Sony Music Acquires Top Brazilian Indie Label Som Livre

Sony Music Entertainment agreed to acquire Som Livre, Brazil’s largest independent label, tightening its grip as the leader in recorded music sales in Latin America’s largest market.

The announcement on Thursday (April 1) — made jointly by Sony, Som Livre, The Orchard and Som Livre owners Grupo Globo, Latin America’s largest media and entertainment conglomerate — puts to rest months of speculation about who would walk away with one of Brazil’s largest and most valuable music catalogs. The companies did not disclose terms of the sale, which still must be approved by Brazilian regulators.

Som Livre will continue to function independently, they said, and will still sign, develop and promote its own roster of artists as well as provide services to Brazil’s musical community. Marcelo Soares will stay on as CEO of Som Livre, which he has run since 2007.

Founded in 1969 by music producer João Araújo, Som Livre initially focused on releasing soundtracks for Globo’s soap operas and continued to specialize in compilations. A decade ago, the label shifted its strategy to developing and managing artists and became the largest producer of music in Brazil, where local music represents almost 70% of total consumption.

Today, the label is home to more than 80 artists, including massive sertanejo act Jorge & Mateus, forró star Wesley Safadão and Latin Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Maria Gadú. Som Livre artists had five out of the top 10 songs in Brazil in 2020, according to the IFPI 2021 Global Music Report. They included Henrique and Juliano’s “Liberdade Provisória,” the No. 1 streaming track in Brazil in 2020.

With the acquisition, Sony becomes an even more powerful player in the world’s 10th largest music market, where the major label is already the market leader in music sales, followed by Universal Music Group and Som Livre, according to Valor Econômico, the Brazilian business journal.

Long distributed by The Orchard, Som Livre will now also benefit from Sony’s additional global distribution resources.

While Sony, Universal and Warner Music have always mined a diverse roster and catalog of Brazilian music that includes major international artists (one of Sony’s crown jewels, for example, is crooner Roberto Carlos), Som Livre has long focused on local genres like sertanejo, pagoda, funk and MPB.

The Brazilian label has grown for more than 10 years in a row, “at a faster speed than the market,” Marcelo Soares, CEO of Som Livre, said in November when the label’s sale was announced.

Som Livre has benefited from the powerful promotion of its parent company, Rio de Janeiro-based Grupo Globo, which has said it was selling the label as part of an organizational restructuring. Now, Som Livre will benefit from Sony’s marketing and distribution muscle worldwide, an increasingly important tool in a world of global streaming where consumption of Latin music, including music in Portuguese, has accelerated beyond Latin America.

“Globo’s support was fundamental for Som Livre’s growth, particularly in the past decade,” Soares says. “Now, looking to the future, it’s very exciting to know we have Sony Music with us.”

Brazil, which formerly suffered from rampant piracy of physical media like CDs and cassettes, was the fastest-growing music market in Latin America in 2020, helping fuel it to six straight years as the world’s fastest-growing region.

Amid the tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Brazil harder than most — the country has suffered more than 317,000 deaths from the virus — Brazil’s recorded music revenues grew by 24% ($60.4 million) to $306.4 million in 2020. Although rampant devaluation saw its placement in the global rankings dip from No. 10 to No. 11, on a total physical and digital basis it ranked 10th globally, with a 36.1% increase to $260 million in those formats. While physical revenues fell to below ½ percent of Brazil’s total, streaming grew by 84% to $256.6 million, according to IFPI.

How Def Jam’s Marisa Pizarro Found a New ‘Healing’ Purpose in Supporting the AAPI Community

Marisa Pizarro, Def Jam’s senior vice president of A&R, found herself working on ways to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community during a time she could’ve never predicted would be incredibly essential.

Pizarro, who recently helped launch Def Jam Philippines, is an executive board member of Universal Music Group’s Team of Pacific Islanders & Asian Americans (UTOPIAA). The employee resource group began in September 2019 with goals of increasing mentorship opportunities and career development for AAPI employees at the company. UTOPIAA’s formation came just four months shy of the year hate crimes against Asians in 16 major U.S. cities rose 150%, according to a recent analysis from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino.

The beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic marked an extremely volatile and violent time for Asian Americans, when former president Donald Trump was criticized for reinforcing a hostile environment for people of Asian descent by describing the pandemic as the “Kung Flu” and “China Virus.” Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that started up during COVID to combat anti-Asian discrimination, has logged approximately 3,800 reports of hate incidents targeting Asian Americans across the nation since March 2020.

The Billboard 2020 Women in Music top executive found herself and the rest of UTOPIAA switching gears to address the AAPI community’s needs. One way they sought to accomplish this was by organizing an AAPI Anti-Violence Town Hall to address the increased hate crimes and violence. The town hall, which was scheduled on March 17 after weeks of planning, happened to come just one day after three shootings in Atlanta-based spas killed eight people, six of whom were Asian American women.

“We literally had [the town hall] scheduled for weeks, and then Tuesday happened, and we were in shock,” Pizarro tells Billboard. “The way that Universal stepped up was like, ‘OK, what do you guys need right now?’ And it was crazy that we had that planned anyway. So it turned into obviously addressing Atlanta, addressing healing, but the original plan was to just talk about violence anyway. It was shocking that that happened, and amazing too, because we held the space for everyone right after, and it felt like we were there for the company. … We just wanted to open up the conversation. And then it became also a little bit of a healing session.”

She notes that originally 150 people had RSVPed to the town hall that was meant to open the conversation about the increased violence toward Asian Americans during the pandemic. But 450 people eventually attended that day, joined by Stop AAPI Hate’s co-founder and co-executive director of CAA Cynthia Choi, Little Tokyo Service Center’s director of community building and engagement Grant Sunoo, and Asian American Collective’s music industry veteran co-founders Zeena Koda (head of brand digital at The North Face), Grace Lee (head of artist relations, East Coast at YouTube) and Caroline Yim (co-head of hip-hop/R&B and music agent at WME).

“I loved the context of having them talk about allyship, and like we said, we’re all in this together. And I think that was a big message throughout the conversations,” Pizarro says. “You can change your inner circle and it makes a difference. You can change how your parents talk, you can change your friends. It doesn’t have to be this massive donation and millions and millions of dollars from a corporation. It could be just as small as me talking to my dad and being like, ‘This is what’s happening.’ It just made things very accessible. … The other thing that I loved about the town hall was the accountability and that realness in the convo. People were bringing up a lot of real sh–. Like, ‘Hey, my dad needs a real lesson.’ And I think a lot of us were even opening up to that, and that’s real. That’s hard to do.”

LA-based Filipino artist Kajo, who’s signed to Def Jam in partnership with Logic’s BobbyBoy Records, attended Universal’s town hall. He later told Pizarro that he “learned so much” from the conversation, especially about how to be more vocal within the creative community.

“It’s just so humbling and relatable to hear like, ‘Oh, this artist doesn’t know either? OK, let’s work it out together.’ We hold our artists to such high standards,” she explains, adding how it helped “just to hear that they’re also going through the sh– we’re going through.”

While trying to process the constant violence ravaging the AAPI community, Pizarro found herself switching from listening to one of her favorite artists, Drake, to Ruby Ibarra, a Filipino-American rapper whose “comforting” and “powerful” lyrics in Tagalog, Waray and English focus on her cultural heritage and immigrant experiences. “We have this whole continent of music out of Asia, and they’re killing it. But a lot of it doesn’t travel here, just either language or messaging,” Pizarro elaborates. “So we don’t have as many voices in American music, but when they do, they really resonate with us. There’s so few Asian American artists. The K-pop stuff of the world … it’s just a different story over there. It’s very specific to us.”

BTS, one of the biggest musical acts in the world, condemned the recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes sweeping the United States. The K-pop supergroup opened up about moments when they “faced discrimination as Asians” but centered their statement on “the events that have occurred over the past few weeks.” Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama wrote on Twitter that “A CRIME AGAINST ANY COMMUNITY IS A CRIME AGAINST US ALL” and has shared multiple links on how to support the families of Atlanta’s shooting victims. Despite the disparate experiences of global acts of Asian descent, these recent acts of violence have brought them together from all corners of the world so they can stand with each other in solidarity. And Pizarro thinks it’s time for record labels to join them.

