The Miami entertainment market pulsates with energy — from top musicians and producers to broadcasters and content creators. With this list, Variety celebrates the Miami movers and shakers shaping pop culture.
Founder, Vibras Lab
At 17, Vibras Lab founder and J Balvin manager Acosta launched a production company that would put together metal concerts in abandoned bodegas in Bogotá, Colombia. A rock fan, Acosta worked for Discos MTM, BMG and EMI, promoting everything from Guns N’ Roses to electronic music. In 2014, he asked Balvin, “What would you like me to do for you?,” to which he responded that his primary goal was to be No. 1 on Billboard’s U.S. chart. Today, Balvin holds the record for the Latin artist with the most No. 1 hits on Billboard. “No one believed in ‘Mi Gente’; at the beginning it was just José and I,” Acosta says. That music video went on to become the fastest video to reach 400 million views on YouTube. Acosta deeply cares about his relationship with Balvin. “[We are] the people who accompany them not only in good times, but also in their tough personal moments, the ones who support them.”
President, VIS and Paramount Networks, Southern Europe, LatAm, Middle East and Africa
Acosta oversees the production studios that supply original content to the new Paramount Plus service and to the company’s free and pay TV networks as well as third-party streamers and broadcasters. He led the acquisition of Chilevisión and FoxTeleColombia, which now makes Paramount one of the largest producers of Spanish-language content in the world. “Miami is a place like no other — it is where I was raised and have the privilege of having experienced a wide array of diversity and talents that have created the entertainment mecca it is today.”
President, CEO, chair Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS)
Alarcón and his father, Pablo Raul, launched their publicly traded media company with radio, television, and Internet properties geared to the growing U.S. Hispanic population in 1983. The company owns key radio properties in diversified markets including Miami, L.A., New York, Puerto Rico and Chicago. Its SBS Entertainment division produces live concerts in selected markets anchored by their radio station presence.
Brazilian superstar Anitta settled in Miami because it reminds her of home. “It’s very similar to Rio de Janeiro,” says the hitmaker, who is signed to Warner Records. “In Miami, we have a lot of Latin people and also a big Brazilian community. People have fun and there is no curfew for alcohol at 2 a.m.” Anitta sees the influx of newcomers as a result of post-pandemic soul searching. “People started to think about what is real in life. Miami offers you a life outside of music.” The location has also helped her diversify, releasing songs in English, Spanish and Portuguese. “I can work on the three of them in Miami,” she laughs.
Head of Marketing Neon16, Ntertain
Arcay grew up tagging along with her cousin Claudia Arcay while she worked on the touring and booking side of the industry with Latin superstars such as Luis Miguel, Maná and Enrique Iglesias. Now, Arcay works on everything from artist development campaigns, music releases, events and brand partnerships in the hopes to continue contributing to what she calls the “mecca of entertainment,” Miami. “I’m very secure and confident in what I do,” she says. “When you live [in Miami], you’re probably gonna meet the right people either by luck or by coincidence. You can be at the studio at the right time and suddenly Bad Bunny comes in. It’s where everyone wants to be.”
Senior Vice President, A&R Republic Records
“I’m living the dream every single day.” Berkman, senior VP of A&R at Republic Records and former head of A&R at Cash Money Records, moved to Miami on a whim in 2006. Cash Money co-founders Birdman and Slim were immediately impressed by his business acumen, skills on the production board and ability to spot emerging talent. Now, with A&R credits ranging from Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne to DJ Khaled and Drake, Berkman’s job revolves around “making magic with artists”—and Miami’s lush, oceanic environment to create. “People come here to work, be refreshed and take a break while focusing on music. I have a studio on the water right in the middle of Miami. It’s perfect.”
Billions started his career as an engineer in Miami. “I worked on music that I wouldn’t have been familiar with had I not been put in front of it,” he says of the city’s diverse musical ecosystem that extends from Latin rhythms to Afrobeats. That exposure proved invaluable when he began producing hits for superstars such as the Weeknd, Beyoncé and Lil Wayne. “Being out here and seeing how people react to different genres, you understand what works and what doesn’t,” he says. The Grammy nominee doesn’t begrudge Miami’s newfound popularity in the music industry. “I always felt like this was the best city in the world,” he says. “I think everybody’s starting to figure it out.”
