Magnus Magnus

Inside Marc Anthony’s New Latin Entertainment Empire

Inside Marc Anthony’s New Latin Entertainment Empire

Inside Marc Anthony’s New Latin Entertainment Empire

Marc Anthony has seen the future, and it’s sitting next to him on a couch. It is three in the afternoon in Miami, on the kind of gorgeous, blustery spring day when the South Florida scenery — sky, sea, swaying palm fronds, pastel-painted buildings — seems to have been arranged by a meticulous set designer. Anthony is holding court in a small office on the second floor of the spiffy new headquarters of Magnus Media, the entertainment company he launched in March 2015.

The room is packed. There’s Anthony; his business partner, Magnus Media CEO Michel Vega; Anthony’s brother, Bigram Zayas, a longtime music industry insider and the co-founder of Loop Labs, an online tool for music collaboration; Anthony’s nephew, a producer and DJ who makes music under the name Develop. And then there’s the young man seated to Anthony’s left, Matt Hunter, a handsome, polite 18-year-old bilingual singer-songwriter of Colombian extraction, raised in New Jersey. Hunter has pursued the kind of guerrilla-style career plan modeled by Justin Bieber, posting videos on YouTube, building a sizable grass-roots following while attracting the attention of record executives. Today, Hunter is in Miami to discuss signing with Magnus Records and to be feted by Anthony, the improbably slight and youthful-looking 47-year-old Nuyorican legend who is among the biggest global superstars — and most powerful people — in Latin music.

Marc Anthony: The Billboard Cover Shoot

“I’m just a massive Matt Hunter fan,” says Anthony. “He’s a YouTube sensation, and he has done it all on his own, since he was 13 years old. When he goes to Chile, there are 5,000 fans at the airport. There are huge crowds outside his hotel in Argentina. He can pick up the guitar and play his ass off. He’s a writer. Imagine an urban sound, in Spanish, played by this young, beautiful kid who’s so talented and just lives music. I mean, the girls go bonkers.”

In the meeting room, they cue up one of Hunter’s new songs, “Amor Real,” a blipping ballad whose plaintive vocals and vaguely tropical bounce bear the influence of — surprise, surprise — Bieber’s recent music. But Hunter’s singing is appealingly sly, and the beat, by Develop, is funky and odd, making clever use of space and silences and taking some surprising harmonic left-hand turns. In short, “Amor Real” sounds like a hit, and Anthony, head-nodding and screw-facing intensely, likes what he hears.

Marc Anthony Wants to Empower Latin Music Artists (and Athletes) With His Magnus Media

“I believe that this is the sound,” he exults. He turns to face Hunter. “I believe that you will develop this — and you’ll have your own f—ing lane, man. There’s a massive, massive void. Especially in the demographic you reach with your music. A lot of really smart people are looking for creative ways to enter that space.” He pauses for emphasis. “This is the future right here.”

A skeptic might accuse Anthony of exaggerating, of coming on too strong. Then again: What do you expect? Understatement has never been Marc Anthony’s style. In a career that stretches nearly three decades, Anthony has been one of popular music’s most unembarrassed devotees of the huge gesture, delivering songs full of romantic sentiments and grand crescendos, in a singing voice that is simply one of the most powerful on earth. It’s a job, you might say, that he was born to do. Anthony’s parents named him Marco Antonio Muñiz, after one of Mexico’s schmaltziest ballad singers. As a child growing up in Spanish Harlem, he sang Spanish-language ballads at his parents’ house parties; listeners were floored by the intensity, the sheer volume and force, of the sound that emanated from the small boy’s body.

Marc Anthony to Perform for First Time Ever at Radio City Music Hall

The story of Anthony’s showbiz rise is the stuff of lore. He graduated from 1980s New York clubland habitue to pioneering house and freestyle vocalist to revivalist and revitalizer of salsa, a breakthrough that came with his blockbuster 1995 album, Todo a Su Tiempo, featuring eight No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Tropical Songs chart. The rest is history: armfuls of Grammys, worldwide album sales upwards of 12 million, a global audience of hundreds of millions, marquee-topping movie roles, a ubiquitous tabloid presence and, among Latinos, the kind of exalted status that transcends mere megastardom. Today, Anthony has reached an apex: He’s not just historic, he’s folkloric, recognized around the world as both a great entertainer and a standard-bearer for Latino culture.

