In a first, an independent label has taken the lead in sales of Latin music in the U.S. California-based indie Univision Music Group, founded three years ago, was the top-selling label in the genre la

In a first, an independent label has taken the lead in sales of Latin music in the U.S. California-based indie Univision Music Group, founded three years ago, was the top-selling label in the genre last year. According to figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan, Univision Music Group--comprising Univision Records, Fonovisa Records and Disa Records--ended 2003 with a 28.18% share of the total Latin market. Runner-up Sony Music (Sony Discos, Epic, Columbia) had year-end market share of 18.58%.

This marks the first time in seven years that Sony is not the No. 1-selling Latin label. (Even without Disa, which is only 50% owned by Univision Music Group, the company had a leading 19.75% share.)
"It's unprecedented for a start-up label to do what they've done," says Gustavo Lopez, VP of Latin sales and marketing for Universal Music Video & Distribution, which is now the leading distributor of Latin music in the country thanks to its alliance with the Univision labels.

The shift in dominance can be attributed in part to an artist roster that's heavy on regional Mexican music, the top-selling Latin genre in the U.S. The Univision roster includes Jessie Morales, Jennifer Pena, Pepe Aguilar, Marco Antonio Solis, Lupillo Rivera, Los Temerarios, Los Tigres Del Norte and promising newcomers like Akwid and Jae-P.

Univision Music Group was formed in 2001 by president/CEO Jose Behar, a former EMI Latin exec, as part of Spanish-language media conglomerate Univision. Many Univision Music Group acts benefit from exposure on the parent company's TV channels. "There's no doubt that TV has played a big role in helping us exploit our catalog, as well as expediting the artist development process," says Behar.