May 15, 2001
Latin Restaurant Music
Nashville, May 15, 2001—As America is influenced by its rapidly growing Latin population, more restaurants are serving salsa with their tortilla chips and in their sound systems.
Salsa, of course, is a style of Latin music as well as America’s best-selling tomato sauce (beating catsup). As a marketing package, Latin restaurants and music are hot, regardless of how the food is seasoned. Bringing Latin music and food together under U.S. Copyright Law is the task of BMI, an American performing rights organization with an abundance of Latin songs among approximately 4.5 million musical works in its repertoire.
When an American restaurant plays songs from the BMI repertoire, the not-for-profit organization collects licensing fees, permitting the restaurant to play millions of songs with a single licensing agreement. BMI then distributes the revenues to its 300,000 affiliated songwriters and copyright owners, regardless of their nationality. Many speak Spanish.
By the year 2010, Hispanics are projected to be America’s largest minority. The U.S. Census bureau announced earlier this year that the Hispanic population exceeded 35 million in 2000, or 12 percent of the U.S. population. The Hispanic population is growing eight times faster than the total U.S. population.
In a government survey of minority-owned businesses, the number of Hispanic-owned eating and drinking establishments increased 59 percent between 1987 and 1992, and their sales grew 140 percent. This compares to a 7.4 percent growth by firms in the eating-and-drinking industry overall during the same period. A new government survey is due next year, and growth of the Hispanic food market is expected to be even higher.
BMI’s involvement in Latin music began about 60 years ago, said Tom Annastas, Vice President, General Licensing. “BMI embraced Latin music in its earliest days, including such classic songs from the 1940s as “Tico Tico” and “Besame Mucho,” he said. According to BMI surveys, “Tico Tico” has been performed in the U.S. more than 1.6 million times and “Besame Mucho” more than 2 million times. “Guantanamera” popularized in 1967 by Celia Cruz, has been played more than 2 million times. Perez Prado’s “Mambo No. Five (A Little Bit of)” in its many variations, has more than 1.7 million U.S. performances.
When BMI was founded in 1940, Spanish-language composers were offered first-time representation when they were not eligible to join any other American performing rights society, Annastas said. BMI quickly made reciprocal agreements with sister performing rights organizations around the world.
The music of America’s Spanish-speaking people comes in styles as different as their national origin. Mexican-Americans make up 59 percent, but more than 20 nationalities are called Hispanic or Latino (“Hispanic” is the English word, but many people prefer “Latino”). Reflecting that musical diversity, the BMI catalog includes such styles as Tejano, ranchera, norteno, merengue, and tango.
BMI represents songs by such Latin Pop artists as Jennifer Lopez, Luis Miguel, Thalia, Shakira and Robi “Draco” Rosa. Among BMI’s songwriters are Robert Dee Blades, Jose de Jesus Navarro, Kike Santander and Ramon Gonzalez Mora who wrote “Morir De Amor” for norteno band Conjunto Primavera. Three songwriters tied for BMI 2001 Latin Songwriter of the Year honors, each with four songs on the most-performed list. They are Kike Santander (“Alguna Vez,” “Da La Vuelta,” “Mi Vida Sin Tu Amor,” “Volver A Amar”), Robert Dee Blades (“Dímelo,” “¿Dónde Está El Amor?,” “Muy Dentro De Mí,” “No Me Dejes De Querer”), and José de Jesús Navarro (“Amor Del Bueno,” “¿Con Quién Estarás?”, “Con Tu Indiferencia,” “Te Supliqué Muchas Veces”).
Gloria Estefan is a BMI songwriter, as are Pete Astudillo and A.B. Quintanilla III, who wrote “Amor Prohibido,” recorded by the late Tejano star Selena. BMI represents Latin Grammy Award winners Elvis Crespo, Eddie Palmieri, Pancho Sanchez, Juan Luis Guerra, Paquito D’Rivera, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Israel “Cachao” Lopez and Carlos Santana. The only Latin artist inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Santana and Richie Valens, are with BMI.
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Jerry Bailey Pat Baird