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History: BMI and Latin Music

BMI Has a Rich History in Latin Music

BMI was founded in 1939 as a non-profit-making organization to open the door to performing rights representation for songwriters and composers of all types of music, many of whom were not eligible under the membership guidelines of the other American performing rights societies of the time. BMI offered first-time representation to songwriters of blues, jazz, R&B, gospel, folk, country, concert, Spanish-language, and other types of American music. The organization also later made reciprocal agreements with sister performing rights organizations around the world.

Members of foreign performing rights societies such as SACM (Mexico), SADAIC (Argentina), SACVEN (Venezuela) and SGAE (Spain) can select BMI for representation in the United States. BMI’s roster includes hit songs by such foreign-affiliated artist/writers as Rosalía, Horacio Palencia, Chino y Nacho and Cazzu, to name just a few.

BMI has represented Latin composers, publishers and compositions since its earliest days, including classic popular songs from the 1940s like “Tico Tico” and “Besame Mucho,” to “Guantanamera,” popularized in 1967 by the “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz. Spanish music is diverse and comes in many different styles. Reflecting that musical diversity, the BMI catalog spans numerous genres from Tejano, Latin pop, reggaetón, regional Mexican, bachata, norteño, ranchera, merengue and tango, among others.

Currently, BMI represents hit compositions by various Latin artists including Shakira, Luis Fonsi, Los Tucanes de Tijuana and J Balvin, who took home the coveted BMI Contemporary Latin Songwriter of the Year award in 2018. Among other decorated BMI songwriters are reggaetón hitmakers Ozuna and Gaby Music, winners of the BMI Latin Contemporary Songwriter of the Year award in 2019 and 2020, respectively; and 2020 Regional Mexican Songwriter of the Year, Geovani Cabrera, who have collectively penned groundbreaking hits like “A Través Del Vaso,” “Sin Pijama,” and “Taki Taki,” which has now surpassed two billion views on YouTube. Breaking a Spanish-language song record is the 2017 massive hit by Luis Fonsi, “Despacito,” which spent 16 straight weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the longest-running Spanish-language hit of all time. Fonsi went on to receive four Latin GRAMMY Awards for the reggaeton-pop track that has amassed over seven billion views on YouTube.

Cross-genre collaborations have become prevalent in the Latin music world, from superstar Shakira teaming up with Rihanna for the 2014 hit “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” to Snoop Dogg partnering with Banda MS on “Que Maldición,” which landed at number four on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart, one of the highest debuts for a regional Mexican song. J Balvin and Beyoncé joined forces for the “Mi Gente” remix, which peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 while “Despacito” was also a chart topper at the time, marking the first time ever that two non-English language songs ranked in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously. “Mi Gente” was a global phenomenon, and J Balvin went on to make history by becoming the first Latin music headliner at the 2019 Lollapalooza festival.

Recent BMI signings include superstars Anitta, Karol G, Latin trap/ reggaetón artist Anuel AA and salsa legend Willie Colón. Being part of the new wave of Latin music, Karol G and Anuel AA have both surpassed one billion views on YouTube with worldwide hits like “China,” “Tusa,” and their 2019 romantic duet “Secreto.” Meanwhile Brazilian singer Anitta has received widespread recognition with hits like “Downtown,” “Vai Malandra” and her newest sensation “Me Gusta,” featuring Cardi B and Myke Towers. Revered singer/songwriter, trombonist, composer, and producer Willie Colón, has been a pioneer in the world of salsa, fusing distinct elements of jazz and rock into the traditional genre. Colón’s multicultural style has enriched contemporary Latin music, and he has been recognized with countless honors including a Lifetime Achievement Latin GRAMMY Award in 2004.

BMI’s Latin repertoire is unparalleled, representing many Latin GRAMMY Award-winners including Elvis Crespo, Eddie Palmieri, Pancho Sanchez, Juan Luis Guerra, J Balvin, Luis Fonsi, Paquito D’Rivera, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Carlos Santana, Ozuna and Los Tigres Del Norte, to name a few. Additionally, the only Latin songwriter/artists inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Santana and Richie Valens, are both represented by BMI.

With its growing commitment to Latin music from around the world, BMI continues to exercise its original “open door” policy in which everyone is entitled to be properly compensated for their creative works.