Co-founder, CEO Neon 16, Ntertain
Gone are the days when Borrero waited outside Sony Studios to hand artists his beats. But after stints in New York, the Magic City worked its charms when then-Roc Nation exec Borrero met Tainy and began talking business with the producer. Borrero shaped Tainy to become the first Latin music producer to be treated as an artist, in his own right. “He’s in a phone call with an artist and the artist told him, ‘Tainy, no one gives a fuck about the producer, it’s all about the artist. Please step down, your opinion doesn’t matter.’ I saw on his face how much that hurt him and I said to him ‘You know what? We’re gonna make you bigger than that artist.’”And so he did. “Branding and building a business is creating moments and learning how to communicate those moments to the masses. That’s business. That’s the key to the success we’ve built with Tainy.”
From the sultry salsa of “Havana” to the reggaeton beats of current single “Bam Bam,” Cabello’s Cuban roots and Miami upbringing shine through in her songs. “It’s the music that makes me feel relaxed, sexy and like I want to sweat,” she says. And while she doesn’t often get to record in her hometown, she always looks forward to it. “It’s so much more fun and relaxed because our surroundings are so beautiful. The weather, ocean breeze, gorgeous plant life.” Although the abundance of natural beauty is part of Miami’s allure, her connection goes deeper. The city’s major draws for Cabello are threefold: “The Latin community, the Latin food and my family.”
Yung Miami and JT, better known as the City Girls, always speak positively about their hometown—“period!” Despite being from two of Miami’s roughest neighborhoods (Opa-locka and Liberty City), they say, “There’s no city like Miami in the world.” As Yung Miami explains, “There’s an energy here that’s magic that makes everyone want to be a part of what we do; whether it’s how we talk, dress, party or support each other as we all rise.” JT adds, “The vibe in Miami is always right! The weather is usually perfect most of the year, but it’s the pace of the city that fuels us as well.” As City Girls continue to evolve into world-famous rappers, Miami will always be home.
Bruno del Granado
Head Global Latin Music Touring Group, CAA
Del Granado arrived in Miami in 1993 with the purpose of launching MTV Latino. But fairly quickly, he realized something was brewing, “something really big,” he says. That “something” was the 1999 Latin music explosion. “I don’t think [it] would’ve happened without Gloria and Emilio [Estefan], to be honest. They helped all these up and coming artists blow up. Gloria helped Shakira learn how to speak English.” Del Granado reps such clients as Residente, Luis Fonsi, Lunay, Ricky Martin and Emilio Estefan, and prior to joining CAA, he launched Madonna’s Maverick Latino label. “Be humble and [don’t] take anything for granted. I can have the greatest title and job right now and tomorrow it can be gone. There is no need for arrogance,” he says.
Born Ramón Ayala (aka Raymond) in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Daddy Yankee grew up in a musical family. At a young age, he became interested in Spanish-language hip-hop, especially the socially aware raps of Vico C. Today he’s a global superstar. Daddy Yankee has sold more than 17 million albums, with 50 hit songs on the Billboard charts. He is the only Latin artist with four Spanish-language songs to reach the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100. His 2004 mainstream breakthrough “Barrio Fino” — and in particular, the international hit single “Gasolina” — helped establish reggaeton as a marketable music style. In 2017, he was featured on Luis Fonsi’s global smash “Despacito” topping the charts in 47 countries.
President Warner Music Latin America
Duque took over his post less than a year ago but since joining the team, he’s spearheaded the opening of a regional Mexican music division, “a genre that’s growing significantly and we had been overlooking,” he says. In an effort to be at the forefront of breaking talent, the company recently signed Blessd, a Colombian artist riding high on hit “Medallo.” Duque is among the executives who recognize a big movement coming from often-overlooked areas of Latin America such as Argentina, with artists including Paulo Londra and Maria Becerra. “We saw the trends early and we took advantage of that,” he says. “You have to love what you do. This is not a job, this is a lifestyle.
President U.S. Latin, Sony Music
Gallardo went from receptionist to president at Sony U.S. Latin overseeing superstars such as Marc Anthony, Romeo Santos, Ozuna, Anuel AA, Shakira and Camilo. 2021 saw a huge hit with Rauw Alejandro and “Todo De Ti.” A music aficionado with no contacts in the industry, he saw an open door when he applied for a receptionist position at Warner Music. “In my interview, I said, ‘My dream is to get into this industry, if I need to clean the floors [and] the windows, I’m ready. I just want to have a foot in the door and I’ll take it from there.” Every new music release presents a moment of self-imposed pressure for his hard-working team. “This job can be very stressful. Working with creative people is exciting but it can be challenging, so don’t take it so seriously and bring passion to whatever you do. If you’re not passionate about it, you’ll most likely fail.”
