Mexican Music’s Unstoppable Rise: How TikTok Is Transforming Latin Music (Guest Column)

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One of the key themes to emerge from Billboard Latin Music Week in Miami earlier this month was the undeniable and unstoppable rise of Mexican music — a trend that’s being powered by the TikTok generation.

In an era marked by a global surge in music consumption, the revival of Latin music in the United States is nothing short of spectacular. Data from the RIAA paints a compelling picture, showing U.S.-based Latin music revenues have increased by 15% year on year to reach a record high of $627 million in the first half of 2023, accounting for 7.5% of market share. When we reflect on numbers from the first half of 2021, the leap of 52% over these two years is particularly striking. The primary impetus for this is the growing audience tuning in to Latin music on ad-supported on-demand music streaming services. This is remarkable growth in a genre characterized by non-English language songs.

The rise of reggaeton in particular has been nothing short of meteoric. The commercial success of the likes of Bad BunnyJ Balvin and Karol G has left an indelible mark on the Latin music landscape. However, it’s important to note that Latin music’s appeal isn’t confined to a single genre.

TikTok has evolved into a hub for music discovery for millions of fans worldwide, with many trending songs on the platform often ending up on the Billboard Hot 100 or Spotify Viral 50. According to Luminate, 67% of the app’s users are more likely to seek out songs on music streaming services after hearing them on TikTok.

So what trends are we now seeing in Latin music? The short answer: Mexican music is leading the charge.

Over the past 12 months alone, Mexican music has experienced more than 83 billion views on TikTok worldwide, with a third of these coming from the United States, according to hashtag research the team and I have conducted in-house at Round. In that time, Mexican music has emerged as the fastest-growing genre on the platform with an astounding 322% surge in popularity, compared to electronic music (122%), rock/indie (96%), reggaeton (90%) and rap/hip-hop (87%). Mexican music stands as the third-largest genre on TikTok in terms of viewership in the U.S., with more than 27 billion views over the past 12 months, behind only rap/hip-hop and K-pop.

Artist after artist has emerged from the Mexican music scene to take TikTok by storm — from Natanael Cano and Yng Lvcas to Fuerza Regida and Grupo Frontera. However, one in particular is paving the way: Peso Pluma.

Thanks to Eslabon Armado’s viral TikTok hit “Ella Baila Sola,” on which Pluma is featured, the rising star has emerged as one of Mexico’s most exciting breakthrough artists. The track not only hit No. 1 on the Billboard Global 200 chart, where it held for six weeks, but it also secured a No. 4 spot on the all-genre Hot 100 — an unprecedented feat for a regional Mexican song. Plus, it dominated Hot Latin Songs for 19 consecutive weeks, the longest run at No. 1 for a regional Mexican track since the tally’s inception in 1986. The song has generated 525.5 million on-demand official streams in the United States to date, according to Luminate. Moreover, “Ella Baila Sola” reached No. 1 on the overall Streaming Songs chart, becoming the first regional Mexican song to lead the list and the first No. 1 on the chart for both acts.

The undeniable catalyst in this success story has been TikTok, where Pluma has gained over 30 billion views in just 12 months and inspired over 5 million creations on the platform. In April, four of Pluma’s tracks dominated the list of top trending Latin songs on the platform in the United States.

The appeal of regional Mexican music is further broadening as tastemakers continue to upload educational videos about the genre to TikTok and Instagram Reels. That trend is helping to nurture a deeper connection to the genre, fostering long-term engagement and powering it to new heights.

So what lies on the horizon?

Round’s analysis of TikTok hashtags reveals a treasure trove of uncharted music cultures and sub-genres waiting to be discovered. For example, views of #sertanejo, a Brazilian sub-genre of traditional music, have doubled from 15 billion to 30 billion over the last 12 months globally. That nearly rivals #reggaeton, which received 33 billion views globally across TikTok over the same period.

As new trends arise, one thing remains certain: TikTok is a powerful force for promoting diversity in music and opening up international markets for local sounds. Its global reach has ushered in an era where artists can easily have their music heard by millions. Now, it’s no longer a question of if artists, record labels, brands and influencers are on the app — it’s about how they maximize its power to the fullest. The stage is set, and the world is listening.

Ray Uscata is managing director of Round, North and South America. Round is a tech-enabled digital agency using content, creators and communities to place the world’s leading brands and artists at the center of culture.

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