“Competition is global. The Spotify global chart has become one of the most relevant metrics to track the development of a song.”
Luis Estrada is managing director of AfterCluv, Universal Music Latin America’s dance platform that includes a label and artist services, booking, brand partnerships, events and festivals.
He launched AfterCluv in 2015 as part of his role as general manager of Universal Music Latino, and has thus had a ringside seat for the recent evolution of dance culture – and the impact that the Spotify charts and streaming more generally have had.
“Producers are realising that they are no longer just competing with fellow DJs and dance music producers – they’re competing with Justin Bieber and Rihanna,” Estrada told Music Ally following his recent appearance at the ADE conference in Amsterdam.
In his role at UMG, Estrada has seen the growth of Spotify in particular in Latin America, where Mexico became its third biggest market in terms of volume earlier this year.
“Streaming is now the most popular way to consume music, and it has turned Latin America into a key market once again, as it was in the 90s. Mexico, Brazil and Spain are numbers three, five and nine respectively in Spotify, a fact which positions the region as key to the growth of any artist and any song,” said Estrada.
“The overall feeling with digital is positive, yet there’s a sentiment that things are growing very slowly; people would love to see a sudden explosion but unfortunately overnight success is rarely ever the outcome.”
The original intention behind AfterCluv was as a “two-way bridge” between Latin dance culture and the rest of the world. As it has grown, Estrada – like many peers in the dance-music world – has seen new genres and crossovers bloom.
“Artistically it’s the ultimate era of fusion in dance music. With dance music and pop music irrevocably intertwined, the cross-pollination of genres is stronger than ever before and the use of Caribbean and folk/ethnic sounds is more present than ever,” said Estrada.
“Everyone is more focused on songwriting, understanding that great production without great substance has no chance of competing in the global arena.”
Yet he also pointed out that as the border between electronic music and pop continues to fade, with mainstream music fans crossing over into the dance sphere, this in turn is fuelling a resurgence of the underground house and techno scenes, as purists seek a return to the basics.
“This is an evolution in every sense. Artistically, I see incredible fusions emerging – genres such as global bass – but also a lot of growth within the ‘underground’ dance music communities,” he said.
Estrada thinks that dance festivals will also evolve in response to these changes, and the demands of their audiences.
“Regardless of the many challenges promoters face, festivals are on the rise, in part because of international expansion to emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. This is unequivocally the biggest cultural phenomenon since rock and roll,” he said.
“The stigma dance music festivals had in relation to drug consumption will hopefully fade as more and more artists and event companies emphasise ‘clean’ consumption of dance music.”
Around all this, Estrada said he expects the industry to continue to experiment with visual content and “editorially snackable” information around the music and live events. He also has high hopes for new technology to have an impact.
“Definitely I think virtual reality will play a key role in entertainment and music consumption, as more artists and festivals incorporate artistic and multi-sensory components into their performances,” he said.
“One thing I don’t see changing: the search for the formula for a timeless song that wins over fans from across the musical spectrum. This Holy Grail quest will always be at the epicentre of the music industry, even as trends and patterns continue to change and evolve.”