As we pointed out last week, there's been a dismal fall in Latin sales, according to midyear Nielsen SoundScan figures. While the entire industry suffered, registering an 11.8% decline in album sales for the first half of 2012 compared with the previous year, Latin music had it even worse. Total Latin album sales plummeted by 19.4%, from 6.2 million in 2011 to 5 million in 2012, even as Latin digital album sales rose from 545,000 in midyear 2011 to 673,000 in 2012.
This week, as promised, we asked executives from different areas in the business to offer potential solutions to the problem. Something has to be done to increase digital sales of Latin music, which lags woefully behind all other genres. And because those sales are suffering, Latin pundits must be more vigilant about what happens to physical CD sales.
"We need to have physical CDs, and we need good releases at reasonable prices," says Johnny Phillips, president of indie distributor Select-O-Hits. "One thing really hurting us is the refusal of publishing companies to reduce these rights. You're trying to sell catalog titles for $5.99 and $6.99 and still paying .09 per track? Unless you get some help from the publisher, those CDs will be too high."
Even if everybody cooperates, however, fewer and fewer outlets are selling Latin music. "Obviously, if it was viable to have more points of sale, they wouldn't have closed in the first place," Warner Music Latin America marketing VP Gabriela Martínez says.
Martínez proposes an idea that is far more prevalent in mainstream music than Latin: finding different sales outlets outside of traditional music stores and mass-merchant accounts.
"I'd love to see more Latin music sold by lifestyle retailers, perhaps stores or chains that have high Latin traffic," she says. "The reality is, Latins are not purchasing enough digital music to make up for the CDs they're no longer buying, so we need to expose those CDs in more - and different - points of sale."
While Phillips isn't targeting the creation of different outlets for his CDs, he is focused on increasing his presence in major retailers, not an easy task for an independent. For example, he emphasizes buying in-store ads with the likes of Walmart, Target, Best Buy and FYE and also convincing his labels to do innovative advertising, like buying local cable TV spots for their releases.
Beyond retail strategies, however, there is also the core issue of the music itself. "We need to make music for new generations," says Alberto del Castillo, founder of promotion and marketing company In- Motion, whose clients include chart-toppers 3BallMTY and Larry Hernandez. "The crackdown on immigration affected young people who used to come to the U.S. and bring their Latin culture with them, especially when it came to regional Mexican music. Young people who are raised here aren't as familiar with that music. They go to the Internet. So we need to make music for young people and promote it among young people."
3BallMTY is a prime example. The group first rose in popularity through its YouTube videos, then radio and finally TV. To date, its debut album, "Inténtalo," has sold 69,000 copies, according to SoundScan. Del Castillo says the survey demonstrates "that young Latinos are buying CDs."