Following its successful foray into Mexico, iTunes is preparing to launch in other Latin American countries by year’s end or by the first quarter at the latest, say sources familiar with the conversations.
An iTunes spokesperson declined to comment, but a wide array of executives from different areas of the music industry say the retailer will definitely open shop in Argentina and Brazil and probably in several other countries in the region. Some sources say the Brazilian store will be open as early as mid-December.
iTunes has been negotiating separately with publishers and labels and no doubt its success in Mexico-its first Latin American market-helped propel the decision to expand into other Latin countries, beginning, sources say, precisely with Brazil.
In Mexico, prior to the advent of iTunes in 2009, the online music market was virtually inexistent even though there were online music stores. But in 2010 there were nearly 13 million tracks sold online, according to Mexico’s association of record producers (Amprofon)—a 116.3% increase over 2009-with most of those numbers coming from iTunes. For the first six months of 2011, digital sales-propelled in large part by the iTunes store-grew by 7.7% in the first semester of 2011, according to Amprofon, compared to 2010—even as physical sales went down 11%.
"This is positively indicative that the more options people have to access music legally online (through downloads, streaming and subscription services) the more they will do so, the illegal file-sharing will decrease and, if managed well, the true value of music will grow," says Robbie Lear, managing director of EMI Mexico.
Although many other Latin countries have seen its digital sales increase over the last several years, those sales come primarily from mobile devices, as there is no truly successful online music store in the region. The one exception is Brazil, where digital music sales for the first six months of the year, according to IFPI numbers, stood at a wholesale value of $22.1 million and saw 2% growth compared to the previous year. Perhaps most important as far as iTunes is concerned, Brazil has shown its willingness to buy music online, with most of its digital track sales coming from online sources; by some estimates, the Sonora subscription service alone has some 500,000 paying subscribers.
"It’s a digital market that is growing and has an interesting revenue," says Alejandro Duque, director of sales and business development for Universal Music Southern Cone. However, music fans "definitely don’t consume with the frequency they could if they had direct access to music in their devices."
Even though no one knows for sure when and where iTunes will open, the possibilities go beyond immediate sales.
"As an independent, any means of distribution that is dependable and user friendly is always important for us," says Tomas Cookman, president of U.S.-based indie Nacional Records. "Although a very key and financially rewarding touring market, Latin America was a hit and miss; there is only so much product that our indie partners can work at any given time and the majors of course have their hands full with their own region wide repertoire. With the launch of iTunes Latino and the growth of its penetration, we will be including the rest of Latin America back into our contracts more and more."
Article originally appeared on Billboard Online (http://www.billboard.biz) and was written by Lelia Cobo.
Every day between now and New Year’s Day, we’ll be looking back at the best music and pop culture of 2011. We start with the year’s best albums.
10. The Decemberists –The King Is Dead
The Decemberists’ medieval rock opera The Hazards of Love pitted the band’s diehard supporters against those with little tolerance for Elizabethan syntax and folk-metal guitars. Released two years later, The King is Deadis a tuneful concession to the latter group. Most of the frills and festoons have been trimmed from the Decemberists’ sound, leaving behind a lean, rootsy mix of Americana and Celtic-flavored folk songs. Meloy still tosses multiple SAT words into his lyrics, whose portrayals of the American heartland owe more to William Faulkner than, say, Larry McMurty, but he doesn’t sound so overzealous here. Framed by crisp layers of pedal steel, acoustic guitar and harmonica, the album’s tracklist is an exercise in rustic restraint, with only one song topping the five-minute mark. Gillian Welch sings harmony on seven numbers, playing the Nicolette Larson to Meloy’s Neil Young, while former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck lends his familiar jangle. The King is Dead is one of the Decemberists’ most personal efforts to date, packing light and still packing a punch.—Andrew Leahey
9. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Maybe Anthony Gonzalez is just working his way back through the years, one album at a time. On his 2005 breakout as M83, Before the Dawn Heals Us, he took the shoegaze guitars of My Bloody Valentine and combined them with cinematic electronics with sci-fi trappings. For 2008’sSaturdays = Youth, he turned his space-loving disposition toward the John Hughes 1980s and all its synth-heavy jams. For his ambitious double-albumHurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez digs even deeper into the ‘80s and even the late ‘70s, channeling Simple Minds here (“Reunion”) and Kraftwerk there (“Raconte-Moi Une Histoire”). As with everything the Frenchman’s done so far, the album is lush and ably produced, crescendo after crescendo. Zola Jesus guests, chiming guitars dominate and even some saxophone makes an appearance. Maybe he could tackle the Nuggets-era ‘60s next?—Austin L. Ray
8. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
