Rebeca León takes us behind the scenes of Rosalía’s breakthrough year with a female-only team and discusses what she has learned from working with Beyoncé
Still one of the few female managers in the business, especially in the Latin industry, Rebeca León is considered as a true force and visionary, representing Latin superstars Juanes and Latin music’s fastest-rising star, Rosalía. She is a tireless advocate for women in the music business, always striving to create opportunities for young women. Her keynote focused on female empowerment in the music industry, offering an invaluable insight into being a female executive in today’s music ecosys-tem and breaking Latin music with its diverse cultures into the global mainstream.
Frequently listed as one of the few women on industry power player lists like Billboard’s Influential Power 100, Rebeca León is the guiding force behind some of the Latin world’s most prolific artists, presiding prominently over the recent globalisation of Latin music.
Her stellar roster includes legendary rocker Juanes – 23 Latin Grammys, 2 Grammys and 17 million records sold worldwide and Rosalía, Latin music’s fastest-rising and Latin Grammy award winning star. She also works on developing talent, with artists like Dominican trapper Fuego and Grammy-winning producer Sky Rompiendo, the genius behind many of J. Balvin’s biggest hits (who she managed for multiple years).
Rebeca León began her career working at multinational record labels. Starting at Sony Music in 199 and moving to EMI Capitol in 2002, these years offered Rebeca a comprehensive education in the music business, serving to sharpen her eye for talent and allowing her to benefit from an invaluable insight on how artist careers are made. In 2007, she was named SVP of Latin Talent at AEG Live/Goldenvoice. During her 11-year tenure at AEG, Rebeca and her phenomenal team established the company as the most important concert promoter for the US Latin market. Under her leadership, her division was the force behind legendary Mexican rock band Mana’s record-breaking 7-night run at Staples Center, as well as promoting sold-out shows across the US for Latin luminaries like Juanes, Jennifer Lopez, J. Balvin, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Jenni Rivera, Wisin y Yandel, and Romeo Santos, to name a few.
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Here’s a selection of the most insightful quotes or anecdotes from her talk:
Rosalia is right now one of the most talked about artists in the world. How did you come about Rosalía and why did you decide to take a risk with her?
“My partner in Lionfish Entertainment is Juanes. He was the person who introduced me to J Balvin and insisted I manage him. […] Then two summers ago he saw Rosalia in Spain and called me to say he thought he had seen the baby of Björk and Whitney Houston. […] One of the most exciting things about Rosalía is that she’s supported by a team of women. It started with me, her mom, her sister, Cayetana, Vivien Lewitt from YouTube, Jenifer Mallory from Columbia, Jody Gerson from Universal Publishing, Sam Kirby from William Morris. It’s really been incredible to build this team of women around her and to see her meteoric rise and it makes me so proud that it’s all girls. It’s a girl club!
Lionfish is not only a management company, you also develop a lot of content. You brought together people like Pharrell and Rosalia for example. Tell us how that works.
Pharrell is another one of my fairy godfathers. He’s always believed in me and when I started working with Rosalia, I showed him this infamous video, “Aunque de noche”, which was all she had really a the time, and he literally just dropped to his knees in my office and said this is the voice of an angel. He’s been super supportive of her, he’s been supportive of Jose, obviously they did Safari together, he’s really supportive of Sky, who’s another artist, DJ, producer that I work with. He’s amazing, I love him.
I want to talk about J Balvin. How did his career happen and can it happen again?
With Jose, when I started with him, he had never been on the radio outside of Colombia, everybody told him that he would never make it because reggaeton doesn’t come from Colombia. People wouldn’t give him a chance. I think at the end of the day that Jose has magic. […] Colombians took this reggaeton beat and made it much more universal. I believe that was instrumental in mainstreaming reggaeton and kicked down the door for everybody that came after him. He’s got great music, he’s charismatic, he works so hard and it was all strategy.
When you got that call from Beyonce, saying I want to be on Mi Gente, what did you think?
It was amazing! She’s Beyonce, so it was the most exciting thing and it’s a funny story as we weren’t allowed to talk about it so we came up with a code word: Chimichanga. She’s amazing and her team is super professional. I also got to work with the Rolling Stones with Juanes, and you get to work with people that make you realize “wow this is such a level of professionalism and like I aspire to be like this”. They definitely mark the path for the way that we all should be doing business.