Saban Music Group, LLC (SMG)
Years with Company: Since March 2019
Address: 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 2600, Los Angeles, CA 90067
Clients: Reykon, Chesca, Marie Monti, Static & Ben El
First connecting with musician-publisher-producer-billionaire investor Haim Saban while serving as a senior executive at Universal-owned Univision Music Group, Gustavo Lopez left UMG after 21 years when Saban (the Israeli Power Rangers theme song composer) bought his company, Talento Uno Music. As CEO of Saban Music Group, Lopez seeks ambitious artists to join the newly minted, Latin-flavored organization.
Not Just a Figurehead
Haim is intimately involved in the development of the company. Every decision, contract negotiation, song selection, producer selection, everything we’re doing is coming with his involvement, passion and support. It’s a blessing to have a visionary, hit-making machine like him by our side. It’s not just Haim Saban making another investment; he’s riding the wave with us every day.
Loving and Realizing the Potential for Latin Music
Haim can call out dozens of Latino artists. He has a soft place [in his heart] for Latin music.
On top of that, he’s seen the growth and potential the market has now that there are more monetization avenues for music overall in Latin America. We’re seeing more and more Latin-influenced music in the US and a lot of growth is coming. The Latin music space is growing at a higher rate than the overall market. And outside the US we see markets that had not been delivering much money to the industry finally coming into their own. The secondary and tertiary markets are beginning to make noise. So there’s both a passion and a financial reason behind the makeup of the company.
Not Just Latin
We’re not a Latin-only company. Our company has a Latin flair, but we’re not going to shy away from non-Latin artists. We believe music is, more than ever, international and can cross boundaries like it never has. That’s who we are.
Static & Ben El are an Israeli group that has 450 million views on YouTube. Over 325 million of those are in Hebrew. They’re a superstar group in their country and we’re looking to launch them outside of Israel in English. That has nothing to do with Latin whatsoever.
So the company has a Latin flair, but we’re not shying away from any artist or language. We’re in the US, so it would be great for any artist to be able to do versions of their songs in English. That’s a huge plus. But some of the things we’re not doing—we’re not doing country music, we’re not doing regional Latin music, we’re not into the hardcore rap business. We’re a pop, Latin dance company.
Language of Music
Three out of the four artists on the label happen to be Hispanic. Marie Monti is a French-born singer-songwriter. She’s fluent in English, Spanish and French, but we didn’t sign her because she can sing in Spanish. It was just an added value.
Culling the Flood of Artists
Our [launch announcement] press release turned heads throughout the world. We’ve had calls from record producers in Germany, Australia, Italy, France, obviously the US and throughout Latin America. We are listening to so much music right now that it’s really a matter of asking the basic questions. Who’s behind the music? What does the management look like? We’re not focused on whether a great artist or band that fits our model has one follower or one billion followers. We’re music first because we’re in the artist development world. That’s our real focus.
It’s all about the credibility of who’s bringing you music—people’s history and how they interact with us speaks for itself. Sometimes it’s hard to go through the clutter of music that’s out there. But when it’s the right person bringing it to you, either through a referral or someone you’ve worked with in the past, that’s usually what makes the difference in getting through the door.
Plentiful Resources Means a Limited Roster
We only have three artists signed right now and we’re probably going to have somewhere between seven and eight artists total. We want to dedicate as many resources and as much financial support [as possible] to a small group of artists. We hope to sign four artists, maybe five, in our first year and build accordingly.
A Head for Business
We love to engage with creators who love what they do but also have a strong sense of the business. The first meeting is always critical to make sure the artist is all about the music yet, when we talk about business trends and opportunities, they have a solid head for that as well. Yes, we’re talking about music and entertainment and it’s a lot of fun, but ultimately it’s a business.
Pitching music should be simple. It should be, here are my favorite three songs. It could just be a portion of each. It’s very important for us who produced and wrote the songs.
And as much video content of you being yourself as you can provide. Sometimes when I get music, I go on their social media and there’s no music, there’s no connection, there’s no pictures of them recording or in the studio or doing renditions of other people’s songs. You can really get yourself out of the picture by just not being genuine. We’re looking for people who are, first and foremost, musicians. And if you are, everything will fall into place.
Not For Everybody
Our deals are straightforward; there are no secrets. We are partners, first and foremost, with the artists. We go 50/50 across all income streams, including touring. If you want to tell us, I’m not going to share my touring, it’s totally okay. Lots of respect for your decision but we’re not good partners. Those are the only deals we’re negotiating with artists. In a nutshell, we’re a boutique label that has the resources of a major. We’re also a start-up, but we’re unique because we don’t need to go anywhere to get funds to develop talent.
Bringing Reggaeton to the Masses
The first company I launched was a reggaeton company in 2004 called Machete Music. At the time, nobody knew what reggaeton was and most people told us you’re crazy, that’s not going to last long. It’s a fad. And here we are in 2020 and I don’t know if there’s a more recognized or talked about genre in the world.
Be consistent. Don’t try to be multiple genres. A lot of artists listen to a lot of people and change direction as they go. They’re not sure if they want to be pop artists or dance artists or Latin artists or hip-hop artists. They’re almost chasing yesterday’s news. Stay true to yourself. It might take long to get there, but every day you spend in this business is one more day of experience and one more day you have the opportunity to present yourself to a new fan. Stick to your guns and your time will come.
For the Long Haul
We’re not for everybody, but we consider ourselves a partner to those we’re going to be with. And we won’t shy away from investing in our artists for the long haul. If the first single doesn’t work, we’re going to go after another. If that one doesn’t work, we’re going to go after another. And so on. Once you’re at this company, we already believe in you, we see your commitment, so we’re going to be by your side throughout. It takes a lot to break through, but once you do we’re going to do everything in our power to help you find success.