The men of Dawes have certainly grown up since their debut album was released just two short years ago. The songwriting, musicianship and emotion are even more impressive on Nothing is Wrong than the band’s stellar debut. The influence of the North Hills and Laurel Canyon music scenes are still present as well, right down to Jackson Browne’s supporting vocals on “Fire Away.” And after two years of fine-tuning their live sound, all of the members of Dawes have become master musicians not only individually, but as a collective.—Wyndham Wyeth
7. Wilco – The Whole Love
The Whole Love sounds less self-conscious and more natural than anything Wilco has ever recorded, even though the music itself is full of rich, headphone-worthy details. It sounds a bit like every form of Wilco you’ve come to know and love over the past several years—basically a new millennium “Best of” package. Tweedy has called the album a split between “snot-nosed, obnoxious pop songs” and “atmospheric country,” and there certainly is a lot of that here. It’s the sound of Wilco out to prove nothing, driven only by their desire to craft great songs. In that regard, they’ve succeeded from start to finish.—Ryan Reed
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
It’s A Corporate World isn’t just two guys on the same page, but the same syllable. “Vocal Chords” is a heady brew of vocals that beam like high-noon sun during their choral peaks, the marching thump of a drum machine and plenty of dancing digital distractions. “Nothing but Our Love” and “Simple Girl” set the diametric ends of the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. experience, the former a mix of slow-machined drums and R2D2 on back-up vocals, the latter a well-crafted piece of indie-pop, with enough finger picking, electric keys, whistling and da-da-da-ing to make a death row inmate crack a smile. Overall, it’s an album full of songs Lloyd Dobler could have played during his window-call, boom-box confession of love. If he had, there’s a good chance that movie might have had an even happier ending.—Jeff Gonick
5. Middle Brother – Middle Brother
Very rarely does a supergroup manage to come up with something as good as the sum of its parts. Just like a movie starring a crowd of A-listers doesn’t necessarily equal anything Oscar-worthy (we’re looking at you, New Year’s Eve), it isn’t a given that a band with three frontmen will be able to effectively pool its talents. But on their self-titled debut, the men of Middle Brother sound as if they’ve been playing together for years. John McCauley (Deer Tick), Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit) and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) take turns singing lead, and from the first harmonies on “Daydreaming” it’s clear that we’ve got a true collaboration on our hands. At times they sound so in tune with one another that the record starts to feel like a concept album, like a time capsule crafted by the trio of rock ‘n’ roll troubadours to document their rise to fame.—Bonnie Stiernberg
4. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
At times, Merrill Garbus is Annie Lennox, and at others, she’s Prince. One thing’s for sure though—she’s always entertaining, and her powerhouse voice makes W H O K I L L one of the year’s must-listens. Although she can do ethereal and understated better than most, Garbus is truly in her element when she’s belting, her hurricane of a voice ripping through a uniquely layered soundscape of ukulele, bass, saxophone and percussion. On “Killa,” she proudly declares, “I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a don’t-take-shit-from-you kind of woman.” It’s nearly impossible to listen to a tUnE-yArDs track and not feel empowered.—Bonnie Stiernberg
3. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Five years removed from their best album and three years since their worst, My Morning Jacket stood at a particular crossroads during the making of their latest record. Circuital is a return to form, and several tracks—including “Circuital” with its slow-building dynamic declaration and the ominous “Holdin’ On To Black Metal”—almost instantaneously can be placed among the band’s best songs. It’s an album partially infused with their classic warmth and partially dashed with intriguing progressions into unchartered territory. In doing so, the band has recreated the reverb-drenched twang of their earlier years, while successfully experimenting with some darker endeavors.—Max Blau
2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
After their eponymous debut album earned a well-deserved standing ovation from critics, Fleet Foxes set the bar high for their sophomore album. The alt-folk band was up to the challenge. Helplessness Blues is sweet and comforting at its worst and inspiring at its best. The foundations of many tracks are similar—the band frequently returns to the strumming, “ohhs” and “ahhs” that define opener “Montezuma”—but Fleet Foxes know how to layer sounds to add depth and make each song distinctive. The album is often about love — and the emptiness that often accompanies its euphoria.—Ani Vrabel
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Not since a creek drank a cradle in 2002 had anyone so quietly overtaken the indie-music community as Justin Vernon did in 2008 with Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. That post-break-up album was drenched in the kind of sadness that feels a lot like joy. Rather than wallowing in loss, the music was a hopeful contrast to lyrics like “Saw death on a sunny snow.” It was less like the end of a relationship and more like the promise of a new beginning. But it was only a beginning. Recorded in famous isolation, For Emma needed a band to reproduce it live. The Blood Bank EP followed, as did an open-ended hiatus which saw the bearded folkie make it harder to describe him that way, collaborating with Kanye West on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Gayngs on “The Gaudy Side of Town.” Interim songs like “Blood Bank” and “Brackett, WI” off theDark Was the Night charity compilation were