Independent in Music, 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 II of II
Miss part I? Click here to read.
In part II (below), Bruno talks about the development of Brazil as a cultural phenomenon, how digital played a part and crossing over into the Spanish and English speaking worlds. He also talks about distribution, an increase in musical subgenres and paying for your streaming service on your phone bill.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Marc: If I’m a Brazilian artist, and I’m getting a bit of radio in Brazil, and I sing in Portuguese – what would I do as a new Brazilian artist to get noticed in other countries? Is that possible or is there a language barrier?
Bruno: The first step is to not think outside of your market because for a Brazilian to be successful, you need to be a successful artist in your country. This is one of the most important and difficult steps in their career, to develop their music and career inside of their own country. It’s possible to be imported into Mexico if you didn’t have a fanbase in Brazil, that could help spread your music to other countries. Brazilian artists need to first think of Brazil and then go to other countries. The digital era, streaming services, digital media, really helps artists distribute their music to other countries. It’s important to understand where people are listening to their music. Where they can invest their money for your next release. The first step is to be successful in your own country, build your fanbase, and then think about spreading your music into other countries.
Marc: There was this idea of there only being one route forward and that if it didn’t work out, then you thought it would never work. Now, there’s so many ways to do things. Basically what you’re saying is, it doesn’t make sense to jump over all the steps. Even though there’s so many routes forward now, you still need to take these steps to do things properly.
Bruno: If you have the money, the skys the limit.
Marc: Who has money in the music business? (laughs)
Bruno: Back in the nineties, the major labels ruled the markets and had the majority of the money. If they wanted artists to be successful in Columbia, they had to invest a lot of money.
As an example, Brazil and Portugal, because they speak the same language with different accents, we see a lot of Brazilian bands gain success in Portugal. The consumption of Portuguese music from Brazil is very interesting, but you just don’t see a lot of Brazilians consuming a lot of Portuguese music. You can listen to more Spanish and English music on the radios in Brazil than music from Portugal.
Marc: Why is that? Would it be naive to think that because it’s the same language, what’s the difference? You must discuss that!
Bruno: It’s the behavior of the people listening to the music. A few years ago, Portugal was a really important market to the English industry. Today in Brazil, Spanish and Brazilian music is really important. American and English music is still an important asset to the industry but the Latin market is also really important. I don’t think it’s specific to invest in a genre and language in a specific country.
Marc: A couple of people have been making comments (in the Zoom chat) while you’ve been speaking and someone said that there are Brazilian TV series in Portugal and more people in Brazil, so it would make sense that there’s more culture creation. Maybe that’s part of it? Not that it’s just a music thing, there’s just more access to Portuguese language culture in Brazil going over to Portugal.
Bruno: Brazilian soap operas, Brazilian TV series, they are very successful in other countries, not just specifically Portugal, but a lot of countries in Latin America and in Europe as well. There’s a TV network here called Global, which is one of the largest networks in the world, and their soap operas and series here are really popular. They export these to other countries in Europe and Latin America as well. It’s related more to a promotional product; music, TV shows, and movies all go together in a commercial selling perspective.
Marc: Someone mentioned that Brazilians mainly consume music from Brazilian artists, about 80%. Is that about right?
Bruno: Yes, Brazilians are very local for their music. We have Sertanejo, like Brazilian country music, Brazilian funk has always been really important and now we have the North East of Brazil which I like to think is a different music market because it is really original, similar to Mexican regional music. If you think in general terms, then yes, Brazilians consume much more Brazilian music than other languages.
Marc: Say I come from somewhere in Europe or Canada, how would I make an impact in Brazil? Is that possible?
Bruno: We have a specific case with an artist from France that was making music listed in a really big playlist on Spotify. For some reason, he’s started to get a lot of Brazilian fans.
Marc: What language does this person sing in?
Bruno: He sings in French and English. Maybe English helps a lot but it’s really important to understand the playlist, how important playlists are and how we can work with playlists in other countries as well. The French artist that was on a Brazilian playlist and had a lot of Brazilian listeners, he reached out to me a couple months ago and asked ‘Bruno, I’m thinking about doing a tour in Brazil. Can you help me with this?’ and I told him ‘Let’s do it! I’ll connect you with a local talent agent…’
This is a really good case to understand how digital works, specifically in terms of playlists.
