Though digital distribution has proven to be a boon for unsigned and indie artists, panelists at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami revealed it's not merely a shortcut around the label system. Nielsen SoundScan figures presented by Billboard senior analyst and charts director Geoff Mayfield show Latin digital albums sales grew at a rate on par with the mainstream market, doubling to 125,000 in the first quarter of 2007.

Betting on that bright spot are digital aggregators like Avatar Digi, which evolved from a traditional label model to signing acts committed to doing their own online promotion "and being able to drive people to iTunes or wherever their music is available--that's the future," said Avatar's Latin division head Val Valdez. The company had a success story with non-Latin artist Anya Marina, who broke
through with a track on "Grey's Anatomy."

The mobile space is also an attractive starting point for acts. The Independent Online Distribution Alliance recently flew an indie act to perform for Sprint executives seeking to link up with a group for exclusive video content. The company's Promonet service makes free tracks available to bloggers and podcasters as long as they link to a place to buy them.

"There's no need to wait to create an album," advised IODA business development VP Rob Weitzner, when technology allows artists to "constantly create and allow [your] fans to consume your creations."