Founder Groot Hospitality
Grutman’s innovative hospitality business comprises two mega-clubs plus a slew of restaurants, cafés and bars in Miami. In 2021, he partnered with Pharrell Williams on several restaurants and his first hotel venture, the Goodtime, as well as the Bahamas-based Somewhere Else Resort, opening in 2024. Grutman will soon expand his vision with anticipated openings across North America, West Asia, North Africa and the Caribbean. “Working in Miami and Miami Beach is unlike anywhere else. It’s fast-paced, and the area is evolving at lightning speed. The interest from around the world has never been bigger. And the culture and layers of Miami and Miami Beach are totally unique.”
Chairman NBCU Telemundo Enterprises
Ferrari has overseen Telemundo’s double-digit growth and been instrumental in the growth of the Telemundo App, delivering the highest number of viewers on record among the NBCU properties, positioning the network as the No. 1 broadcast network on YouTube. He led the launch of Telemundo Streaming Studios, fast tracking 35 productions currently in development, solidifying the network’s place as the go-to source for Spanish-language content. “Miami has been the home of Telemundo for decades,” he says. “When we decided to build Telemundo Center, we chose Miami where we now serve as a leading employer in the community. From here, we reach over 62 million Latinos in the U.S and across international markets every day with our premium entertainment, sports and news content, solidifying Miami’s position as a global center for the media industry.”
Karol G helped to break the mold of what a reggaeton superstar looks like. With such songs as “Makinon” and “Bichota,” she paved the way for female artists to speak their truth in an industry dominated by men. Her collaborations on singles with other urbano stars, including Nicky Jam, Anuel AA, Bad Bunny and J Balvin, have resulted in hits. Most recently, she topped the charts with singles “Tusa” with Nicki Minaj, “China” with Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Ozuna and J Balvin; and “Ocean.
Head of Music Label Partnerships, U.S. Latin and LatAm Meta
Harley’s 20-year career spans countries and languages. He became obsessed with Latin rhythms in his London home. He later ran Sony Music Brazil’s marketing department, after owning his own record label in the U.K. His career continued at Nokia, Amazon and Google. One of the projects he’s most proud of is the partnership Meta achieved with the Latin Grammys, Univision and various record label partners where they were able to broadcast exclusive performances by artists including Bad Bunny, Camilo and Rubén Blades on Facebook. Harley has always had a knack for spotlighting undiscovered artists so much so that he has his own independent podcast “La Mezcla” in which he features new Latino artists. “Back in Brasil’s Acari favela, I learned firsthand how music can change peoples’ lives. That’s my compass and I try not to deviate from that. Even if the music business is a business, it’s also a culture and it can really help people celebrate the good times and help them through the tough times.”
Partner/Co-Head of Hip-Hop/R&B, WME
Based in Miami Beach, Iser has been leading WME in transitioning agency clients into Web3-based solutions for creating digital ecosystems around their art and fanbase. During the pandemic, he boosted clients’ business via streaming performances and literary, film, TV and brand endorsement deals. Iser closed book deals for Anderson .Paak and Willow, in addition to a deal for Swae Lee and Mike Will to executive produce an HBO series. “Miami has always been a cultural hub but during the COVID shutdown, the city remained almost completely open, which allowed for a collaborative and inspiring environment for so many creatives. That, along with the great weather, enticed music artists and executives to move to Miami and continue to stay productive, some building in-home recording studios and all benefitting from the incredible hospitality that the city offers.”
DJ Khaled screams Miami — and quite regularly. In 2018, he teamed up with fellow artists Yo Gotti and Rick Ross for a song dedicated to his home base, proving his unwavering loyalty to the bubbling entertainment epicenter. “Miami raised me,” he told Billboard last May. “My mom and dad came to America with maybe less than $20 in their pockets.” Now the owner of a $25.9 million waterfront mansion, DJ Khaled can work and live lavishly at his sprawling Miami estate. Coupled with his Another Wing delivery-only restaurant and the Licking soul food franchise, Khaled is bringing “the best” of Miami to everything he does.