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Latin Music In The Digital Age

May 3, 2010

There is a lot going on in the Latin market nowadays, and I believe we are witnessing an advance of the future.

The domino effect of the internet and the digital downloads –legal and illegal– followed by the disappearing act of the retailers, and some major and independent record companies, is dramatically changing the business landscape. Some major acts are realizing that the erosion of sales is reducing the marketing budgets and, therefore, the promotion of their music. Record companies are experiencing a drastic decrease of physical sales and there is no significant progress in the digital Latin market, but artists live off their performances, not record sales, and here's where the paths visualized by these erstwhile partners start to diverge.

Established artists now realize that the old days of spending are over, and they cannot rely entirely on their labels for the promotion of their singles and/or albums, if they want to maintain the amount of personal performances steady. So, artists are starting to have a bigger presence on the internet by themselves. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter are now great tools for marketing to fans and, much more importantly, they are also starting to promote their music on radio stations, bypassing or replacing the labels' work with great success. The rationale behind this move is: the labels soon will not have records to sell, and until there is a reliable system to sell music, we still have shows to put on. The first signs of established artists becoming independent are here. Some of them are just signing distribution or license deals for short periods of time and small numbers of records, instead of direct agreements with the labels. Others are considering not to record albums anymore, just recording one song every four to six months, as they believe they can have enough airplay to go on, saving money and time, and really making a profit on every single song recorded.

If this trend continues and more artists successfully market their own records, we are going to see the creation of independent marketing companies to service those artists, and more artists creating their own marketing structures. Some of them will see this as an opportunity to be free in the creation process on a record, make their own decisions, take their own risks, invest their own money and measure their own success. New artists will continue to break out as a product of a record label, but many new ones will find the promotion of a single by an independent marketing company very attractive. In other words, record labels could be one more player in the promotion of new artists, instead of being "the player."

It looks like anything can happen in the present environment and everybody is pondering their next move. Are we, independent music publishers, ready for the challenges and changes ahead?

© 2010 Maximo Aguirre

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