With Latin mobile entertainment use outpacing that of the mainstream market,
wireless aggregators, labels and artists are all looking to cash in on a surging, fragmented Latin market. The parties discussed the opportunities and challenges in the still-evolving field at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami.

But despite the tremendous potential demonstrated by Latin acts to move ringtones, only a handful of them have scored comprehensive sponsorships the way Mana did with Sprint last year. That's because carriers are looking for a built-in return with minimal marketing investment needed on their part. In other words: a mobile-ready hit.

One such case is Daddy Yankee's relatively new "Rompe" track, which has beat out songs by global stars like Gwen Stefani and U2 to become Interscope's No. 3-selling ringtone in the label's history, with nearly 1.6 million downloads, said Yankee's business manager Edwin Prado.

So many people dialed in to Cingular Sounds Live concert with Yankee and the Pussycat Dolls last year that the platform broke down, said Marcus Owenby, Hispanic marketing director at AT&T Mobility. The company then expanded its calling capacity to accommodate future demand. "That's huge, and that's a Latin act," said Prado. "The future of this business is phones."

But when aggregators, labels, carriers and now performing rights organizations each want a piece of the action, artists have had to be more aggressive in negotiating deals, says Prado. A major stumbling block to further exploitation of Latin catalog has been clearance from publishers, the panelists said.

Even as they find their way in a still-evolving mobile entertainment landscape, aggregators like LatCel are finding fertile ground with which to market content. LatCel has separately-branded packages for older and younger Latin mobile users. This year, it is launching Lo2Yo in the U.S. on Cingular, with a reggaeton and hip-hop-centered platform featuring animated characters set in a "Pimp-my-ride"-style garage, said LatCel business operations VP Rafael Garcia.

"There's a misconception outside the Hispanic world that the U.S. Hispanic
market has to be addressed in Spanish, and that it's one single market,"
said Garcia. LatCel's second-generation target audience "will use mainstream
services, but they're proud of their roots."