In today’s borderless music business, a label still needs territorial expertise to make a go of an international act. John Janick, head of Interscope Geffen A&M (IGA) since 2012, has long realized that with a roster full of superstars under his purview — among them: Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish and Imagine Dragons — who can sell out an arena in Boston as easily as they can in Berlin.
But as he looked to the likes of Selena Gomez, who released her first Spanish-language EP “Revelacion” earlier this year, and Kali Uchis, whose “Telepatia” currently sits at No.1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, he saw artists crossing over to a booming non-English market within which Interscope didn’t have the institutional pedigree.
Enter: Nir Seroussi. The veteran executive vet had just left Sony Music Latin after 15 years, most recently serving as president, and as these things often go in the biz: right place, right time.
“It just came by chance that Nir left his previous job,” says Janick, who was looking to build a team that could provide Latin artists signed under Interscope — among them: Dekko, Dimelo Flow, Juhn, Lele Pons, KHEA, KEVVO and Nobeat — the development opportunities that the label’s general market artists have. “We try to look at everything as global at Interscope, and what we do is not put artists in any type of box or one territory or genre of music.”
For Seroussi, who was looking for his next move to involve the integration of a Latin-focused team within a mass market music company, Janick’s call couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I had been fantasizing about being able to work Latin from a U.S. label for a while, because historically, the two were separate,” says Seroussi.
Sony, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group each have Latin labels or divisions with their own staffs focused primarily on music aimed at Spanish-speaking markets. But it’s become increasingly impossible to silo a sound impacting territories the world over, regardless of language fluency.
To put a number on it, a 2020 report by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) estimated that Latin music accounted for 5.4% of the total $12.2 billion U.S. recorded music revenues. That’s a 19% growth from the previous year and the equivalent of $655 million in retail value. Artists driving massive audio and video streaming numbers included J Balvin and Karol G, both with Universal Latin, and Bad Bunny, who’s signed to Rimas Entertainment.
“We resisted calling ourselves Interscope Latin, because by adding it, you’re almost setting this unspoken ceiling, and we want artists and the team to feel like there is no subgroup,” Seroussi adds. “If you’re signed to Interscope, you share the same label as Lady Gaga, Maroon 5 and everybody else.”
So they went with “Interscope Miami,” opening offices in Coral Gables with Seroussi as executive vice president. The team also includes Jose Cedeno, svp overseeing strategy and revenue, and Jorge Fonseca, svp of A&R, both also formerly with Sony Music Latin.
With Interscope under the UMG umbrella, and also aligned with Universal Music Latin Entertainment (UMLE), artists have a multitude of options. Says Janick: “You have Interscope L.A. and Interscope Miami working hand-in-hand as one, and then you have UMLE pushing it out in the Latin territories as well as Universal as a whole pushing it out around the world in every territory.”
Colombian-American artist Kali Uchis, whose first Spanish-language album, “Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios),” was released by Interscope in Nov. 2020, is among the early success stories.
Previously signed to a now-defunct international imprint, Uchis says she was discouraged from exploring a Spanish album: “I was told, ‘You’re on your own.’”
And now that “Sin Miedo” has moved some 165,000 album equivalent units, according to Alpha Media, and topped the Latin album chart, is it a case of “told you so?” “I’m still in shock and processing it,” Uchis says. “I felt like I owed it to myself, to my people and where I come from.”
Similarly, Lighthouse Management’s Zack Morgenroth says Gomez, as a member of the Latinx community, wanted to “pay tribute to her heritage” with “Revelacion” and the team looked to Interscope Miami for a “cohesive” plan for the project. “They’re specialists in what they do,” adds Morgenroth. “Having Interscope Miami gave us the confidence to know that this could be executed, not in a bifurcated way. Rather, everyone could be a part of helping her accomplish her vision and still be additive and bring something different thing to the table.”