The potential of Latin music and Latin artists to fully permeate the mainstream has received a resounding endorsement with the launch of Roc Nation Latino, a full-service Latin division within Roc Nation, with superstar Romeo Santos as its CEO.
Roc Nation Latin will focus on developing and cultivating Latin artists in all aspects of their careers, both in the U.S. and globally. Santos’ longtime manager, Johnny Marines, has been named president.
In addition, the deal, inked June 8 in Roc Nation’s New York offices, makes Santos an exclusive management client of Roc Nation, co-managed with Marines.
Santos’ current recording deal with Sony will not be affected.
For Santos, an artist who has long operated with a small team of people who are very close to him, the opportunity to manage and be managed was particularly enticing.
“I’m not taking for granted being managed by Roc Nation,” he told Billboard. “They have a lot of relations. They have a certain reach that I clearly could benefit from. And dealing with Jay Z, who is an artist himself, that’s great. I’ve always idolized Jay. We both come from the ‘hood, and he gets it. So that was definitely also fundamental. But I’m really excited about giving back. This is my way of giving back.”
On its end, Roc Nation has been eyeing the Latin market for a while. In March, the company signed reggaeton star Yandel for an exclusive management deal. But scoring Santos, the top-selling Latin artist of the past five years and a top touring act who sold out two Yankee Stadium shows, is a huge coup, more so considering how private Santos is about his business.
“This is a tremendous step for Roc Nation,” Jay Z said in a statement. “We recognize there is a huge Latin market that is part of global culture. We’re proud and ready to enter into true partnership with an individual that intimately lives and knows that culture.”
The conversation between Jay Z and Santos has been going for nearly four years. But when Santos was first approached, “I had a lot going on,” he said. “I’m not superstitious, but I think the time is now. When they came to us with the whole CEO proposal, I said, ‘This is a win-win situation.’ I always visualized myself in that position, and the way it was presented to me, I couldn’t say no.”
Santos, born and raised in the Bronx and fully bilingual, has long prided himself in the fact that he records predominantly in Spanish (he has never recorded an English-only track) and has achieved superstardom by singing an evolution of bachata, the traditional music of the Dominican Republic.
The strategy has made him Billboard’s Top Latin Artist in 2014 and 2015 and a global sensation who can sell out arenas from the U.S. to Argentina.
Santos’ philosophy is not slated to change, says Marines, but the Roc Nation association is meant to expand his range of action, specifically in areas like endorsements, where he’s been underrepresented.
“We think right now is the right time to partner with a company like Roc Nation that really has a lot of experience and really understands a guy like Romeo who is a superstar and resonates globally regardless of language,” says Marines.
Going beyond management and actually having the opportunity to lead an entire division was the cherry on the cake.
“This sends the message that Romeo and I, together with Roc Nation, are serious about helping the Latin music industry grow,” said Marines.
“I’m super hungry,” adds Santos. “I know what it takes to build a brand.”