before. But it’s also Sofia Reyes the brand, a lifestyle curated through all her platforms that represents who she is, and which she, unlike many artists, has full control of.

Potential for Change

With their ability to reach audiences with more than their music, artists are increasingly seizing the opportunity that these platforms give them to talk about issues that are relevant today. Although many don’t shy away from sharing their opinions (on politics, social causes, the environment, etc.), other prefer to keep quiet about their standpoint.

This is where, together, the artist, the technology, and the music (in this case), become key players in defining the outcome of social movements.

“What I would like to see is more musicians, more artists having a voice. I feel like they’re afraid to, Marc Zimet said. “Nobody wants to affect half of the fan base, but I would like to see music reclaim a bit of that power that it had in the late 60s and 70s, during the Vietnam war and other moments of great social change.”

The truth is, we are living through a social revolution, like those Marc spoke about. And taking a stance is unavoidable. Especially when you have the power of 800K follower’s eyes on you.

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