Hitmaker of the Month: How Geffen’s Neil Jacobson Took ‘Taki Taki’ to the Finish Line

Presented by BMI

DJ Snake’s bilingual banger, “Taki, Taki,” is the latest reggaeton track to become a bona fide pop hit thanks to an alignment of stars (Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B) and the guidance of Geffen Records president Neil Jacobson.

“There’s somewhat of an inexact science to making collaborative records like this,” says Jacobson, the veteran A&R exec who took over as head of the label in 2017. “Once Ozuna was on the record, we all started doing our outreach to figure out the right next person to put on it. A guy named Dizzy whose on Snake’s team had a chat with Cardi B, while somewhat simultaneously we had a conversation with Selena Gomez, who’s on our label. John Janick, the CEO of Interscope, heard the rough [mix] of Ozuna, went crazy and brought it to her. So in about a three-month window of bouncing back and forth — you know, one person hearing another person was going to be on it — it all finally came together.”

Cowritten with Jordan Thorpe (aka Pardison Fontaine), Ava Brignol, Vincente Saavedra, and Juan G. Rivera Vasquez,  “Taki, Taki” is also the first pure Interscope release to go to No. 1 at Latin rhythmic and pop formats, and it achieved multi-format success without assistance from Universal’s Latin arm. “We saw it as an exercise — that Geffen, in this case, wanted to go though the exercise of taking it as far as we could ourselves. And lo and behold, we were able to crush our Latin radio plot, which was no small feat.” (Especially considering that Snake, who is French, doesn’t speak Spanish — though he claims the biggest split of the song, with 26.8 percent of the publishing.)

Adds Nino Cuccinello, Interscope’s head of rhythmic/crossover promotion who handled the radio push: “We started with morning shows in Los Angeles and New York. We reached out to DJs and tried to get tastemakers on the Latin side that we had met over the years and continued to build that story — and with the firepower on the song, once we got it to radio they were receptive. What’s amazing is when we serviced the record to Latin radio, it started at the majors in Los Angeles and New York and that really helped the profile of the song. From there it really trickled down from the major markets to the smaller markets.”

The bigger picture is that Latin music no longer has to be in English in order to cross over, and moving forward we’re likely to see more than just one “Despacito”-style smash per year. “Listen, I believe that we are at the foot of a Latin music revolution, and I could not be more personally excited about it or invested in it,” says Jacobson (pictured below), who also gives credit to Snake’s manager Amy Thomson “for getting it across the finish line by making the hundreds of phone calls necessary to get all of the deals worked out. It was honestly a team effort — it’s like a symphony when you’re dealing with four of the biggest artists on earth.”

neil jacobson
CREDIT: Courtesy of Geffen Records

But why has it taken so long for big bilingual songs to break? “That has to do with the info-tech revolution that is happening, where streaming is connecting the world in a new way,” he says. “The streaming landscape has shined a light on so many parts of the world, and their music consumption habits weren’t front and center before in the old music business. We are all starting to see it differently and realize how much of the world speaks Spanish. So to have an entire market that has been opened up that we can all collaborate with — and that moves the needle in streaming — it’s remarkable. And it’s a revolution.”

The revolution may not be televised, but at least it’s on YouTube, where the video went to number one globally and at press time totaled 943,073,949 views (watch it below). As for audio, according to BuzzAngle Music, the song racked up more than 49 million streams by the end of 2018 and another 8 million so far this year.

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