Independently Minded, Globally Ambitious
#HowWeListen Live: In Conversation with Bruno Duque, Head of TuneCore Brazil & Latin America, was held virtually on July 27th, 2021. The event was presented in partnership with Small World Music who present Global Toronto a music showcase and conference. And Rio de Janeiro's business incubator, Instituto Genesis da P.U.C. - Rio and Música & Negósios, PUC or Pontifical Catholic University is one of the largest universities in Brazil.
Bruno joined us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Part I of II
In part I (below), Bruno talks about his journey into the music industry by way of the USA and then a return to Brazil and an introduction into the way the Brazilian music industry works and how it developed.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Marc: Bruno, welcome! How’s it going?
Bruno: Good, thank you so much!
Marc: I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff to talk about – firstly, when we spoke last week, I didn’t know anything about your background. How did you get started in music?
Bruno: I started in music about fifteen years ago here in Brazil. Long story short, I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and I had the opportunity to work at Sony Music in the Latin division for a year and a half / two years. I stayed there for a couple more years before I returned to Brazil to work in different parts of the music industry.
I was invited to join Tunecore last year to start strategic operations here in Brazil. Later, they extended it to all of Latin America which is an amazing opportunity to bring Tunecore to this part of the world – it’s an important asset for the music industry.
Marc: That Latin American change was only a couple months ago, right?
Bruno: Yes, we have been working behind the scenes for a couple months and officially launched Tunecore Latin America in March of 2021.
Marc: How did you end up deciding to go work in the US? Was it something you always wanted to do or was it a career move? How did the opportunity come up?
Bruno: The industry back in the day belonged to the United States. For example, the mainstream music media market was in the United States. If you talk more about the Latin division, it was more related to California and Florida, specifically Miami. But the entertainment industry in Los Angeles is huge and to develop my career, I thought LA would be the best place to come and spend a couple years.
Marc: Let’s talk a little bit about Tunecore. I’m assuming everybody will know that you need a company like Tunecore. Where was it founded and in what country?
Bruno: Tunecore was founded in New York originally in 2005 – we are completing fifteen years of operations. We are a global company but in the past year we have been expanding and opening offices in several countries all around the world.
Marc: Let’s assume I don’t know anything about Tunecore. Why can’t you just have one person who flips a switch in Brooklyn and the job is done?
Bruno: If you think of this in a more superficial way, just putting music on Spotify, it is kind of like that, but in the middle there is a lot of work to do and a lot of technology, that is why we needed a bigger team to develop this amazing company to work with you. Tunecore is one of the biggest distributors for DIY artists. We have several staff who can provide Tunecore artists with administration, licensing in several countries, mastering services, etc. We offer to put music into over 150 stores, in more than 100 countries, and the best part is we give 100% of the revenue directly back to the artists. We charge an upfront fee but pay 100% back to the artists.
Marc: Tell me about the journey, is the journey just about getting the music out or is that step one?
Bruno: Step one is the planning of putting an artist’s music online, on services, and DSPs (aka Streaming Music Services). It’s a mistake for the artist to put music onto a platform and not work out the marketing or development, or spreading awareness on social media platforms. We offer artists an easy way to put their music onto platforms and offer them a really good payment and revenues. We don’t keep a dime.
As part of the journey of placing music on services, there is a lot of work to do with the planning of the release, which is working the social media and marketing to get the awareness out to fans. It’s not just as simple as putting your music on a DSP, there is a lot of work to do. I think social media is one of the best windows for them to promote their music on.
Marc: Do you have any general advice on timelines?
Bruno: The behaviors are different and consumption of the fans is different for each country, especially in Latin America. In general, I see the expiration date of music has become really short. Digital has made it better for the life of the artist but the competition is much higher. A few years ago, major labels were running the market and could work an album or a single for six months. The expiration date for music is short today because of the digital market, I believe it’s around 20 days, or 30 days. Consistency of releasing on platforms is really important, especially for emerging artists. An example of this is the artist Russ, who is one of the biggest artists in the United States. He releases new music almost every week. His Spotify listeners are around 500 million, it’s amazing what he does.
Marc: Do you know how he came up with that idea, to release music every week? Did he plan it out? Who comes up with these ideas?
Bruno: It’s something related to behavior, the algorithm of the services is what started the idea that new music is important to fans. The idea of the services is to keep fans and subscribers listening to music everyday and every hour. One of the biggest things people don’t realize is that consistency when releasing music is so important. Boredom. My perception is that this is the behavior of the people who listen to music on streaming services.
Marc: Let’s start comparing a bit – do you think that most countries are the same with the strategy that you need to release new music frequently?
Bruno: Depending on the genre, sometimes. Rock bands usually release more albums than singles, and they don’t release a lot of music on a regular basis. But if you go into hip-hop or rap, you can see they release on a weekly or monthly basis. It’s the fans of the country and the genre, but mostly it’s the behavior of the listeners who are looking for music on streaming services.
Marc: Isn’t it harder to promote an album on streaming platforms?