“All of our stories are so valuable, especially when it comes to something like music, where it’s culture. The record labels have even more of a responsibility to reflect all of us,” Pizarro says. “We spend most of our time at work. This is our family, so to speak, most of the day. I think our stories, all of our stories, are really unique and exciting and bring something to the company.”

Universal wanted its ERGs to hop on a call and unpack better ways to serve minority communities, but those groups plan to take their cultural collaborations a step further. Pizarro mentions that PRISM, the ERG for LGBTQ+ members of Universal, pitched a drag fundraiser with Asian drag queens in partnership with UTOPIAA. “I was like, ‘This is f—ing genius,'” Pizarro recalls, adding that the next steps should involve all of UMG’s ERGs collaborating on cool ways to “solve the same problem.”

“I think now the programming turned from how to roll dumplings to how to be an ally. So I think that’s the next step. It’s just having real conversations, and that’s on us to do,” she says. “We don’t need to do an origami class. We need to have another town hall on Asian support of the Black community in the past. Those types of real things are the next steps.”

Jeezy Marries Jeannie Mai in Their Atlanta Backyard

On Saturday, rapper Jeezy married TV host Jeannie Mai in their Atlanta backyard. Vogue broke the news with exclusive photos from the at-home ceremony, and Mai shared her own Instagram post on Thursday (April 1).

“You will forever be my ‘I Do,'” Mai wrote on Instagram alongside a photo in her wedding dress, signing the caption “Mrs. Jeannie Mai Jenkins.”

Jeezy (real name: Jay Jenkins) and Mai got engaged exactly a year before their wedding, on March 27, 2020, while they were quarantining together in Los Angeles. The rapper had intended to propose during an April 2020 trip to Vietnam, but when it got canceled due to pandemic travel restrictions, he improvised.

At the wedding, Jeezy surprised his now-wife with a performance from Tyrese, who sang his 1999 top 10 Hot Hip-Hop/R&B Songs hit “Sweet Lady.” All guests traveling from out of town had to submit negative COVID-19 test results two days before the ceremony, and testing was also provided on site before traveling to their backyard wedding.

The couple reportedly began dating in November 2018 and made their public debut the following August on the red carpet at the Street Dreamz gala for his nonprofit.

Jeezy released The Recession 2, his 12th studio album, in November.

How Indian Electro-Pop Artist Ritviz Banked on Spotify Streams to Navigate Pandemic

MUMBAI — In India, a country where the average payout rate for an audio stream is 10 paise ($0.0014) — about half what Spotify pays artists in the U.S. — most independent musicians struggle to make rent from their plays on the nine main streaming platforms.

An exception is Ritviz Srivastava, a 24-year-old composer, producer and singer, and the creator of a sub-genre of Hindi electro-pop he calls “Hindustani dance music.” In 2020, Ritviz, who is known artistically by his first name, made almost as much money from streaming as he did from touring in 2019 — a notable feat considering he’s one of the busiest live acts in India, playing nearly 70 concerts a year.

Between April and December 2020, Ritviz’s 118 million on-demand audio streams earned him more than Rs10.6 million (about $145,000) after distributor Believe’s 20% revenue cut. As his manager Rahul Sinha, founder of the firm Under the Radar, tells Billboard, audio stream revenue will account for almost 60% of Ritviz’s total income for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ends on March 31. Amid the pandemic, as live concerts have been shut down, that’s almost four times the 16% share streaming contributed the prior year — and close to the 72% he pulled in from touring.

Ritviz stands out as one Indian artist who didn’t allow the pandemic to blow a financial hole in his career. When his touring income plummeted to zero — as it did for many artists around the world — he found ways to pivot to other parts of his artist business, generating more revenues from streams, brand associations and synch deals.

