U beefs up Latin music arm

Signaling a significant push into the Latin music marketplace, Universal Latin America has inked a joint- venture pact with top record producer Gustavo Santoalalla to launch Surco Records. The pact comes on the heels of the Universal Music Group arm bowing outposts in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.

Santoalalla, who is considered by many in the industry to be one of the genre’s premier talent developers, will be charged with feeding Universal’s foray into the Latin music industry through artist signings and producing acts.

Santoalalla, a former recording artist, has also been serving as a consultant to the conglom and helping to shape its Latin music push.

In addition to being a magnet for talent, Santoalalla will also work closely with Universal Latin prexy Jesus Lopez.

The first release from Surco, which loosely translated means record grooves but refers to the rows planted by farmers for plant seedlings, will be controversial rock group Molotov.

The band’s notoriety comes from its lyrical attacks on Mexico’s ruling party and its controversial album cover art, which has recently been banned in several retail chains due to its racy depiction of a teenage student.

A darling of MTV Latino, Molotov has also developed a Stateside following, and its tracks can frequently be heard on college radio.

The band is also featured on the Geffen Records soundtrack to the Fox Searchlight pic “Star Maps.”

Universal now joins the list of the big six music congloms enhancing their Latin music operations.

Lopez, a former managing director of BMG Mexico, has already been instrumental in landing a number of key pacts with Latin music providers, such as Melody and Discos Rocio, which give the new arm a running start by having catalog releases to distribute to supplement its raft of current repertoire.

“The timing is right for us to be involved in Latin music,” Lopez told Daily Variety. “Latin America is exploding as a (marketplace) and as a result of the growing international audience for all types of Latin music. There is also a tremendous audience in the United States which we will reach (through Surco’s) album releases and other strategic partnerships.”

Right man for job

Universal Music Group prexy Zach Horowitz, who is leading the conglom’s charge into the genre, said the move into Latin music was dependent upon “finding the right executive to maximize our efforts, which we have done with Jesus,” and “establishing a network to distribute the product.” Universal will also launch outposts in Colombia and Chile at the end of this year.

The music industry as a whole has been beefing up its Latin music presence in the past two years after recognizing the buying power of Hispanic consumers and now Anglo consumers, who’ve been discovering the music and its many subgenres such as Tejano and rock en espanol. “Music transcends all borders and languages and Surco will give me an opportunity to continue to develop and work with artists with global appeal,” said Santoalalla, whose credits also include producing with partner Anibal Kerpel the critically acclaimed rock en espanol band Maldita Vecindad. The band’s “El Circo” disc is the genre’s bestseller in Mexico.

Santoalalla has also worked the boards on such genre heavies as Cafe Tacuba, Caifanes and Divididos, among others.

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