One of the premier platforms in the U.S. for emerging Latin alternative artists everywhere turns 18 this year, and it's well on its way to "Latinizing" the global music scene.
The Latin Alternative Music Conference, otherwise known as the LAMC, draws a huge cross section of the music industry — thousands of them —from musicians, entrepreneurs and DJs, to manager, programmers, marketers and journalists to plain old music lovers who make the event an annual destination.
The conference, which started Tuesday and ends Saturday, has featured headliners like Chilean-born Mon Laferte — whose wildly popular hit single “Ammarame” with Juanes garnered more than 50 million views on YouTube — and Hip-hop singer Princess Nokia, who is bubbling up from the underground into wider popular recognition. Saturday’s headliners are Los Pericos, La Vida Bohéme and Chicano Batman.
“The only way to improve our industry and help artists and producers is by educating the new generation,” said GRAMMY winning producer/engineer and NYU professor Juan Cristobal Losada, aka Mr. Sonic, whose body of work includes producing for Shakira, Santana and Ricky Martin.
For Losada, the LAMC fulfills his passion for music, discovering new talent and supporting the globalization of Latin music.
“It’s a good place to find what will be leading the industry in a few years. Some of the things you find here, you won’t find anywhere else in the world.”
Events include a Friday conversation with Eduardo Cabra, the 21-time Latin GRAMMY winner known as “Visitante” from Calle 13, and Carlos Alomar, David Bowie’s music director who produced the Soda Stereo classic “Doble Vida. Smaller concerts include bands from Spain and Venezuela.
This year’s panel discussions focus on helping artists navigate their careers from streaming to branding. Spotify’s Rocio Guerrero says that artists need to “put more effort into how to do a rollout of an album. Have a plan for all the tracks that are on the album, instead of one or two,” which is a common oversight she sees in the industry.
LAMC was founded by Tomas Cookman, founder and CEO of Cookman International, he runs Nacional Records and Industria Works, an alternative platform for artist development that includes artist management, marketing live events and more.
"The beauty of it is that there's so much great music out there and it doesn't stop," said Cookman to NBC News. "And its not about a dance. It's not about a beat. Its about so many different things. At Nacional Records we've championed — and had success — with hip-hop, with rock acts, with electronic acts, with pop and that just shows the variety of so much talent that's out there.
Music discovery is a hallmark of the annual LAMC and this year is no different. Here are three artists to look out for:
Nora Norman: The Spanish singer's new self-titled EP of original music shows off her soulful voice and ability to sing in English without an accent. Based on personal experiences, her songs are “sincere and from the heart,” she says and reflect mostly soul, jazz and R&B. For Norman, coming to perform at LAMC was a huge opportunity.
“It’s amazing to have my first international gig in New York.” Look for her first full album slated for early 2018.
Luz Pinos: The Ecuadorian-born Pinos says a tweet by Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra after discovering her song on an album fundraising campaign helped put her on the map–and complete the album. A vocalist and composer, Pino’s sweet and smoky voice is as dreamy as her moody songs on Mariposa Azul, that were inspired by life. Her alluring blend of jazz, pop, Brazilian and more is catchy and engaging.
Elastic Bond: One of many good stories coming out of LAMC is that of the band Elastic Bond, whose pilgrimages to the event to network and peddle their brand of “psychedelic tropical soul” landed them a record deal with Nacional Records. Andrés Ponce, producer, keyboardist, composer and Sofy Encanto, singer, songwriter called the experience serendipitous and incredible. Their 2017 album Honey Bun is full of originals that chronicle various facets of falling in love.
"It's a big opportunity for a lot of up-and-coming artists," says Elastic Bond's Sofy Encanto of LAMC. "We came here a few years ago. We weren't signed. We got a chance to meet some of the people from Nacional Records, and now we're signed with them."