As of Dec. 31, Spotify was the source of 74% of Ritviz’s streams, followed by Indian streamer JioSaavn (14%), Apple Music (6.5%) and Amazon Prime Music (5%). Ritviz over-indexes on Spotify because he uses “all of its tools,” says Padmanabhan “Paddy” Nurani, the head of artist and label partnerships at Spotify India. The artist studies Spotify for Artists data, creates playlists and partakes in promotional activities with the brand. To build buzz around his new single “Pran,” Ritviz took over Indie India — the platform’s flagship local independent music playlist — for a week in March.

“There has not been a single opportunity that they’ve missed with us,” says Nurani, noting Ritviz has been one of the few Indian artists to fully engage with the platform. “Anytime I talk to Rahul, he knows where Ritviz’s music is working, what cities, genre, gender.”

Ritviz has also benefited from his music’s distinct sound. He established himself by fusing pop and EDM and embellishing them with Hindi lyrics and elements of Indian classical and folk music. The indie artist has “started a new genre of playful electronic music,” says Nurani. “There’s always a musical hook line and a lyrical hook line in his songs.”

And with the “conversational language” he uses in his song lyrics, Ritviz appeals to the Gen Z demographic that makes up India’s largest user base of audio streamers, adds Nurani, noting that 80% of the artist’s audience is under the age of 27.

Last June, Ritviz had as many as six songs simultaneously on Spotify India’s Top 200 chart. They included the breakthrough “Udd Gaye,” which has over 32 million streams despite being released in November 2017 (Spotify arrived in India in February 2019), and “Liggi,” which has more than 44 million plays and is still in the top 20.

When the streamer launched in India in 2019, Ritviz had about 34,000 followers, according to Chartmetric. As of Thursday (April 1), he had more than 683,000.

But Ritviz didn’t rely only on streaming during the pandemic. The synch component of his earnings soared from 1% of his total in 2019 to 25% in 2020. The makers of the mobile game Garena Free Fire used Ritviz’s song “Jeet” in a promotional music video, YouTube incorporated “Liggi” in a Diwali-themed campaign, and in March, Cadbury India included “Udd Gaye” in a TV commercial for their Perk chocolate bar.

He made another 17% of his money last year from deals with brands that included Tinder, for which he created the Pride anthem “Raahi,” and short video app Moj, on which he released an exclusive video album of five 30-second songs.

Sinha began managing Ritviz in 2017 while an employee at Only Much Louder (OML), an Indian entertainment conglomerate. The electronic music artist was signed to the label until 2019 when Sinha left the company, taking Ritviz with him.

While he achieved streaming success without signing to a label, Ritviz benefited from the backing of a brand: spirits maker Bacardi. In 2017, Bacardi picked Ritviz to compose a track for its House Party Sessions series, which showcases upcoming independent music talent. The music video for the resulting single, “Udd Gaye,” was uploaded on the YouTube channel of comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), which was working with Bacardi at the time.

“Udd Gaye” proved so successful that Bacardi established a longstanding association with Ritviz and bankrolled the videos for his subsequent releases, including “Jeet,” “Sage,” “Chalo Chalein” and “Thandi Hawa,” which have accumulated between 10 and 20 million plays each on Spotify.

The backing of Bacardi and then AIB introduced Ritviz to an audience beyond the traditional indie music fanbase, his manager says. Even though the comedy troupe disbanded in May 2019, AIB’s YouTube channel boasts 3.9 million subscribers, double that of Ritviz’s.

“This was the next generation of 18-to-24-year-olds,” says Sinha. “YouTube is where our music gets discovered, but at the end of the day, to hear the music, people go on to some audio platform of their choice.”

Who’s Your Favorite Mentor or Advisor on ‘The Voice’? Vote!

The Voice doesn’t just have a star-studded panel of coaches; the advisors and mentors for each team are superstars in their own right. But which one is your favorite?

Before becoming American Idol judges, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan were advisors for Team Christina [Aguilera] in season 2 and Team Blake [Shelton] in season 12, respectively.

Pop superstars Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus served as mentors for the contestants on all four teams in seasons 7, 8 and 10, respectively, before Cyrus eventually joined as a coach the following season and returned for season 13, where she brought her father Billy Ray Cyrus as the advisor for Team Miley.

