After years of modest results, the digital marketplace in 2007 finally began to yield considerable revenue streams for Latin labels and acts.
Sales of Latin digital albums numbered 477,000 units by December 10, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- 1.6 percent of all Latin albums sold. That figure is still significantly less than the 10.4 percent portion of album sales overall that were digital, but far exceeds the 293,000 digital album sales tallied for Latin music in 2006.
Growth has been bolstered by iTunes Latino's solidified status as a destination for a vast, well-catalogued library of music and by the proliferation of videos by Latin acts now found on YouTube. Ringtones and master ringtones are also growing sources of revenue for Latin labels.
Following are five digital stories that altered the Latin music business in 2007 and will likely have an impact in 2008.
1. Juanes: Worldwide, according to label Universal Music Latino, Juanes sold 6 million digital tracks the week prior to release of La Vida Es ... Un Ratico. That number includes singles, master ringtones and digital albums broken down by tracks. It also includes digital albums preloaded onto mobile phones -- including 500,000 in Latin America, according to Universal. In the United States, bolstered by a major sponsorship with Sprint and heavy promotion on sites like iTunes, iTunes Latino and Univision.com, the album sold 8,000 digital copies during its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- a record for a Latin album.
2. Zune: In a sign that Microsoft is taking Latin music seriously, Zune launched its first custom device with reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel. The W&Y Zune was sold as a limited edition exclusively via Wal-Mart and promoted in a massive multimedia campaign. Wisin & Yandel's Los Extraterrestres notched the second-highest debut for a Latin album this year. Zune promises more extensive alliances with Latin acts in coming months, including cross-promotion with properties like MSN and aggressive promotion of digital sales in its Zune marketplace.
3. Univision: The dominant label group in regional Mexican, finally made its catalog available as mastertones this year, giving the top-selling Latin subgenre a chance to translate its popularity to mobile. Results so far have been promising: Alacranes Musical's Por Tu Amor has shifted 39,000 master ringtones since it was made available in May, according to Nielsen RingScan, compared with 6,000 tones of the group's top-selling polyphonic, No Voy a Llorar. Other Univision artists, like Ivy Queen, are also regulars on Nielsen RingScan's charts.
4. Preloaded music: Labels increasingly crafted deals with carriers and handset manufacturers to preload music and other music-related content onto cell phones. In Latin America, the practice is the norm for established acts, including Ricky Martin, Juanes, Mana and RBD. Newer acts will begin taking advantage of the trend when Sony Ericsson debuts its new Walkman phones by year's end in Latin America, featuring music from Sony/ATV Music Publishing's roster of proven and developing artists.
5. MySpace: 2007 saw the launch of MySpace Mexico, MySpace Latin America and MySpace Latino, a Spanish-language site directed at the U.S. market. Since the launches, MySpace says unique monthly visitors in Latin America have nearly doubled to about 4.3 million and in Mexico have more than doubled to 1.5 million. MySpace Latino sponsored its first tour this year, with the bilingual, U.S.-based band B-Side Players.