Musica equals dinero as Latin sales up 11%

Martin, Lopez don't factor in boost

The RIAA confirmed Wednesday what disc buyers have long known: Latin music is muy caliente.

Continuing its multiyear trend of strong Stateside growth, the Latin music market posted an 11% increase in sales for the first half of 1999, while English-language works were mostly flat for the same period. And the music org says the Latin growth is not due to the Ricky Martin/Jennifer Lopez factor.

The sales figures are paralleled by stats on unit shipments. According to figures released Wednesday by the Recording Industry Assn. of America, more than 25.6 million units of Latin music product were shipped in the first half of 1999, representing a 12% boost over the same period in 1998.

The $291.6 million value of the units was an 11% increase over the same period last year. (Values are calculated at suggested list price, though some albums may be sold for less.)

Latin music accounted for a 4.9% share of the U.S. music industry, up from the 4.5% registered during the first half of 1998.

The domestic English-language music industry posted a 0.3% drop in shipments and merely a 1.8% uptick in sales during the first half of 1999 (Daily Variety, Aug. 20).

“It’s important to recognize that this growth occurred in the midst of an otherwise flat music market, and it does not reflect the Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez phenomena,” said Hilary Rosen, prexy/CEO of the RIAA.

Martin and Lopez are leading the wave of Latin artists releasing English-language recordings, which are not classified as Latin and not included in this survey. A disc must be at least 51% Spanish-language to be considered by the trade org as Latin music.

Shipments and value of Latin CDs increased 20% to 17.5 million units during the year from 14.5 million units in the same period in 1998. The dollar value grew to $212.2 million in 1999 from $192.9 million in 1998.

The trade org’s Latin chief, Ricardo Dopico, credited the ascension with the mainstreaming of Latin music.

“In the last few years, and particularly in the last six months, Latin music has made an impact from Madison Avenue to suburban malls, from primetime television ads to blockbuster film soundtracks,” Dopico said.

Cassettes in demand

Cassettes remain a popular format with Latin music consumers and are shipped at more than twice the rate of cassettes in the English-language music industry. Cassettes accounted for 31% of all Latin units shipped. For English-lingo releases, cassettes account for only 12.4% of shipments.

During the first half of the year, 8 million units valued at $78.7 million were moved.

Musicvideo shipments dropped significantly, decreasing 30% to 46 million units in 1999 from 65 million units at midyear 1998. The drop can be attributed to labels making fewer videos and a smaller number of hit videos striking chords with fans.

Dollar value for video product decreased 32% to $703,000 from $1 million in the first half of 1998.

Even in a great year for musicvideos, like 1998, when unit shipments increased 154%, they accounted for less than 3% of all Latin music unit shipments.

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