Tumbling Latin Music Sales Make Industry Executives Sweat

Latin music sales continue to tumble as album purchases hit an all-time low in 2010, down 28 percent from the year before, according to Nielsen Sound-scan.

But as the U.S. Latin population rises, figuring out what's causing the sales slump has proved to be a puzzling task for industry executives.

Representatives from Sony and Universal's Latin Music divisions flocked to Miami Beach this week for Billboard's annual Latin Music Conference to discuss changes in the industry and debate the best way to raise revenues.

Experts agree illegal digital downloads are destroying a significant portion of potential sales, and Latin music seems to be the worst-hit genre. Despite commanding only four percent of the market, Latin songs account for more than 25 percent of pirated music online, The Associated Press reported.

Marketing executive, Julio Vega, believes labels should lower the prices of albums sold in stores to compete with digital burning.

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"By being value conscious with our product, we're also somewhat – I'm not sure controlling piracy – but we're influencing that decision at the end of the day, which is what we all want to do," Vega said at Billboard on Tuesday.

Latin albums are labeled as such if at least 51 percent of the content is in Spanish. Some believe the industry is doing a poor job reaching out to second and third generation Latinos who speak both Spanish and English because bilingual Americans don't necessarily differentiate between Pop charts and Latin Pop charts.

Billboard reports that 25 English tracks appeared on Top 40 Spanish-stations in 2010, and 15 of them remained on the charts for over 10 weeks. However, the inverse hardly ever occurs on an English Top 40 station.

This makes it harder for Latin artists to compete if the only way to gain mainstream recognition is to record in English.

Experts in the industry also feel that not enough is being done to promote Latin artists in the U.S. who do well in their native countries but have little success crossing over. Latin artists must do better marketing themselves through social media campaigns and increasing the number of cities they tour.

Despite dwindling sales, insiders remain optimistic that new technologies bring more opportunities for artists to network and connect with their fans, bilingual or otherwise.

Jessica DiBartolomeo is a freelance producer for the Miami Bureau of the Fox News Channel.

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