The closest comparison to Anthony is another bootstrapping son of New York, Jay Z. Now, like Jay Z before him, Anthony is attempting a transition from musician to mogul — expanding his brand in an effort to bring the Marc Anthony touch to the Matt Hunters of the world. Magnus Media’s promotional literature describes the 20-employee enterprise as “a diversified entertainment company focused on leveraging the power of top Latino content creators in the U.S. and worldwide.” Magnus’ endeavors include artist management, music publishing, digital content creation, film and TV, a music label and “an entertainment-centric marketing practice.” Anthony offers a slightly earthier thumbnail sketch of the company and its goals.

Magnus Media HQ rises over a dead-end street, just a couple of blocks west of a thrumming expressway, in an industrial section of North Miami. From the outside, the place doesn’t look like much: a nondescript three-story building that was previously the home of a company specializing in printing presses and graphics equipment. Inside, though, the 8,000-square-foot space gives off a freshly gut-renovated gleam, with wood wall paneling and glass partitions and poured concrete. The conversion is still ongoing. On the building’s ground-floor level, a garage is being revamped into a recording studio, with an adjacent nightclub-style performance space and a bar.

The piece de resistance, though, is Anthony’s loft-like top-floor office, which combines elements of museum, rec room and high-end hotel suite. The walls and tables are packed with collectibles: military uniforms and police badges from around the world; autographed footballs, baseballs and other sports memorabilia; model cars, vintage motorcycles, antique cameras; prints by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring; a large clock in the shape of a Hublot watch face. One long wall is hung with dozens of awards; a big sideboard is given over to keys to several cities that have been presented to Anthony. On an enormous movie screen, a film of a live performance by guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan plays. (“Man, he could make that shit sing!” says Anthony, to no one in particular.) Everywhere, there are framed photographs of Anthony in the company of eminences. Anthony with Bruce Willis and George Clooney. Anthony with David Beckham. Anthony with billionaire real-estate developer and Miami Dolphins majority owner Stephen M. Ross. (Anthony has a minority ownership stake in the NFL team.) Anthony with President Barack Obama. There are family photos, too, of Anthony’s five children, including the twins that he had with ex-wife Jennifer Lopez. One photo propped on a windowsill shows a beautiful slender woman in a wedding dress, standing next to a small boy. These are the newest members of Anthony’s family: Shannon De Lima, 28, the Venezuelan model whom the singer married in November 2014, and De Lima’s 8-year-old son, Daniel.

It has been an eventful couple of years. In 2013, Anthony released Marc Anthony 3.0, his first album of original salsa music in a decade and a reunion with Sergio George, the producer of his landmark 1990s releases. The album was a smash, topping Billboard’s year-end Tropical charts in 2013. (It placed at No. 2 on the same year-end chart in 2014, and No. 3 in 2015.) The album’s lead single, the thudding dance-pop track “Viva Mi Vida,” held the No. 1 spot on the Hot Latin Songs chart for 18 weeks and remained in the top five for 51 weeks.

Meanwhile, Anthony was pulling up roots and putting down new ones, moving to Miami, where he lives with De Lima in a handsome compound 15 minutes from downtown. (Anthony’s homes on Long Island and in Los Angeles are currently on the market.) In spirit and affect, Anthony remains a New Yorker. He practically ricochets through his office, a bundle of wiry energy. He speaks rapid-fire, chain-smokes, swears frequently and cracks jokes in two languages. His dress code may be South Beach — he wears jeans and a white T-shirt, and pads around in bare feet — but his energy is still 110th Street and Lexington Avenue. When asked if he has seen Hamilton, the landmark musical created by fellow Nuyorican Lin-Manuel Miranda, he almost leaps out of his seat. “It’s sheer brilliance, man!” he exclaims. “Sheer ballsiness!”

Anthony, though, is a happy New York expatriate. He loves Miami. Logistically, the move makes sense: Miami is a good base of operations for a man whose touring commitments frequently take him further south, to the Caribbean and South America. It’s also a quick jump from Miami to the posh retreat that Anthony has built in the Dominican Republic. (What does the place Anthony calls his “dream house” look like? “Think Thailand, think Bali. There are no hallways, man — you have to walk from, like, pod to pod. It allows me to be outside without people bothering me. I even built a beach. It’s inland, but it’s a sand-bottom pool. It’s just this massive beach. And it’s paparazzi-free.”)

But the real lure of Miami is business-related. “It’s the capital of Latin America,” says Anthony. “It’s the epicenter. It’s one of the biggest markets for what I do. So many of my artists and friends all pass through Miami. Probably 90 more times than they do in New York or L.A. So I stacked all my chips here.”

