Diego works as a music editor and content manager of Latin music at Deezer. He manages Latin music flagship playlists worldwide and the music content offer for Andean countries in Deezer (Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela). Also, he leads the editorial strategy for Latin music in the US, Mexico, Central America, Andean region and South Cone countries. The 6th cohort of MMIAM met with Diego at Deezer’s office in Bogotá in 2019 where he talked about his work as a modern music editor and how technology is changing the music industry.
What is your background like? What was your path that led you to work at the streaming platform Deezer?
I started studying Economics and Music at university in Colombia, which was really tough, and kind of weird because my parents and other people didn’t understand what I was doing studying two disciplines that were so different and at first sight. At the time, I did not have a clear reason, I wanted to explore new things. I have always been good with numbers and played a lot of music so I figured why not mix the two. There was not a lot of music industry data available back in the day and this was kind of at the beginning of the “big data” as we know it now, so there wasn’t much going on with it, especially in Latin America. However, throughout university I would always try to relate economics and music/culture in projects I would do, so I ended up measuring things like the economic impact of music and culture in some papers and essays.
After graduating I worked as an economics advisor for some of Colombia’s well respected firms, and even though I learned a lot, I realized that I wanted to contribute to the music industry directly. Since I studied in the music conservatory in Bogotá since I was little and have been making music my whole life, I wanted to be back in the world of music and musicians, but this time from the industry perspective.
With this in mind and knowing that I had to learn a lot more about entertainment industries, I decided to move to France where I did a Masters in Entertainment Industries. During that time my undergraduate studies started to make a lot more sense. I started working at music festivals and concerts in France and then moved back to Colombia to work at Árbol Naranja, a culture and entertainment company in Bogotá that works with some of the country’s best music festivals and concerts. I was fortunate enough to have worked in productions like the Estéreo Picnic Festival, Sónar, Cosquín Rock, The Weeknd, Martin Garrix, Lana Del Rey, The XX, Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem among others.
After a couple of years I started to get interested in the relationship that music and data have with technology and I became passionate about the industry of streaming, big data and how this is changing not only the music industry landscape, but every aspect of our lives. That is when I knew I had to look for a job in the music streaming industry and after looking for a while I was able to begin a recruiting process at Deezer.
I got the job at Deezer because they were looking for someone who could measure the impact of users and someone who understood all the data they were collecting and connecting this to an efficient playlist offer.
What do you do at Deezer? How do you use your interdisciplinary skills in music and economics?
My work centers around editing and selecting the Latin music content that we offer, with a focus on the Andean region, which is the northern countries in South America like Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador. This is really fun because I get to find new artists that are talented and understand what they do. I listen to them, find out what their sound is and what kind of music they make, then run tests to see how people react to them. So, as much as I am using my understanding of music, bands, and trends, it’s still very dependent on gathering data to see what people’s actual response to it is. I also lead the editorial strategy for Latin music in the US, Mexico, Central America, Andean region and South Cone countries.
The editorial group in the Americas team at Deezer covers everything from Canada and the USA to Argentina at the tip of South America. As part of this team, I work on Deezer’s regional strategies, which means I help decide which Latin American music will be suggested to foreign markets worldwide. This is important because people from France or the US, for example, listen to different types of Latin music. Making these decisions requires analyzing a lot of data in the form of streams, skips, satisfaction rates and much more. It also requires listening to a lot of music, understanding the industry, and a bit of a gut feeling that develops after being involved in it for awhile.
How do you feel art and art management have changed through technology?
Arts in general is one of those things that we as humans have always consumed. The form of consumption and production has changed over the years, especially with the recent shifts in technology, but at the base, the act of consumption – listening to music- is the same. Recording, for example, changed the format of consumption as did the shift to digital music and portable MP3 players and now to streaming. Every format allows us new ways to access the music which are also built on different economic models and different tools to understand it. The music industry used to be all about record sales, but now it’s about the number of plays and the skip rate, which tell us different facts about the music, but still convey the feeling towards them.
The format is always changing and will always change. Maybe in 10 or 15 years we will all be enjoying music differently than how we do now, but that won’t change how important music is to us. The arts and music will always be a big part of being human, and we will always try to improve life through music and art.
What is particular about your work in Latin America? What makes it special or different?
Latin music is big just about everywhere these days, especially Colombian artists. People are hearing Latin music and liking it a lot and it’s becoming more and more popular around the world.
Foreign consumers like the popular stuff, but once they see the big players like J Balvin, who performed at the Super Bowl with Shakira and J.Lo, then they have the chance to find the other music that Latin America has to offer. If they’re on the same playlist or recommended songs as other Latin artists then the door could be opened to other artists or genres, especially ones that are particular or unique to certain areas.
Music is also a tool to change how the world sees Latin America and hopefully get rid of the clichés. As we become more known for our music, then people will stop just thinking about the negative parts of our society and the bad image we may have acquired due to some dark periods of violence, drug mafia and corruption. I think we have a social responsibility to show people a new face since this is such a big cultural opportunity for us. In a way we’re on the world stage, so it’s important to let people know what we’re capable of and the real meaning of being “Latino”.
What advice do you have for current and future managers of arts and media companies?
One of the main things I’ve learned is that sometimes we’re often too focused on how culture/entertainment is supposed to be managed and we forget to ask ourselves how we see us working in the industry and also being happy and having time for our family and friends. Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing is more important than knowing how you’re going to climb in the industry or get more recognition. Focusing on your objectives and goals and understanding them will help you see a path and will guide you towards things you want to do instead of wasting it on things that are not important to your overall happiness and professional satisfaction.
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