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Latin's New Voices
BY LEILA COBO
19 February 2005
Long before "American Idol" struck the fancy of U.S. viewers, music reality shows in Spain and Latin America were creating bona fide stars. From David Bisbal, who emerged out of Spain's "Operación Triunfo," to Bandana, spawned from Argentina's "Popstars," reality-show contestants have gone on to sign lucrative deals and sell millions of albums.
But the success has for the most part eluded the U.S. Hispanic marketplace, where the sole music reality show, 2003's "Protagonista de la Música" on Telemundo, did not yield any recording careers.
Now, a new push from Latin record labels and TV networks seeks to take advantage of the reality-show format to find and foster future stars.
Most recently, Billboard has learned, Universal Music Latino has signed a joint-venture deal with Estefan Enterprises to exploit the repertoire and acts that come out of "Nuevas Voces de América."
The TV showproduced and created by Emilio Estefan Jr. through his production company, CMR TV & Filmdebuts Feb. 13 on the Telemundo network. It will air every Sunday for 15 weeks, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Universal has pledged to sign the winner of the show to a record deal worth $250,000 (including production costs and prize money). The label will also have the first option to sign other acts from the show. During the duration of the program, Universal plans to release at least two compilation albums featuring the contestants, much like "Operación Triunfo" did with its successful spate of releases on Vale Music. All titles will come out on Crescent Moon/Universal.
In addition, Universal is negotiating with a major retailer for download and retail exclusivity for releases related to "Nuevas Voces," as well as show sponsorship.
"Nuevas Voces" is going up against "Objetivo Fama," a similar program that airs Sundays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the Telefutura network. The winner of that show gets a recording deal with Univision Music Group, which also has first right of refusal for other contestants.
A first edition of "Objetivo" aired last year only in Puerto Rico, with local contestants. That show yielded three recording contracts for Univision. One is with pop singer Janina, whose album is due March 22. The other two artists, Sheila and Ektor, are slated to record in the near future.
"It's the ultimate A&R source," Univision Music Group president/CEO José Behar says. "I don't think we could have crossed paths with Janina were it not for 'Objetivo Fama.' "
Just as Behar is excited about Janina, Estefan, Universal and Telemundo think their show will discover the next Latin superstar.
"Look at Bisbal and [David] Bustamante," says John Echevarría, president of Universal Music Latino, referring to the famous "Operación Triunfo" alumni. "Yes, artists can come out of this, if the show is well done. The issue with reality shows at this point is the quality of the reality show."
The concept behind "Nuevas Voces" and "Objetivo" is similar. Both conducted nationwide talent searches to select 20 finalists, who will be whittled down during the 15 weeks by a combination of judging and audience votes.
An essential difference, however, is that in "Objetivo," the artists are secluded in an "academy," much like Spain's "Operación Triunfo," where they can hone their craft.
In "Nuevas Voces," they receive guidance from an abundance of professionals, and overseeing it all is Estefan, a famous producer and star maker. While "Objetivo" artists have performed only covers, those on "Nuevas Voces" will initially sing songs crafted specifically for them. Those songs are penned mostly by Estefan and writers under his publishing companies, FIPP and Estefan Music Publishing.
Beyond practicalitybecause Estefan owns the songs, he doesn't need to license themthe arrangement serves an artistic purpose.
"I want them to be authentic," Estefan says of his artists. "Yes, we'll do covers and tributes, but I wanted to begin by giving them songs tailored for each of them."
Estefan and his team are clear on why they think "Nuevas Voces" will be a success. "The show uses my specialty: my years of experience in the music business," he says. "They hadn't used a real music person before."
Indeed, says Ramón Escobar, executive VP of programming and production for Telemundo, Estefan's presence is key. Two years ago, the network aired another talent show, "Protagonistas de la Musica." In that case, winners received a recording deal with Sony Discos. But although Sony did well with an initial compilation album, it released only one album by each of the two winners, who are no longer with the company.
"We've never done a show like this, where we brought one star maker," Escobar adds. "It's so much more than music."
Universal, meanwhile, hopes that "Nuevas Voces" will be a launch pad for the artists it signs, just as Univision is pleased with the boost the Puerto Rico version of "Objetivo" is giving to Janina as she prepares for her U.S. bow.
Behar says, "We are now launching an artist who is already at 10,000 feet . . . because of the exposure the show has given her."