Sounds of Bogota: A City Finds Its Musical Voice With BOmm

Billboard

It's not even noon yet -- an ungodly hour by party standards -- but nearly 1,000 people, many of them dressed in business suits, are up and dancing to the beat of Los Rolling Ruanas' cover of The Rolling Stones' "Painted Black." The quartet plays a mix of rock and traditional carranga music from the center of Colombia, a blend that can be disconcerting but definitely begs to be listened to.

It's Day 2 of the Bogota Music Market (BOmm), the annual music market/conference put together by Bogota's Chamber of Commerce and which this year (Sept. 13-16) brought together more than 2,000 attendees, including more than 1,000 artists and 85 international music buyers. 

The sheer size and reach of the confab, the second-largest in Latin America behind Brazil, is remarkable for an event that's only five years old and started with just 420 attendees, 14 national buyers and four international buyers. The success is a reflection -- and a motor -- of Colombia's current standing as perhaps the hottest supplier of Latin talent on a global scale.

At any given time in the last few months, Colombian acts have occupied four to five positions in the top 20 of Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart, a phenomenal amount for a U.S. Latin market typically dominated by Puerto Rican and Mexican acts. That doesn't even take into account the growing number of Colombian acts bubbling under the surface, like Bomba Estereo, ChocQuibTown and Monsieur Perine.

5 to Watch at BOmm (Bogota Music Market)

And while names like J Bavin, Carlos Vives, Maluma and Shakira are not the kind of up-and-comers looking to showcase at BOmm, an important part of what's happening with Colombian music abroad today has its roots here.

 "We are interested in helping artists and others in the music industry live off their talent and make a living from their creativity," says Monica De Greiff, president of the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, which launched BOmm in 2012.

"The music sector is one of Bogota's big bets," says Marco Llinas, the chamber's vp for competitiveness and shared value. "We've been promoting an agenda that aims to move the needle in that sector and in the businesses and musical projects that make it up."

While the repercussions of that initiative go way beyond BOmm, concrete things happen here. Marcela Briceño, co-owner of Colombian digital marketing company LOL, says that six months of her company's revenue comes from deals she closes at BOmm.

This year, 95 Colombian talent buyers and exhibitors, including concert promoters and labels, had booths at BOmm, up from 14 in its first year and 55 in 2015. There were 82 international buyers, up from 4 in 2012 and 67 in 2015. They included reps from SXSW, Lincoln Center, SummerStage, Glastonbury and Nacional Records who come largely attracted by the talent pool; 29 artists showcased this year, up from 20 in 2015 and a mere 8 in 2012. This year, 1600 artists vied for a showcase spot, while over 3000 people made appointments with bookers and other music-related companies during two days of "business rounds."


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Other success stories include jazz act Fatso, who landed 17 European shows last year after showcasing at BOmm; hip hop group Profeta, who were booked for Glastonbury; rock band Diamante Eléctrico, who signed with management/label Criteria Entertainment and have been touring the U.S.; and Pacific Coast group Herencia de Timbiquí, who aside from being booked to play world fests, have gained major traction in Colombia, where they placed their single "Te invite" as the lead track of popular soap opera "La niña."

"Many musicians either finish college, or get to a juncture in their lives where they say: 'What do I do now,'" says Adriana Padilla, director of the Chamber's microsector for creative, cultural and graphic communications industries. "Many of them think making it big means having a radio hit. But our business model has changed. What we want is to show all the actors the value of the entire chain of business."