Chartmetric data as of: Dec 20, 2017 | Chartmetric’s 3-minute podcast series is live!

“Despacito” was really big. Got it.

CNCO: Pronounced as “see-en-see-oh”, a Latin American powerhouse from Univision’s La Banda music competition (Simon Cowell, Ricky Martin)

But to say that Latin music is having a “resurgence” is like saying the sun is having a “comeback” the next morning: Latin music has always been strong, present, and loved by millions. There’s been lots of fans screaming for more…some of us just weren’t listening.

What’s different now is simple, public music data: most digital music users can easily understand the amount of Spotify streams or YouTube views an artist has and why it matters to their popularity, and that’s important. While Nielsen Soundscan sales were the domain of music business wonks and RIAA records pressed in precious metals made for great press photos, Billboard charts have long been the popular measure of “making it” by the numbers. But with the arrival of digital streaming, even that methodology has since grown convoluted.

So what does Latin boy band sensation CNCO have to benefit from this? The same that Korean group BTS does: data-based bona fides in the US, the #1 music market in the world. Even for those who don’t like the music or the numbers themselves, it is undeniable how they can open doors for international artists knocking on USA’s door.

CNCO vs. 1D: Social Snapshot

As the second part of Chartmetric’s deep dive into global boy bands BTS and CNCO, we’ll again be exploring the group’s data profile in relation to One Direction’s (1D). Though now in hiatus status, 1D continues to be the last global boy band phenomenon, and their recency allows us an opportunity to compare the groups through streaming and other social media metrics.

Again, it’s unfair to snapshot a group clearly on the rise- CNCO formed in Dec 2015 from Spanish network Univision’s La Banda talent competition- with another group that ceased activity at approximately the same time (1D’s last public performances were also in Dec 2015). But it gives us a starting point.

One Direction: UK’s “old guard”
CNCO: Latin America’s latest boy band export

Just like with our BTS/1D snapshot, we see split metrics between our legacy and newcomer groups. 1D still pulls more Spotify, YouTube, Twitter, and Wikipedia units by significant margins (e.g., x6 CNCO’s Twitter daily follows), while CNCO edges them out in Facebook daily likes and Instagram daily follows (1D is experiencing significant fandom flight with negative values).

Combining with our BTS snapshot, this suggests that Facebook and Instagram tend to be more sensitive to an artist’s immediate activity (i.e., do you ever search for old FB/IG posts?), while Spotify and YouTube tend to reward replay-oriented, catalog assets that also benefit from user-generated content (e.g., Spotify playlists, YouTube fan lyric videos).

Twitter and Wikipedia, however, warrant a closer look at the particular act’s situation. While BTS edges CNCO and 1D on both platforms, this is likely due to BTS’ consolidation of all members into one Twitter account (CNCO has group and individual member accounts), as well as BTS’ Nov 2017 stateside media blitz, triggering more hits on their English Wikipedia page (I assume massive ARMY influence as a given). But if the tables were turned and/or we take into account each group’s fandom and their geographical spread (which may also play platform favorites), it seems these positions could easily change.

¿Se Habla Inglés?

“We want to stay singing in Latin or Spanish because it’s our language and culture. And now Latin music has much power.” — Zabdiel De Jesus, CNCO member (via Metro’s Katie Baillie)

On the global stage, CNCO certainly comes from a long line of Latin boy bands (e.g., Puerto Rico’s Menudo, The Bronx’s Aventura, Mexico’s Magneto), and each one had different origins and varying degrees of national/international success. Superstars like Ricky Martin and Romeo Santos got their start in that league. But since “Latin boy bands” would demand an entire book to explain (BTS’ lineage was a bit easier to explore, being from a single, smaller country), let’s focus on two related topics relevant to both groups as they break into the US market: the use of English and the strategic guest artist single.

“It’s super important that each band member is very proud of their Latin heritage….because they’re going to represent an entire community in all parts of the world.” — Ricky Martin counseling future CNCO member Joel Pimentel (Mexican-American) on his Spanish abilities

CNCO is proudly Latin, and with a potential market of at least 559 million Spanish speakers worldwide (not even counting non-Spanish speakers), so are their managers. In the US alone, the Instituto Cervantes estimated 52.6 million Spanish-speakers, which eclipses even Spain itself and leaving only Mexico ahead of it (#1 spot at 121 million). Cultural pride aside, this gives more than enough evidence for CNCO to focus their music on a purely Spanish language audience.

CNCO YouTube Views, by country distribution & growth since Sep 2017

Looking at Chartmetric’s YouTube Views Geography Metrics section, we can begin to estimate CNCO’s impact on this gigantic market with a platform that is both free and popular (YouTube is the #2 most visited website in the world). By its accessible nature, YouTube gives us one of the best digital streaming measures of music consumption for the general population, especially the younger portion who may not have sizeable disposable income yet for subscription/download services (I make explicit the assumption that CNCO’s primary audience will skew under-25, though I acknowledge I do not have age data on the “CNCOwners” fandom).

Nearly three-fourths (73.6%) of CNCO’s YouTube Views (a whopping 3.8+ billion) originate from seven primarily Spanish-speaking nations (Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Spain, Ecuador, Columbia, Chile), with four of those countries showing over 25% growth in the past four months. The largest non-Spanish (as a primary) country view count comes from the US with 5% at almost 200 million views. Would it make any business sense to worry about a #8 country? Who needs English?

