Latin album sales were down 17% in the first quarter, though Latin digital albums were up 29% for the period, according to Nielse n SoundScan. Geoff Mayfield, director of charts/senior analyst for Billboard, presented those figures today (April 8) at the Billboard Latin Music Conference at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.

Sales of albums overall dipped 10.7% in the first quarter, but digital album sales went up a whopping 36%. Digital comprised 2.5% of Latin album sales in the first quarter, compared to 15% of the market as a whole, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Faced with the fact that physical sales are still very dominant in the Latin world, but that retailers are responding to overall trends by reducing shelf space, sales experts at the "Distribution Connection" panel are looking to alternative ways of moving product.

Johnny Phillips, VP of independent distributor Select-O-Hits, said the company was looking to sales in bodegas and service stations. Select-O-Hits is in its second year of Latin music distribution, and has two charting albums on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart this week: Diana Reyes' DBC album "Insatisfecha" at No. 2 and El Trono de Mexico's "Cruzando Fronteras" at No. 8.

Heavy in-stores were key to Reyes' success, said Phillips, who works closely with the labels he distributes to come up with a marketing plan.

DVD sales, better merchandising and categorization of Latin music in stores (for example, Amazon's newly re-launched Latin store) were also seen by the panelists as ways to leverage physical product's selling power.