Music Industry Talks: Warner Chappell Latin’s International Songwriting Camps Bridging K-Pop and Latin Music
Welcome to our new editorial series for Music Industry Talks, where we cover topics related to the Latin Music Industry, and the movers and shakers behind it.
Warner Chappell Latin’s Laz Hernandez, Vice President of A&R at Warner Chappell Music for U.S. Latin & Latin America, sat down with us here at mitú to talk about Warner Chappell’s efforts in crafting today’s Latin hits. He’s signed the songwriters behind some of today’s biggest hits including breakout stars Lunay and Jhay Cortez, and superstar producers Rec 808 and Gaby Music. Throughout his 12 years at Warner Chappell Music, Hernandez has also worked with and developed some of the world’s top tier talent like Chris Jedi, Sky, Andres Torres & Mauricio Rengifo, and Federico Vindver. Internationally, Laz has played a crucial role in fostering collaborations between Latin songwriters and multicultural songwriters from around the globe.
Check out our full interview below.
How did you first get started in music and what does your job entail as VP of Warner Chappell?
Laz Hernandez: “It was basically just a pipe dream. I had just graduated high school and I wanted to figure out my major and I really loved music, and decided, let me try the music business. And then from there, I did an internship, I had a temp job at Warner, and that led me to my current job which I’ve been at for 13 years. So I’m lucky. [My job] is a mix of working on deals, which means discovering new songwriters that we’re looking to sign. Then the creative aspect is working with our artist and label contacts, seeing what their needs are at the moment, like what songs they might be looking for, for different projects, and finding a song or writer to help.”
How are Warner Chappell’s songwriting camps set up?
Laz Hernandez: “Every camp we do is for a different reason. Some are regional song camps that we use to mix all our up-and-coming writers from the region who should be introduced to and work with one another. Some are big time where we’re partnering directly with a label or an artist, and we’re writing specifically for them. We’re bringing in writers that are going to match the style of music that the artist or label is looking for at the moment.”
Can you elaborate more on the songwriting camps bridging K-Pop and Latin music?
Laz Hernandez: “That was one of our collaborative songwriting camps. We worked with our Asia-Pacific office and had writers from nine different countries in Asia participate with our Latin writers. At Warner Chappell, we’re always trying to push the envelope with our writers and see how we can work with them internationally. Music is so worldwide right now, the reach that it has is not just limited to radio anymore, so people are discovering way more new music. For this camp in particular, we had been in touch with the Asia-Pacific office for a while about doing something, and we finally did it and it lasted four days. Two days for Asia projects, one day for K-Pop, and the other for Chinese pop. Then the other two days were focused on Latin music. Our main goal with these camps is to get our writers to network with other writers and artists across the globe to create new sounds.”
You have been fundamental in signing songwriters like Lunay, Jhay Cortez to Warner Chappell. What can you share with us about that experience?
Laz Hernandez: “I was in touch with them very early on. In general, I meet writers through mutual contacts or at events or they come from lawyers, managers, etc., or I just meet them by going to places like Puerto Rico and hanging out in the studio. Then my job is to help them become the next big star, the next big songwriter, the next big producer. That’s the tricky part, there’s so much talent especially in the Latin world so I always say ‘a quién le aportas‘, who are you willing to put your bet on”.
Laz Hernandez (con’td): “We try to make very specific, educated guesses on who we like and who we think has growth potential. And that starts first and foremost with talent. Years ago I met Jhay and I was like “This guy is super cool, he’s a writer for other artists,” I knew some artists that wrote songs too, but he’s really a true songwriter. At the time we met him, he had written “Criminal” by Natti Natasha and Ozuna, “I Like It” by Cardi B with J Balvin and Bad Bunny, “I Can’t Get Enough” by Selena Gomez. As a writer, Jhay is still very active, not just in his own artist projects. At Warner Chappell, we’re a publishing company so we’re songwriter focused and that made Jhay special.”
Laz Hernandez (con’td): “Lunay was a similar situation. We originally met through Chris Jedi and Gaby Music, and we all knew “This guy is going to be huge” and right after that Lunay released “Soltera” and blew up.”
Do you have any piece of advice for up-and-coming songwriters?
Laz Hernandez: “First and foremost, you have to know your craft, you have to know what you’re doing and try to walk before you can run. I would say for songwriters specifically, you have to realize that this is a full time job. You have to be in meetings, writing sessions, and constantly connecting with different people. You can’t expect to have hits, it’s not just based on talent, it’s also based on work ethic. It’s a lot of work. We have songwriters that the first year in their career, they get a number one single, and then they do sessions all year with different artists, with different people, and they don’t have another hit for another whole year. It’s a lot of work. You have to have a lot of passion for your craft and you have to know that it may not always be easy.”
Where do you see Latin music in the next 5-10 years?
Laz Hernandez: “There are a lot of Spanish speakers in the world. We have a whole continent and then we have a presence in Europe, the Caribbean, etc. It’s a market that’s emerging not only in music, but globally, so there’s more people with more influence, more education, and more money to spend. Latin music specifically will become more mixed with global culture, which is already happening, but I think this will continue to grow.
For the Latin genre specifically, I’m excited for the growth to happen on a larger scale with bigger artists from different genres. Right now, Reggaeton/Urban is the biggest genre and it’s great, but who’s the new Shakira? Who’s the new Luis Miguel? Who’s the new star of all these other genres? Here at Warner Chappell besides from developing the talented people that we’re already working with, we’re also looking for that next big star.
We’ve signed some really cool artists lately that we think could offer new lanes in Latin music. We want to have the next rock star, the next R&B singer. We’ve made good bets, for example we signed this artist by the name of st. Pedro for R&B who we think could make it big. In the next few years I hope there’s going to be a bigger platform for these Latin artists that are doing other genres besides Urban.”
Thank you to Laz Hernandez and the Warner Chappell team for setting up this interview and sharing with us more details about their songwriting camps and the state of Latin music today.
Read: Music Industry Talks: The Rise of Regional Mexican and Female-Led Latin Music Stations in Pandora
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