In April 2017, CNCO’s “Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos)” peaked in the Spotify playlist ecosystem

Now, now America- I know it’s hard to admit the world doesn’t revolve around us…but that’s not to say that CNCO isn’t making non-Spanish plays. One of their biggest hits, “Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos)” (seen at the article start), was released in August 2016, peaking in Spotify playlist exposure in April 2017 at nearly 28.5 million on 1.6K+ playlists (most notably ¡Viva Latino!, Spotify’s #4 most followed playlist). Seeking a revival of catalog and a play towards the British (and likely US too), CNCO released a Spanish/English version as “Reggaetón Lento (Remix)” with the UK’s X-Factor girl group Little Mix (also signed to Cowell’s Syco Music) in August 2017. This was backed up by Little Mix uploading the video (currently over 120M views) to their YouTube channel and a combined performance on Simon Cowell’s X Factor in Dec 2017 (quite the well-oiled machine he has). While it hasn’t yet resulted in Universal-type Luis Fonsi/Bieber numbers, it’s a similar inter-market play by two of Sony’s power groups across the Spanish-English cultural border.

UK’s Little Mix YouTube Views — Top 3 countries with English as an official language (UK, US, Philippines)

If we take a look at Little Mix’s YouTube profile, we find a stark geographical contrast and a prime opportunity for the cross-pollination of audiences. Their top three countries all have English as an official language: UK, US, and the Philippines, for a combined 36.8% (1.26 billion views) of Little Mix’s total share. More interesting is their #4 following on YouTube is Brazil (254 million views), showing the most growth (18.9% since Aug 2017), as this also appears to be a priority for CNCO with their “Tan Fácil — Spanish-Portuguese” release with Brazil’s Zé Felipe in Sept 2016. While masterful moves by Cowell’s Syco for the UK and Brazilian markets, it will be interesting to see what direct plays CNCO will make for the States, and if it will look anything like BTS & Big Hit Entertainment’s recent US media blitz in Nov 2017.

¡Viva the Weekend!

Let’s return back to our CNCO and 1D comparison- but instead of exploring YouTube virality like with BTS, we turn to Spotify activity. The leading global music streamer with 35% of the market share (Q4 2016), 60+ million subscribers (Aug 2017), and $2.26 billion in revenue (1H 2017), we find an interesting pattern there with the 1D, CNCO and BTS artist profiles. More specifically: the weekend streaming phenomenon.

It should make sense that most people listen to music more on the weekend, and generally speaking, we can see this in Spotify’s data above over the past year. While follower increases/decreases are an arguable proxy variable for actual streams, let’s accept it as an imperfect substitute for our purposes. See any similarities?

Spot-checking a handful of artists, CNCO and 1D’s squiggly weekend peaks and valleys are quite common in pop music (Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello) though slightly more erratic for rap music (Desiigner, Migos, Cardi B). Could this be egged on by Today’s Top Hits and Rap Caviar releasing new music every Friday? Possibly. People just also love celebrating birthdays and bar mitzvahs on the weekend. We see above- focusing on the past month- that CNCO and 1D indeed fall in line with convention.

BTS shows steady daily Spotify follower growth, with sharp spikes on record releases/appearances

However, Korea’s boys show a different Spotify follower pattern: while slightly bumping up over the past month’s weekends, BTS’ follow activity suggests a more even growth pattern daily, with volatile spiking on special dates (here, likely an ARMY-led response to the Nov 19 AMA performance & subsequent US media blitz), in keeping with our findings in our BTS deep dive. What’s even more interesting is that current hot K-pop acts (K.A.R.D., EXO) also feature similar steady-but-stronger-spike follower growth over the long-term. This suggests a kind of fanbase that takes on the artist as a day-to-day lifestyle, something K-pop fandom is known for, and that Western fandoms, while just as passionate, lean towards consumption in a more patterned, weekend-oriented basis. As both CNCO and BTS have strong, growing fandoms, it will be interesting to see how their followings will bleed into the general population, and if their streaming patterns will mimic a weekly Western style, a daily K-pop style, or something new altogether.

CNCO and Little Mix mixing up culture in “Reggaetón Lento (Remix)”

¡Adelante!

“I’m not a believer in releasing full English songs to the U.S. market…We must focus on what we do best as K-pop artists…We’re adjusting and improving the way we do shows on the tour to meet the international or global level and expectations so that anyone, regardless of their culture and background, can enjoy BTS music and performances.” — BTS’ label CEO Bang Si-Hyuk (via Billboard’s Jeff Benjamin)
BTS, Desiigner, and Steve Aoki mixing up culture in “MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix)”

Seeing a theme yet? CNCO and BTS are global boy bands, period. Full stop. So was 1D, but they came from one of the Top 5 music markets in the world, and that lends them a home-court advantage that our Latin and Korean gentlemen simply don’t have. Not just in the music business, but in culture. So, they need different tactics. Yes, CNCO and BTS have their regional/language origins, but not only are they unapologetic, they are fiercely proud of them, and it’s working. Their global fandoms are filling their ranks, and combined with shrewd company strategy, they are now beginning to influence more casual fans in the mainstream US…no English necessary.

While the US has seen the “Macarena” and “Sukiyaki” before, these boys don’t feel like one-off hits. Moreover, they are picking up an unprecedented mainstream significance (outside of their fandom strongholds) that prior boy bands- however huge- have had less success in. In my opinion, CNCO and BTS’ traction points towards a cultural diversity that, enabled by streaming/social data as validation, is finally starting to create a pop culture that more reflects its people and their tastes.

Now that’s something to scream about.

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