Sony Music Argentina’s Damián Amato Says ‘Scene is Very Strong’: Interview

Damián Amato has been at Sony Music Argentina for more than 15 years, beginning as marketing manager in 2003 after his first steps at BMG. For the past 10 years, he has led the company as General Director for South Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay).

"I don't work to keep the market share. What matters most to me is to make things better every day for the artists, industry itself, our team and myself," Amato said. "It is an honor that artists trust their careers and destinations in us.".

His style is intimate and active. He often attends concerts by both new and established artists and keeps his vision fresh on a scene that has undergone forceful changes in recent times. And, while he celebrated the explosion of urban music, he hasn't neglected artists in other genres, such as Abel Pintos, Miranda! or Charly Garcia. "You always have to think about cultural development and bet on Argentine talents with promoters, producers and managers," he said. Here, he talks to Billboard Argentina:

What balance do you make of 2019?

It was a very good year for Argentine artists outside our country. Beyond the local urban phenomenon, many have managed to turn abroad with great success, in genres such as rock and pop. In addition, the local scene grew a lot with new festivals for new generations where many young independent artists showed their music and have had great acceptance: La Nueva Generación at Córdoba or Santa Fe's Harlem Festival, for example.

That was reflected in the sale of tickets, which in the end, is as important as the amount of streams. The scene is very strong, and it is great that we are not talking about a single project in terms of "the successor of Soda Stereo or Los Fabulosos Cadillacs," but rather of many who luckily aspire to be in those places. That has not happened for a long time.

Do you think things are easier now?

Before, it was more difficult to sign an artist and develop them because there were many gatekeepers. Fifteen years ago, in order to promote an artist, we needed to play on the radio, do press conferences, have a video that rotated on music channels and make appearances on TV or make the cover of a magazine.

Today, with the diversity of media, networks and music platforms, the way of listening to music is fragmented. There is a range of proposals to offer artists, and it is easier to lead a career through viralization and globalization.

In the past five years, the 100 most-listened songs in Argentina are mostly new. How do you explain this?

The consumption habits are different. There is a much wider population hearing a few songs many times and a smaller adult population that listens to many songs only once. The positions listed above in the charts probably never end up being for the adult audience. Abel Pintos' playlist is one of the most listened to, but there is currently no song from him in the top 50. People listen to 30 of his songs, not one, and probably the sum of those 30 is heard more than the first of the ranking.

The charts are by song, not by artist. It is a matter of consumption habits; everything tends statistically to have a normal distribution. The kids who listen to music that way will grow, and maybe you'll find more adult artists when they grow up.

Do you think there are songs that are going to become "classics"?

I hope so, but generations of new artists also have a difficult time from that place. The consumption of immediacy means that today a song is heard many times that eventually it is no longer heard. Another new challenge is that until two or three years ago, our work ended when we managed to get a fan to take a record home. Today, the goal of the company is for people to hear it again as many times as possible. It is a paradigm shift.

How did the industry reinvent itself with the new model?

The business changed from all angles. I think that the crisis of the record industry's business model made players or different parties see that it was not useful to be faced at a critical moment. Music was never in crisis, just the model. Today, the business is collaborative. By being integrated between managers, artists, producers and promoters of shows, the business grows for everyone. I think that the past 15 years have been like this, with artist featurings and joint work to look for opportunities.

What do you think of the artists who decide to remain independent?

I know and am close to many of them. I believe that everyone has the right to make the decision they deem appropriate, and all paths are valid. It is necessary to understand the differences of the models that the record companies carry out and what the pure digital distribution companies propose: Depending on where you look at it, each one has its pros and cons, and each artist has a convenient course.

Independence seems very good to me, if it is a proper choice, and is properly grounded. Sometimes, there is a negative prejudice about multinationals or those who run it, and I don't share that. If the foundation is that the artist wants to own his masters, it is his decision, and it seems fine. We seek talent, and from there, we propose teamwork with comprehensive marketing and dissemination development, where our focus is on helping in the artistic growth of projects both in Argentina and abroad.

What do you think of the new scene?

I think everything is more immediate and that the massive digital platforms attracted younger people. The artists that explode today are mostly for teen public or young adults, because they are linked to what they watch and what is generated in the networks where they live daily. It is the connection that is generated over the Internet. On the other hand, many artists already installed also had remarkable growth, but it has taken them longer.

Do you think that new artists will have to think more about their body of work and not so much about the immediacy?

The most important challenge of all the young people who have triumphed is continuity, because succeeding so young makes you have to reinvent yourself very soon. Also, understand that your audience is going to grow and, within five years, see if they continue to expect the same from you, or that you talk about other issues or stand onstage with another ideology. It's difficult. As an artist, you have to start taking on another role because your age and your growth force you to grow with your audience.

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