Inside Daddy Yankee's Digital-Only 'King' Album

Daddy Yankee

Despite Latin's continued reliance on physical sales, one of reggaeton's biggest stars releases online-only album

When reggaeton trailblazer Daddy Yankee releases an album, it usually debuts at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. So why celebrate the fact that Yankee's "King Daddy" bowed at No. 7? Because this marks the first time a digital-only album debuts in the top 10 of the chart.

The 11-track set sold 2,000 first-week copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan-a success in a Latin marketplace where digital albums have struggled. Yankee has long espoused an online strategy for his El Cartel label, which is distributed through a licensing deal with Universal Music Latin Entertainment. "Our new highway is the Internet," the rapper (real name Raymond Ayala) told Billboard last year. "Our genre doesn't depend on radio. It depends on putting music up on the Internet and [letting] things run on their own. It's far less expensive and the power is entirely in the hands of the artist."

Digital downloads accounted for 38% of the 43,000 sales of ­Yankee's 2012 release Prestige. In comparison, just 14% of total Latin album sales that year were digital. (In 2013, through Nov. 3, that number has risen to 14.9%).

"Yankee's success confirms the role of new digital platforms as sales channels for Latin-not just for established acts, but also developing acts that don't have access to big retailers that sell physical product," says Fabio Acosta, founder of Akela Family Music, which is handling radio promotion for Yankee's single, "La Nueva y la Ex."

According to Mayna Nevarez, who heads Yankee's marketing efforts through Nevarez Communications, the album was pushed primarily online as well, with email blasts sent to fans and ad campaigns on Facebook (where Yankee has 18 million likes) and Twitter (6.2 million followers).

Meanwhile, "La Nueva y la Ex" is climbing the charts, jumping 21-10 on Latin Rhythm Airplay and debuting at No. 27 on Latin Pop Airplay. "The Big Boss is still the leader in the genre," says "Jammin'" Johnny Caride, PD supervisor for Spanish Broadcasting ­System's Miami markets and PD at WXDJ Miami, which played the track five times in its first four days since adding it on Nov. 5, according to Nielsen BDS. "This is another major hit."