Latin music wave goes south of border

Biz suffering $80 mil less in shipments from same period in 2001

Reflecting the general malaise of the U.S. music market this year, shipments of Latin music CDs tumbled by 26% to less than 19 million units in the first half of 2002, according to data released Friday by the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

On a dollar-value basis, that meant $80 million less in shipments than the same period in 2001 — a 24% decline. Shipments are not the same as actual sales at retail — the numbers can change based on returned merchandise and other factors.

One major factor was a dearth of blockbuster Latin releases in the first half of this year. In the first half of 2001, the highest sales certification issued by the RIAA to a Latin title was twice “Disco de Platino” (400,000 units) for Ricky Martin’s “La Historia.” This year, no Latin titles attained that sales level.

The industry has high hopes that a slate of fresh releases from such artists as Enrique Iglesias, Vincente Fernandes, Carlos Vives and Los Tucanes de Tijuana will help revive the Latin market in the second half of the year.

The RIAA also said piracy was to blame for a large part of the downturn. The industry has been fighting an uphill battle against online file-sharing sites like Kazaa and Morpheus, slapping them with lawsuits and most recently mulling legal actions against file-swappers themselves.

One bright spot for Latin music distributors: the small but burgeoning musicvideo and DVD markets. Video shipments in the Latin sector more than tripled to 33,000 units. Growth in Latin music DVDs was even stronger, mirroring the format’s success industrywide: Shipments grew by more than 700% to 131,000 units.

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