Mobile tracks hot in Latin America


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Latin America holds tremendous promise for over-the-air mobile track sales, but not online music sales, according to a study presented at the Billboard Latin Music Conference on Wednesday.

"The potential is clearly in mobile, where a payment system is already in place," said Music Ally analyst and digital strategy consultant Juan Paz. Astronomical piracy rates (64% in Mexico), low broadband penetration, slow networks, low use of credit cards, and high per-track costs (the equivalent of $3 in Colombia) have hampered the ability of nascent online download stores to deliver sales, Paz said.

But Paz presented a study that showed 76% of digital downloads in Brazil were over-the-air mobile downloads, versus 24% online.

Other promising markets include Argentina, which saw digital sales grow by nearly 400% last year; and Chile, which has the region's highest GDP and nearly 100% mobile penetration.

Flat-rate mobile plans and growth in services such as pan-regional telecom company America Movil's Ideas store, Napster Mobile, Nokia's OVI and Sony Ericsson's Play Now are expected to make an impact in the coming year, Paz said.

But in the U.S., the outlook for online sales is bright in the Latin space. Digital albums comprised just 1.6% of Latin album sales in 2007. But a comparison of Latin digital album sales between first-quarter 2007 and first-quarter 2008 shows a 28.8% increase, according to Nielsen SoundScan.