Anthony’s gamble, Magnus Media, has grown at an impressive rate. The company has signed sponsorship and co-management deals with a burgeoning roster of talent, including Spanish superstar Alejandro Sanz, the Cuban reggaeton duo Gente de Zona and Venezuelan pop act Chino & Nacho. In November 2015, Anthony announced Magnus Sports, a Roc Nation-like foray into the world of sports representation. Magnus boasts more than 60 baseball players, headlined by stars like Aroldis Chapman and Jorge Soler.

When you get Anthony going on Magnus’ mission, he quickly turns evangelical. “One hundred percent of the Fortune 500 companies, they have no idea how to speak to the 610 million Latinos,” he says. “There just isn’t a silver bullet that’s going to speak the language of all those people, with their idiosyncratic food, dialects, cultures. Me and my artists understand those distinctions. We’ve been speaking to these different audiences all of our lives.”

“Marc has 25 years worth of leverage with media, brands, political leaders, heads of Fortune 500 companies, consumers and other artists,” says Magnus’ CEO, Vega, a former agent and onetime head of Latin music at William Morris Endeavor. “Magnus is weaponizing, if you will, Marc’s experience.”

Anthony is comfortable in his role as a “suit,” reeling off talking points about marketing campaigns and branding and synergy. But there’s no mistaking the strain of politics that runs through his shoptalk. It is, after all, a portentous moment for Latinos in the United States, in a political season marked by promises for border walls and mass deportations. In February, Anthony made headlines when he laid into Donald Trump at a sold-out Madison Square Garden concert. “I’m proud to be f—ing Puerto Rican,” he told the crowd. “No matter where we come from, we’re Latinos. We have to take care of each other… F— Donald Trump! Wake that motherf—er up!”

“The Republican Party right now, they’re just showing what they’ve always been,” he says. “I had to step up and say, ‘I’m not putting up with this shit.’ I have a new four-letter word, and it’s ‘vote.’ Because that’s when they’re going to see our power.” So who does Anthony support in the primaries? “I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders, his ideas, how he has run his campaign. But I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton. We’ve been friends for 20 years.”

Anthony is pleased by one major political development of recent months: the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. “I’m proud that President Obama had the balls to move the needle on that,” he says. “Times are changing. I mean, Cuba, the place where my music was born, and I’ve never stepped foot in it. It has always been a dream of mine.”

When exactly Anthony will realize that dream remains to be seen. In the meantime, Anthony’s day-to-day life seems to have taken on a dreamy cast. “I’m happily married and in love and at peace,” he says. “There’s a stability.”

Anthony has been something of a serial monogamist. (“There’s not much good that can come out of being single as a rock star,” he says.) His second marriage, to Lopez, convulsed the media, adding pressure to a relationship that both parties have described as volatile. In a recent interview with W magazine, Lopez said that “it was not easy to find forgiveness” after their breakup and that maintaining cordial relations is “by far, the hardest work I do.” (Anthony would not comment on the story.)

His life with Lima, by contrast, is low-key, low-visibility, low-maintenance. Anthony and Lima are together “99.9 percent of the time,” he says. Indeed, Lima is in the building that afternoon at Magnus, looking luminous in casual black slacks and a white scoop-back top. She trades quips with Anthony’s co-workers. She helps Anthony pick out clothes for a photo shoot. Occasionally, the couple sneak away to a corner to chat and smoke cigarettes.

Anthony and De Lima love the water and spend a lot of time gusting around Miami’s coastline in what he calls a “fast little Italian boat.” They take care of De Lima’s son, and Anthony’s children, who visit frequently. As often as their busy travel schedule will allow, they hang out at home and do… as little as possible.

“Honestly, I like vegging out, man,” says Anthony. “In the silence, that’s when ideas occur to me. I like finding a quiet corner with a pad to just contemplate. And the great thing is, Shannon can sit there just as quiet and do her thing, right next to me.” Anthony takes a drag on a cigarette. Suddenly, he is looking very relaxed — very Miami. “What can I say? It’s a lifestyle thing.”

“I’ve always said the concept of Magnus was born out of f—ing frustration,” he says. “Some of the biggest influencers on the planet are Latino artists and athletes.” Anthony pauses to light a cigarette. “I’m really interested in seeing how this pans out. If it works, we’ll be miles ahead of a lot of people.”

 

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