CD cost a bigger issue than downloading.

The price of the CD and how Apple's iTunes store have affected the perceived value of music inspired a passionate discussion today (April 25) at the Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards in Miami.

On a presidents panel that included such major and independent record label execs as Universal Music Group's John Echevarria, Sony BMG Latin Region's Kevin Lawrie, Urban Box Office's Adam Kidron and Machete's Gustavo Lopez, CD pricing was seen as a bigger issue than downloading.

Said Kidrom, "The gamble is that we want to increase the total amount of units sold. The major enemy of the music industry is not downloading -- it's the CD itself. We have to price things that are going to actually sell. At $9.98, we are going to sell a lot more than we can at a figure much above that."

UMG's Echevarria quickly responded that due to iTunes' 99 cents per track price point, the record labels "have been cornered into a place we never should have allowed to happen," in that consumers now have a barometer for what music should cost.

He added, "kids don't complain about paying $2.50 for a silly ringtone, but they complain about paying 99 cents for a full-quality song, just because the alternative is that they can get it free" via peer-to-peer sites.

Lopez, however, pointed out that retailers have also driven prices down, as the competition for price and positioning programs is only becoming fiercer. For every new outlet that emerges, many of the same challenges remain. "We're selling to Sprint in the same way we're selling to WalMart," Lopez said. "But we have to find ways to get music into kids' hands. That's the new bottom line."

As for where kids are finding out about new music, that became clear at a focus group later in the day. Fourteen Latin teens were asked where they are generally first exposed to new artists, and the unanimous answer, unsurprisingly, was online community MySpace.

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