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Leap In Latin Music Market Hints At Opportunity
By Leila Cobo
July 19, 2003
President John F. Kennedy once remarked that the Chinese symbol for "crisis" comprises two characters: One translates to "threat" and the other to "opportunity."
That view helps explain the leap in sales of Latin music for the first six months of the year. According to Nielsen SoundScan, through the week ended June 29, 11.5 million Latin albums were sold in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. That's almost 30% more than the 8.9 million albums sold in the same period last year.
Conversely, the Recording Industry Assn. of America reported a 6% drop in shipments for first-quarter 2003. But that's still a far cry from the 25% plunge in shipments it reported for mid-year 2002.
So, at the risk of irritating those who insist that things are worse than ever, I would argue that they're better than one year ago.
And I would argue that there's a big opportunity to be found in this crisis, and someone is obviously capitalizing on it.
Granted, Nielsen SoundScan numbers do not reflect sales in many mom-and-pops and other traditional Latin retailers. But everyone agrees that in the past 18 months, Latin music is being sold more and more by mass merchants and other retailers tracked by SoundScan.
This is to the detriment of smaller retailers. But it shows that the mainstream is finally making an effort to better market Latin product and that sales of that product have risen even as sales of most other genres fell.
This data, coupled with census numbers showing Hispanics are the largest minority in the country, gives labels and managers hard numbers to use as clout in the marketing and promotion of their Latin acts. This applies not only to retail, where space for Latin product has been consistently growing, but to other areas, such as strategic marketing and synchronization uses of Latin music.
It is an opportunity. And it's unlikely to present itself in such a dramatic fashion for long.
LIQUID ASSETS: Bacardi has tapped Argentine alternative band La Mosca to promote its new Silver Bacardi brand. Two tracks from La Mosca's current album, "Tango Latino" (EMI), will be used in a series of TV and radio spots that are currently airing in the U.S.
The tracks, "Los Amores Se Van" and "Cenicero," were rerecorded for the Bacardi spots, which will run for at least three months.
"Bacardi wanted an act that could represent happiness," says Mariana Ruiz, managing director of Atreio New Media in New York, which represents the band in the U.S.
According to Ruiz, Bacardi reps approached La Mosca's manager after seeing the group perform live.
"Apparently, they fell in love with the band and said, 'This is it,'" Ruiz says.
The contract continues through 2004. In addition to the spots, it stipulates that La Mosca must play a minimum of 10 shows with Bacardi as a sponsor.