Every year, music lovers in Spanish, Portuguese, and increasingly English speaking countries look forward to the Latin Grammy Awards. The awards honor rising and long-influential Latin stars for outstanding achievements over the last year.
Topping the list of nominees this year is Puerto Rican rapper Residente with nine nominations. Not too far behind are Colombian singer Maluma with seven nominations, and Colombian pop star Shakira with six.
In anticipation of the ceremony on Thursday, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed sales data, internet search data, and Billboard chart success to identify the world’s most famous Latin artists. Many of the artists on our list are recognizable greats from the 1990s. Others may surprise U.S. readers.
Media publishing company Billboard and other industry players called this year a “Latin Music Revolution.” With record-crushing hits like “Despacito,” music streaming companies like Spotify and Apple Music are expanding operations in Mexico and Brazil as music revenue across the continent shot up last year.
While the Latin music sector struggled in the early 2000s from rampant piracy and counterfeiting, the increasing availability of digital music streaming services and a number of major record label investments in key markets have caused the genre to rebound and expand to new geographies. Revenues from Latin music in the United States totaled $115 million in the first half of 2017, up $35 million from the first half of 2016. Streaming accounted for 82% of total revenue.
The surge in the popularity of Latin music is not limited to outside U.S. borders. There has also been a growing interest stateside, which may be partially attributed to demographic patterns.
Mainly due to immigration and population growth, Spanish has become far and away the most spoken, and fastest growing, non-English language in the United states. More than 37 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish, and according to Census Bureau demographers, that population is projected to grow to 43 million by 2020.
The growing popularity of Latin music has allowed many Spanish- and Portuguese-language artists to achieve crossover success and mainstream popularity. This past summer, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” became the first Spanish-language single to top the Billboard Hot 100 since “Macarena” in 1996. The song remains on the Billboard Hot 100, alongside other Spanish-language favorite “Mi Gente”. In 2016, five Spanish-language songs charted on the Hot 100.
Latin artists have also managed to sustain careers without crossing into English-language music. Of the 25 artists featured on the year-end list of Billboard Top Latin Artists from 2012 to 2016 that have released both Spanish- and English-language music, seven have sold more units of Spanish-language music than English.
To determine the most famous Latin artists, 24/7 Wall St. generated an index based on record sales, Billboard chart history, and Wikipedia page views. An artist’s total certified album and digital single sales in both U.S. and Latin markets from the Recording Industry Association of America were included in the index and given full weight. The RIAA tracks album and singles sales released in the standard U.S. market with a threshold of 500,000 units sold, and tracks album and singles sales released in the Latin market with a threshold of 30,000 units sold. The number of Billboard No. 1 hits, Billboard Top 10 hits, and Billboard Top 200 hits a musical act has achieved throughout his or her career were each given a one-fourth weighting and included in the index. An artist’s daily average Wikipedia page views over the period November 13, 2016 to November 12, 2017 were given full weight and included in the index. To be considered, an artist must have been featured in the year-end Billboard Top 50 Latin Artists chart at least once in the period between 2012 and 2016.