Marc: You mentioned before we started the interview that it’s common for the locals in Brazil to pay for music on their phone bill.
Bruno: Well, there’s one streaming platform in Brazil called Claro Musica owned by the Telco group. Credit Card subscriptions in Latin America are really low and almost all the subscription services are based around credit cards, even though they offer other payment methods. But what Claro Música did was take advantage of being part of Telco and offer to let you pay for your subscription through your phone bill. Credit card penetration in Brazil is very low and people were not getting many streaming subscription services like Spotify, Deezer, even Netflix or Amazon, whatever, you could only pay with a credit card. Many services were originally charging in US dollars and the economic situation in Latin America for the past few years has not been stable. So Claro Música took advantage of being a part of Telco, which is huge, because a lot of people in Latin America have mobile phones. So people could pay for the service as part of their phone bill. A really original platform.
Marc: How do most people pay for Spotify or Apple Music? Are they mostly just people who have a credit card?
Bruno: Yes, Spotify and Deezer had a partner called EBANX which is a payment solution in Latin America. They started dealing with them a few years ago. They provide every type of payment. Now it’s easier for Spotify to get subscribers in Brazil and Latin America. If you want to reach the lower tier of the population, you need to provide local and alternative payments so it can be successful in bringing subscribers to the service, and that has started to happen.
Marc: The mobile phones service, is it the largest streaming service in Brazil or what would that be?
Bruno: Brazil, it’s Spotify and Amazon for paid services. But if you need a free one, we use YouTube.
Marc: Is YouTube gigantic in Brazil? Is that the dominant way for people to listen to music digitally?
Bruno: Yes. A lot of people still listen to music on YouTube because it’s free, even though they don’t watch the videos, they just put the music on. So it comes down to the behavior, the culture of the country, the economic situation of the consumer and fans.
Marc: Whatsapp and music, I keep hearing people connecting the two. Is Whatsapp the biggest messaging platform in Brazil/South America?
Bruno: Yes. It’s the biggest one, not just for personal use but for commercial use. A lot of e-commerce use Whatsapp for customer care but it’s closely connected to music as well. People still trade music on Whatsapp but not as much as in the past years.
Marc: Like mp3s?
Bruno: Mostly mp3s. Even though the piracy in Brazil is not as bad as when we had Napster, I think people are still trading music through Whatsapp. It’s not something that we worry about, even me, because it’s not moving too much of the market. There’s so many services providing affordable good quality music. It’s not relative.
Marc: Did you say that rock music is the most popular genre in music in Mexico?
Bruno: Officially yes, but that is because “Mexican regional music” is not an official genre yet.
Marc: What’s Mexican regional?
Bruno: It’s really something related to the local culture in Mexico. For example, in Brazil it’s specific to North Eastern Brazil, which is a totally different market. It was really difficult for the streaming services to get into the North East of Brazil, so a unique culture developed. Mexican regional is local music from Mexico. One band I like is Somos 3.
Marc: Metal is also really big in Mexico.
Bruno: Yes, and in Peru and Argentina as well, the metal scene is really important. In Argentina now we have Cumbia Pop, a subgenre of cumbia that has its origins in Argentina, based on the phenomenon known as “Movida Tropical” or Cumbia Argentina. Artists like Rombai, Marama, Heartphones
With this boom of the Latin music market, we got a lot of sub genres related to Cumbia and Reggaeton developed in local communities which are getting a lot of success because of the streaming services. It is really important to the local market
Marc: Final thoughts – when you think of Latin America, it sounds way more diverse and nuanced regionally than it is in North America or Europe. Is that the case?
Bruno: Especially in the digital era, it’s moving too fast. The communities are able to transform the music so quickly. When people migrate to specific regions, the culture migrates with them and it’s one of the most important reasons why communities in places like Florida or California have a specific genre preference of music. It’s been a way for us to spread our Latin music to the world.
Marc: Okay, well, Bruno, thanks so much. And thanks, everyone for coming.