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Latin beat booms

Miami Midem opens as music sales soar

MIAMI — The Recording Industry Assn. of America opened its Miami office Wednesday, coinciding with the second Midem Latin America and Caribbean music event.

The RIAA chose the occasion to announce midyear Hispanic music figures that show Latino music sales to be growing twice as fast as the overall U.S. music industry.

Latino product shipped in first semester 1998 totaled 22.9 million units, with a suggested list value of $264 million, making for a 17% unit increase and 24% dollar growth on first semester 1997.

The new stats give Latin music a 4.5% share of the $5.8 billion U.S. industry, up from 4.1% in mid-1997.

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RIAA prexy Hilary Rosen appointed lawyer Ricardo Dopico to run the Miami office, which will serve as the org’s link to the U.S. Latino industry and supervise anti-piracy efforts in that arena.

Rosen said the RIAA has, since 1996, stepped up anti-piracy in the key U.S. Latino markets, but the problem continues to grow — hence the need for an office in Miami, a big shipment center for pirated Latin music.

“Close to 60% of the pirated product we seize (in the U.S.) is Spanish-language,” said Rosen.

Some 324,000 Latino pirate units were seized last year, but in 1998 seizures are tracking higher, at 244,000 units for the first six months alone.

The piracy problem is a recurring theme at this year’s Midem fair, as a day earlier the Latin American Federation of Phonographic Producers (FLAPF) held a press event to bemoan ongoing piracy south of the border.

Across the region, nearly half of the units sold are illicit, and top market Brazil — whose cassette market is already 99% pirated — faces a disturbing new trend of pirated CDs, largely produced in the Portuguese-speaking Chinese city of Macau.

Pirate CD sales numbered 3 million in 1997, against 106 million legal units, but in the first three months of this year new distribution channels flooded Brazil with an estimated 15 million illicit CDs, FLAPF exec prez Gabriel Abaroa said.

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