Warner Music president of emerging markets, Alfonso Perez-Soto, has spoken to Headliner about his recent appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as well as the global picture for the company’s burgeoning territories.
Earlier this month, Perez-Soto (pictured second right) sat on a panel alongside Liz Agbor-Tabi Oton, VP of policy and strategic partnerships at Global Citizen and Katja Iversen, CEO of the Museum for the United Nations. The session, which was moderated by Seth Schachner, MD of Strat Americas, was part of a series of events designed to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at the global economic summit. It was held at Inkwell Beach, a dedicated site established by the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective, led by founder Adrianne C. Smith.
“What I liked about the event and that panel in particular was that it highlighted not only the power of music but how it can bring different cultures to the fore and help shine a spotlight on some of the incredible, vibrant cultural movements taking place outside of the mainstream,” Perez-Soto told Headliner as we caught up with him for an exclusive chat.
During the panel he described the work Warner Music has been doing to support artists around the globe, highlighting the success of Latin stars in the global charts and how that is now starting to be replicated by performers from Africa, Eastern Europe, India and the Middle East.
He also explained that WMG's approach of working with local business partners is helping to build a music industry infrastructure in some countries for the first time.
“There are certain artists who have been leading the headlines in certain emerging markets, but they are just the tip of the iceberg,” he continued. “There is so much more going on underneath. We are building on the fabric and the vibrancy of music in all these territories. I’m talking to you know in Morocco and we are currently on our way to a studio in Marrakech, and we have just been in Cairo working there, too.
“We are giving opportunities to artists looking to build careers at a local level. In many cases we have local marketeers, local staff, and local support for these artists. We want to help build and develop from the bottom up. And we will build these places until they have a global reach. In Africa, the Middle East, and India we are seeing young, vibrant, interesting culture with a young demographic that has a lot to say, and they are saying that through music.”
To ensure that Warner is catering for the specific needs of each market, Perez-Soto has been working with local businesses and key players to deliver a tailored offering to each territory, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.
“We have a model that has grown organically, so we have been opening offices in these places, but we have also been forming partnerships with local companies,” he explains. “It is very important not to take a cookie cutter approach. We have to understand what is required in each market at local level. We have spent time learning about how locals do business and taking that as a guide. In many cases we invest in those companies, and we bring our value and expertise, but they give us tremendous value at local level. In many ways we are not creating affiliates or labels as we understand them in the UK or France or Canada. We are understanding the local way to manage music and business.”
So are there any markets he is expecting big things from in 2024?
“Obviously Afrobeats in Western Africa is not surprising anybody,” he says. “I think India is becoming bigger and bigger. I have huge expectations for what the Middle East will bring sooner or later to the market. The structure of the demographic is very similar to the Hispanic demographic - 500 million Arabic speakers with a strong diaspora integrated through key western markets like Benelux France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the US. And the level of quality in the music that I’m seeing and the integration with producers in the western world is fantastic, so we will see the results of all of that.
“I can’t give dates about releases yet, but there are new signings and there will be great surprises throughout the year from Warner,” he says. “We are enlarging our roster, doubling down on some of the genres that are doing well. There is great new music coming from markets like Turkey as well. And we are expanding our global focus. You will see some great new artists.”