As the U.S. Hispanic population rises to 55 million and its youthful audience streams bilingual stars, the genre’s leading execs, managers, programmers and promoters take their artists and their industry to new heights.
AFO VERDE: EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Chairman/CEO Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Sony Music Entertainment
It’s Monday afternoon at Jennifer Lopez’s house in Los Angeles, and Afo Verde is performing a delicate balancing act with three of his biggest artists. In one room, there’s Roberto Carlos, Brazil’s top-selling singer of all time, who’s here to shoot a video with Lopez for a forthcoming single. Marc Anthony — Lopez’s ex-husband and (still) friend — is hanging out on the balcony. He’s here to work with Lopez, who’s preparing her first Spanish-language album in a decade (due in 2017), which Anthony will executive-produce. Lopez signed with Verde after he visited during her Las Vegas residency in 2015. “Afo is an artist’s record man,” she says. “He’s in the studio, and he’s behind the desk. I have always related best to executives who really understand the art of making music.”
Before he was an executive, Verde, 50, was a musician-producer, and that experience informs how he relates to a growing roster of superstars that includes Enrique Iglesias (signed in 2015), Romeo Santos, Prince Royce, Wisin, Yandel and Nicky Jam. He has long-standing and tight ties to Ricky Martin, Chayanne, Carlos Vives and Shakira, with whom he spent a week in Barcelona in September, working on her Spanish-language album (due in 2017). While he was there, he caught an FC Barcelona practice with Shakira’s partner, star defender Gerard Piqué. “My knees were shaking, I was so excited,” says the Buenos Aires-born Verde, a soccer buff who lives in Coral Gables, Fla., with his partner, teacher Miranda Bostan.
In the past three years, Verde hasn’t just scooped up most of Latin music’s current hitmakers (year-to-date label share for current tracks: roughly 53.7%); he has established Sony as the market-share leader in Latin America and has seen steady growth in his U.S. market share as well. Verde also has diversified, launching Eventim Brazil, a joint venture with the German ticketing company that handled all 8.5 million tickets for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and now has deals with several Brazilian artists and venues.
All the while, he has maintained a singular staff uniquely qualified to prioritize artists’ needs: Most of Sony’s upper managers are professional musicians. “My mantra is, ‘Sony is the artists’ home,’ ” says Verde, who also holds degrees in architecture and -marketing. “Once you gain artists’ trust, success is only a matter of time.” — Leila Cobo
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