A CHAT WITH ROBERTO ANDRADE

Much has changed at Warner Music Latina since Roberto Andrade Dirak joined the Miami-based label in 2022. Before taking the role of managing director, U.S., Andrade decided to leave a 25-year run as a music entrepreneur, which included running successful artist management and promotion companies. As Andrade explained to HITS, he and current Warner Music Latin America President Alejandro Duque worked closely together while Duque was MD of Universal Latino and Andrade managed Sebastián Yatra. Duque made it clear that he wanted Andrade to be his partner in remodeling WMG’s Latin division.

Aggressive pursuit might be the most noticeable change Duque, now in year three of his reign at WML has brought to the label, with revamping the label’s roster one of his priorities. While inking new and established acts like Yandel, Maria Becerra and Tokischa, fostering the partnership with música Mexicana powerhouse Rancho Humilde and seeing Myke Towers elevate his status to global hitmaker, WML’s U.S. operation has reached new heights in market share in the last two years. In 2023, WML hit a new peak in current Latin market share, reaching just under 17% behind a run that included Junior H’s $AD BOYZ 4 LIFE II and smashes from Yng Lvcas and Towers. This year the label reached a 14% current share following Towers’ collaboration with Bad Bunny, “ADIVINO.”

We caught up with Andrade to chat about entering the record label world in Miami, getting courted by Duque and competing at the highest level in signings and repertoire.

Let’s start with how you arrived at Warner Latina. How was the adjustment going from an entrepreneur to a corporate leadership role?

I was always independent, I never worked at a company for 25 years. But so far, it’s been great. At first it was a little intimidating—all the business reports, leading a big team, being super-organized. But fortunately, I work with a genius named Alejandro Duque.

How closely did you two work together previously?

He had my position at Universal. When Yatra was in the final phases of closing a deal at another major, Duque entered the fray. I told him, “If you want a chance, then you need to come to Medellin and meet us.” The next day he was there. It was an instant connection. We signed with him, and he and I worked very closely together throughout Yatra’s breakthrough.

When Duque first got the job at Warner, he insisted on many occasions that I join the team. Finally during the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas, he found me and said, “You have to do this with me.” I started to really consider that maybe this is some sort of calling. I told him to give me an offer out of curiosity. It came and I asked my wife; she said “This is a great opportunity.” That’s how we ended up in Miami.

He seems to be very persistent.

Yes. He has a vision and a different way of doing things. He could’ve chosen a normal executive from a seasoned label job, but he sought out a manager from the streets.

How did you adjust initially?

Working with Alejandro is like being in an MBA program [laughs]; he’s very intelligent. He was able to guide me with anything I needed help with. He’s a very complete executive. He can speak to finance, legal, marketing, and creative. He always has a solution.

These two years, I’ve been learning as much as I can with Duque. He is a king when it comes to complex matters like financially running a company. He allows me the independence to make decisions my position can make. There’s a lot of trust, and we complement each other very well.

What is your day-to-day like now?

It’s a lot of work managing the relationships with artists and managers. Yesterday we had three artists in the building at the same time—Tiago PZK, Maria Becerra and Izaak. It was crazy.

It’s not always like that. It’s not everyday you have a “LALA.” My main focus for these last two years has been revamping the roster: A&R and bringing in new artists. We are not where we want to be, but we are on the right path. We’ve been building a great portfolio—I want our roster to be complete.

Andrade, Duque, WMG CEO, Recorded Music Max Lousada, Myke Towers at WMG's 2024 Grammy party

It seems like every two weeks there’s a new signing to Warner Latina.

We just signed Tokischa. There’s Juan Duque, Maria Becerra, Elena Rose, Laur La L, Blessd, Tiago PZK, Danny Ocean, Ovy on the Drums, Esteban Rojas, De La Rose, Kim Loaiza and many more. Now that the roster is more balanced, I can focus more on A&R and marketing, the two departments I oversee.

Myke Towers has elevated his status. Why is it all coming together now for him?

It’s been a lot of preparation. Myke and his partner [Orlando] “Jova” [Cepeda], they are the best A&Rs. When it comes to being in the studio, they are incredible. The discipline and detail in every song, mix, production… they are architects when it comes to creating a project. Every track is placed with intention—this is trap, here’s a song for summer. That’s what clicked with “LALA.”

That was a game-changing moment for him. The song blew up overnight.

It was a natural phenomenon. We saw it beginning to click in different markets. This is where Myke Towers' team excels. Duque made the decision to put maximum resources behind it and it became a global priority within WMG.

It was a perfect symphony of the Warner ecosystem working together worldwide, from the U.K., Germany, Brazil, U.S., to make history with a global #1.

What else have you and your team been working on?

The Academy [supergroup aka Avengers with Lenny Tavárez, Justin Quiles, Dímelo Flow, Sech, and Dalex] was a big moment. It was a very complex situation to close with so many artist camps involved; thankfully we were able to finalize a deal with Rich Music. The project was a great success.

We have Maria Becerra coming with new music and a world tour. She is a huge priority for us. We just released Danny Ocean’s new album, which had a great launch in Spain, Latin America & the United States.

We are releasing albums from some of our top artists such as Myke Towers, Tiago PZK, Justin Quiles, Lenny Tavarez, and one of our most promising artists, Izaak. We also have high hopes for new signee Esteban Rojas.

Can you talk about the música Mexicana investment in the West Coast?

We moved our SVP of Marketing, Ruben Abraham, to L.A.—he’s now GM of música Mexicana. We are expanding the team. It’s an honor to support Rancho Humilde and Jimmy Humilde. That’s his culture, and Nata [Natanael Cano] and Junior H are maximum exponents of the movement. They take the lead and have given us the opportunity to amplify on música Mexicana’s
moment.

There's also young artists like DannyLux, whose career has quickly taken off and traditional norteño groups like Pesado. These artists are taking the lead, and giving us the opportunity to amplify música Mexicana’s moment.

Second photo: Duque, Yandel, Andrade
Bottom photo: Duque, Angelica Piche, Tokischa, Andrade

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