Even more family affairs? Joe Jonas was an advisor for Team Adam [Levine] in season 13 and reprised his role in season 18 alongside older brother Kevin Jonas for Team Nick [Jonas] for a Jonas Brothers onscreen reunion.

Next up: Snoop Dogg was announced as the season 20 Mega Mentor on Thursday (April 1) and he’ll hit the show on April 19.

So which superstar advisor/mentor on The Voice is a winner to you? Vote below!

Watch Justin Bieber Perform ‘Lonely’ for Inmates During California Prison Visit

UPDATE: On Friday (April 23), TMZ published a video of Justin Bieber performing “Lonely” for a group of inmates during his visit to Los Angeles County’s California State Prison in Lancaster, Calif. Watch the video below.

On March 23, Justin Bieber visited Los Angeles County’s California State Prison to meet with a group of prisoners involved in a seminary program and learn about the maximum-security institution’s faith-based initiatives. He also performed “Lonely” for inmates (watch below).

Bieber — who went to the prison in Lancaster, Calif., along with his wife Hailey and pastor Judah Smith — visited with prisoners involved in The Urban Ministry Institute, as well as the Paws for Life K9 Rescue program, which allows prisoners to train dogs to become service animals for military vets. Thanks to conversations during his visit, Bieber committed to providing buses to transport family members who have been unable to visit their incarcerated loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a life-changing experience that I will never forget,” Bieber said in a statement Thursday (April 1). “It was such an honor listening to their stories and seeing how strong their faith is.”

Bieber’s visit was in partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and ARC founder and One Community CEO Scott Budnick, who invited the pop star to come to the prison to learn more about the programs.

“After hearing Justin’s interviews around the release of his album Justice, and knowing how faith transformed his life, I was excited to invite him to Lancaster prison to meet deeply transformed men whose lives were saved in prison by the church,” Budnick said in a statement. “Justin came in with an open heart and incredible spirit and was so engaged in actively listening to the stories of change and redemption, as well as the men’s desire to expand the religious programming and give back to the community. Justin, Hailey and Judah had so many ideas after the visit and I received many collect calls from the men inside the prison afterwards expressing the joy the visit brought them after such a tough year.”

Fans can support the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and other causes close to Bieber’s heart — as well as enter for a chance to win concert tickets, a guitar signed by Justin, or Justice album merch — by visiting JB’s Propeller campaign.

Weezer Lands First No. 1 on Adult Alternative Airplay Chart With ‘All My Favorite Songs’

After nearly two decades of appearing on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Airplay chart, Weezer notches its first No. 1, as “All My Favorite Songs” rises 3-1 on the list dated April 3.

While the alternative radio format has generally been the Rivers Cuomo-led band’s bread and butter since the mid-’90s, the group has reached Adult Alternative Airplay seven times, beginning with the No. 8-peaking “Island in the Sun” in 2001. Weezer’s highest-charting hit before its new leader, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” reached No. 6 in 2010.

Weezer’s 18-year and seven-month span between its first Adult Alternative Airplay appearance and first No. 1 marks the longest in the chart’s history, surpassing the 16 years between Mavis Staples’ featured turns on Natalie Merchant’s “Build a Levee” (2002) and Hozier’s No. 1 “Nina Cried Power” (2018). In terms of artists in lead roles, Weezer breaks the mark held by Beck, who first charted with “Tropicalia” in 1998 and first led with “Blue Moon” in 2014.

Concurrently, “All My Favorite Songs” bullets at No. 6 on the all-rock-format, audience-based Rock & Alternative Airplay chart with 3.8 million audience impressions, according to MRC Data. On Alternative Airplay, the song ranks at its No. 9 high, having become Weezer’s 19th top 10 in early March. The group has earned five No. 1s on the survey.

The track is the lead single from OK Human, Weezer’s 14th studio album. The set debuted at No. 5 on the Alternative Albums chart dated Feb. 13 and has earned 36,000 equivalent album units.