Latin singer to ink $40 mil, multi-disc pact

Universal Music Group is on the verge of inking singer Enrique Iglesias to a multi-album recording pact worth nearly $40 million, barring any last minute complications.

The hefty price tag of the deal, which inks Iglesias to Universal Music outpost Interscope Records, makes it unusually rich and one typically reserved for more proven pop stars.

And while insiders caution it could go south at the last minute, the deal is certainly a bar-raiser for Latin music artists, especially those who are perceived as being able to crossover into pop superstardom. The deal is projected to be agreed to by dealmakers Friday.

It also signals the substantial level of commitment Universal Music Group has for the next phase of Iglesias’ career. Iglesias will record English language albums for Interscope and in Spanish for Universal Latin.

The discs will be backed by marketing and promotion expenditures reaching into the multimillions of dollars.

Bidding war ends

The deal ends the spirited, and frequently escalating, bidding war between Universal Music, Warner Music Group and BMG for the singer’s talents.

Iglesias was previously inked to Latin music stronghold Fonovisa, owned by Mexican conglom Televisa. His last disc for the label was “Cosas del Amor.”

The Interscope deal is particularly large considering Iglesias’ three previous Spanish-language albums have each sold more than 5 million units.

By comparison, the $70 million contract inking Janet Jackson to Virgin Records in 1996 followed her “janet” disc topping the 12 million-unit mark and a career tally at that point of more than 20 million albums.

R.E.M’s industry record $80 million deal inked with Warner Bros in 1996 was partly justified by the band’s track record of having sold more than 30 million units. The R.E.M deal also included an advance on sales of the band’s Warner album catalog.

The label needed to send a message to the music industry that it was business as usual despite a series of exec upheavals.

Latin music crescendo

But the Latin heartthrob is benefiting from the current Latin music explosion, led by Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Luis Miguel, and has a burgeoning pop crossover hit with “Baillamos,” which Universal insiders point to as a precursor of his pop success. The tune is already No. 1 in several foreign territories and is being added to Stateside radio playlists.

A new video for “Baillamos,” which appears on the Overbrook/Interscope Records soundtrack to the upcoming Warner Bros. film “Wild Wild West,” is being shot next week and directed by Paul Hunter, who helmed Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West” musicvid.

EMI Music Publishing recognized early the potential of Iglesias — who, unlike many Latin artists, writes songs — and inked the singer to a publishing pact more than a year ago.

Ironically, the conglom’s sister record labels passed on trying to ink the singer.

English album

Plans call for Iglesias, the son of Spanish singing star Julio Iglesias, to begin recording an English-language album soon, with a late 1999 or early 2000 release date.

He’ll perform Saturday at the KIIS-FM sponsored music festival Wango Tango, set for L.A. Dodger Stadium. He performed on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” Wednesday.

The deal is expected to be announced to label execs at a party honoring Iglesias on Saturday at the home of Interscope Music Group chief Jimmy Iovine.

The effort to land Iglesias was led by Iovine and Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris.

U’s Latin music interests have been championed by prexy/chief operating officer Zach Horowitz, who has orchestrated a number of deals with key creative talents in the genre.

None of the parties involved would comment.

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