A strange and infuriating thing happened last year at SiriusXM for fans of Spanish-language music.
It began when the company pulled music station La Mezcla without any warning in March 2015. It was replaced with the Pitbull-curated Globalization program in May — but by October of that year, five out of 10 Latin music stations were also quietly relegated from the company's satellite broadcast lineup to its online-only and app broadcast sections. As of January 2016, subscribers have access to just two of those 10 stations on satellite radio.
“Instead of embracing the second-largest, youngest group of Americans, SiriusXM has chosen to silence Latino voices that can be heard on its satellite radio stations,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino. The Latino civic group is one of a handful of like-minded organizations and Latino record labels that have banded together as the Latino Label Coalition (LLC) in order to challenge the changes at SiriusXM.
The coalition includes a dozen Latino record labels, among them L.A.-based Nacional Records and Cosmica Artists, Seitrack, Jazzhead and Six Degrees, as well as other civic and nonprofit groups such as the Future of Media Coalition and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
“SiriusXM’s decision to eliminate the satellite broadcast of 80 percent of their Latin music channels comes at a time when diversity in media is wanting," Kumar says. "At a time when Latinos are most misunderstood and fighting constant attacks, SiriusXM is turning their backs on us.”
The coalition isn't asking for much. Simply put, it wants SiriusXM to give listeners access to the stations they once had on the company's satellite service. The coalition believes that the company never truly backed its Latino music stations from the beginning and has continued to set them up to fail.
Meanwhile, music streaming companies such as Spotify and Pandora continue to see rapid growth in their Latin music sections. Pandora's Baila Reggaeton station is its third most-listened-to channel globally. This week, Spotify added 20 playlists in its new Mexican music station, which covers regional, rock, hip-hop and other genres performed by Mexican artists.
"Given the increasing number of businesses embracing the significant market power of Latinos and public outcry for greater diversity in all forms of media, this move represents a puzzling failure to offer culturally relevant content to consumers who demand more — not fewer — options on every medium," says Alex Nogales, president-CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
"We often make adjustments to our programming lineup with the goal to better satisfy our subscribers and attract new subscribers," Patrick Reilly, senior vice president of corporate communications for SiriusXM, told L.A. Weekly via a written statement (which appears similar to a statement he gave earlier to Billboard). "Despite reducing the number of Latin music channels on our satellite platform, we still deliver one of the most comprehensive offerings of Spanish-language music, talk and sports programming available."
While SiriusXM offers just two Latin music channels on its satellite broadcast, across all its platforms there are 17 Spanish-language channels that offer music, sports, talk and news. The company also has offered live performances and interviews with Latin artists such as Gilberto Santa Rosa on SiriusXM Caliente and Zion & Lennox on that channel and Flow Nacion.
SiriusXM will have a speaker at a panel during the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in July, curated by LLC partner Nacional Records. Artists performing at and attending the four-day conference in New York are scheduled to appear at SiriusXM's studios during the conference for interviews and performances.
The company estimates that listeners seeking Spanish-language content make up a small number of its overall audience but has not released those audience numbers.
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"To date we have not seen demand from our current and potential subscribers to add more Spanish-language programming to our satellite platform," Reilly said via written statement. "We have found that our Latin base predominately has interest in our broad array of English-speaking programming complemented by our variety of Spanish-language programming."