Latin social networks and artist Web sites are offering more ways than ever for artists to reach existing fans and find new ones directly. But the more the artists themselves participate in the process, the more effectively those sites can be used, the operators of elHood.com, Batanga, MySpace and In-Style! Software emphasized at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami.

Of the 3.5 million bands on MySpace, it's a mix of artists maintaining their own pages and "an intern at a record label that's keeping it updated," said international senior VP Travis Katz. But "the artist's voice comes through if they are really the ones that do it." And if artists frequently update the page between releases and mention their MySpace URL in promoting their music, fans are more likely to come back, said Katz.

Hoodiny Entertainment president Demian Bellumio said elHood.com has created an interface by which artists can blog via their cell phones. And though most of the sites represented at the panel are supported by advertising, they've become more diverse generators of revenue. MySpace's SnoCap service allows artists to sell tracks from their pages at a price they set themselves. ElHood.com will be announcing a mobile subscription service shortly, said Bellumio. In-Style's comprehensive campaigns are designed to get users to click through to digital retail and build fan databases.

And though social networks are seen as great equalizers, they do have an editorial voice. Katz and Batanga CEO Rafael Urbina said relationships with their Latin programmers are important in terms of getting featured slots. However, "if we have an artist that out editors are not aware of...getting a lot of votes and plays, clearly our editors will take notice," said Urbina. While content may be king, so is context. Katz announced the launch of MySpace Latino, a Spanish-language site aimed at US Latinos, and MySpace Latinoamerica, a site focused on non-US Latinos (billboard.biz, April 24).

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