Bruno: When you release an album, you can choose one song to pitch and if you are able to break the album into several singles, you can pitch every single every fifteen days or every month. It has more of a chance to be added to playlists. That’s why artists should release more singles than albums. It also depends on the strategy of the artist.
We have Anitta here in Latin America and she releases a lot of singles with different artists. She has this culture of featuring other artists which helps her break into different markets and different fan bases in different countries.
Marc: Tell me a bit about the way the Brazilian music industry works. What are the different characteristics of how it works in Brazil compared to other countries? Can you think of a couple key differences?
Bruno: In the past I would say it’s the language but as streaming is helping artists to break down walls between countries and continents, it’s the culture and how people consume their music. Basically in Brazil, the culture is really strong and diverse compared to some other countries in Latin America. If you go to the South of Brazil, you’re going to listen to specific songs in a specific genre that is stronger. If you go to the North East of Brazil, it’s a different genre. But, in general, when you talk about local music, it’s very diverse and rich here. I’m really excited to be part of this regionally diverse culture. Not only in Brazil but in Latin America with Tunecore as well.
Marc: All those different genres, they’re not equally as interested in streaming, are they? Is there still a lot of consumption via CD or radio? Or is it all digital?
Bruno: Before 2017, it was really hard to listen to Spanish songs on the radio. Sometimes you had the opportunity to listen to Shakira or some other mainstream/major label artist but after the boom in 2017, we started to hear a lot of great artists who were helping Latin music expand around the world. It’s an important part of the story here to know that it used to be impossible to listen to Spanish songs and today, lots of Spanish songs are being played on the radio. It’s really cool to be a part of that movement.
Marc: So radio is still very influential in Brazil?
Marc: How did it change? How can it just change like that? What do you think happened?
Bruno: The digital era of the music industry is not the future, it’s the present. In some way, it helped it understand the behavior of listeners, not only in Brazil but in other countries. If you go back to the beginning of the story of the world, humans migrated to other countries and that culture migrated with them. That’s why we have a huge colony of Latin singles in Florida and California. Lainto music is really strong in the United States. The digital era is really helping a lot of people discover music; the idea of being able to open an app on your phone and choose your music. Choosing your music is different from radio because with radio, you have to listen to what comes next. With digital, you have the ability to choose what you listen to and make a playlist; it’s your own radio station.
Marc: Are you saying that maybe before streaming, radio could do whatever they wanted because they set the agenda – but then after streaming, they started to realize that people in Brazil were listening to Spanish music? Before they were enforcing what they thought was right but then suddenly they realized Brazil is much more diverse and started bringing a lot more Spanish influence after feeling the need to reflect that on the radio?
Bruno: When we had the three major labels, Sony, Warner and Universal, their investment was focused towards radio and live shows. We didn’t have a digital application or website at the time so radio was the main place to spread music to fans in Brazil and other countries in terms of strategy. With digital, people can choose the music and it’s become a part of the strategy. Labels need to think about how they are going to put music on digital platforms and make sure listeners are able to hear the music they are releasing.
Digital arrived and helped the artists and the labels, but at the same time the competition is higher and they’ve had to figure out different strategies, different from the nineties, for the releases they are planning.
Marc: You were telling me about how there’s more Spanish music on the radio and hinted that most artists do collaborations. You were saying it’s quite common, from a language perspective, that Brazilian artists are pulling in other Spanish artists?
Bruno: In some ways, yes, but we have a lot of artists interacting in the collaboration culture. It’s helped artists move to other countries. I’ll give you an example; Anitta. She’s been doing a lot of collaborations with Spanish artists. She’s also done some with French and Italian artists – she’s smart to do these types of collaborations with these artists in different countries because she is able to get her music listened to in other countries. Years ago it was impossible for an artist to be in the top ten Billboard in Italy and France or Germany, but this culture of collaboration is helping a lot of artists to spread their music and bring in more fans from other countries.
Marc: Let’s use Anitta as an example. The dominant language in Brazil is Portuguese. I’m assuming she sings in Portuguese?
Bruno: No, she sings in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, she’s a specific case here in Brazil.
Marc: What did she start singing in?
Bruno: She started singing in Portuguese, specifically Brazilian funk, but she was very smart and openly tried to do more collaborations with Latin artists, not just mainstream but the independent/lower scene of the market. It was a success, she’s become an amazing artist.
Marc: Do most people in Brazil start by singing in Portuguese or do they start by singing in English?
Bruno: Brazil is an important country for the industry and Latin Americans, in general, started to learn English because of covers and the influence of radio playing a lot of English speaking music. They wanted to know what was being said and so they could sing in English as well.
Marc: California and Florida are two different regions that have two different influences from South America. For people who don’t know, can you explain the difference between Florida and California in terms of what they are like culturally?
Bruno: Florida has a lot more influence from the Caribbean and Brazilian music scenes, and California has a lot more influence from the Mexican music scene. It’s because of a big migration a few years ago, and the culture moving with them. They have a lot of people from Cuba in Florida and a lot of people from Mexico in California and so those two different cultures developed in each of those places.
Want to read more? Head to Part II here.