as good as anything on For Emma, but less sparse. When he finally announced a Bon Iver follow-up in March, few people expected a song set as hauntingly barren as the debut. And it’s certainly not. Bon Iver starts off quietly with a lovely little guitar riff on “Perth,” but a keyboard wash and military drums kick in before we hear Vernon’s falsetto. Three-quarters of the way through, the song has swelled to its peak, something he and his bandmates Michael Noyce, Sean Carey and Matthew McCaughan became masters of while touring behind the debut. By track two, the band is highlighting Colin Stetson’s guest saxophone (magnificent later on “Michicant”) and Greg Leisz’ pedal steel, along with Vernon’s vocal range—he begins with a deep baritone before breaking into falsetto and then using his high natural register. And that’s what makes Bon Iver one of the most satisfying responses to a hyped debut. It retains the beautiful melancholy of For Emma, but in nearly every way, it’s just more. More layered, more diverse, more interesting. He brings in collaborators to do what they do best, but never at the expense of his sound and vision. It treads into new sonic directions without getting lost. “Hinnom, TX” gets most adventurous, with Deep-Voiced Vernon dueting with Falsetto Vernon in front of some slow, echo-y U2 guitars. But there are elements on nearly every song that erase the memory of “that folk guy with a guitar singing introspective, personal songs.” For Emma could be oblique at times, but the lyrics on Bon Iver often border on non-sensical. A majority of song titles reference places, but most meaning for the listener will come through the cathartic choruses.” “Still alive who love you.” “Never gonna break.” “I could see for miles, miles, miles.” And this one from “Calgary”: “So itʼs storming on the lake, little waves our bodies break / There’s a fire going out, but there’s really nothing to the south / Swollen orange and light let through, your one piece swimmer stuck to you.” These all come as the music builds and emotions rise, and they’re the moments on the album which linger throughout the day.—Josh Jackson
Article originally appeared on Paste Magazine (http://www.pastemagazine.com) and was written by multiple contributors.
Amazing performance by Allen Stone on Conan!
Warning: The following rant will ruffle some feathers and just might upset your comfort zone. Read with caution!
John McCrea, lead singer of the band Cake, stirred up a reaction when he told NPR’s Melissa Block that he is skeptical about the future of music as a vocation.
“I see music as a really great hobby for most people in five or 10 years,” he remarked.
Keep in mind this was part of a segment about Cake’s historic new album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January. It was historic because the album earned the coveted ranking by selling just 44,000 copies — the lowest amount for a No. 1 in the 20-year history of calculating record sales.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blog posts lately about the doom and gloom of the music biz — including depressing news about the state of independent music. There have been references to the failure of direct-to-fan as a business model, and the harsh realities that aspiring musicians, managers, and promoters face.
Really? Give me a break!
Sure, I agree that things have drastically changed. The “traditional music industry” has crumbled. All the new, accessible promotion tools have created a crowded and noisy world where millions of DIY artists are clamoring for attention. Things are in flux. Nothing is predictable. There’s no sure path to success.
So tell me …
How is this so radically different from the good old days?
When exactly was there a sure path to making a good living as an artist? What year or decade did a healthy percentage of musicians prosper in the Golden Age of Music? And in what era was the pursuit of the almighty record deal an accessible and fair arrangement for all concerned?
Wake up and smell the gigabytes! Please!
The truth is … This Golden Age never existed. There’s never been a time when musical self-sufficiency was guaranteed. It’s always been the case — and always will be — that a majority of people pursue music as a part-time hobby.
Only a small percentage of artists make a living. That isn’t a consequence of the Internet or piracy or consumer apathy or limitless entertainment choices. It’s just the nature of humanity, regardless what business model is in place.
If you find yourself complaining about the current state of music, it’s probably because you feel lost not knowing what direction to go or what “rules” to follow. I get that. At least — prior to the Napster and iTunes era — many people agreed on the steps you needed to take: get a record deal and/or get radio airplay, retail placement, media exposure, tour, build a business team, etc.
Now it seems nobody knows what the sure path is. As flawed as the old system was, at least you had some kind of map, right?
Here’s another cold dose of reality … That system sucked just as much as, if not more than, the current one!
Many musicians struggled then … and they struggle now. Artists fought for attention then … and they fight for it now. Self-promoters were confused about marketing and sales then … and they are just as confused now.
And, back in “the day,” there was never a set path to a record deal either. Nearly 20 years ago I organized a lot of music education events in St. Louis with local artists who had been signed to label deals. Each had to forge their own path to get noticed and get signed. No two stories were alike.
However, the one theme that many of them shared years later was the bitterness they felt after having gone through the corporate record company process. Hmm … I guess that wasn’t the Golden Age after all.
Honestly … Do you really prefer the old system of having to impress a gatekeeper before you are deemed worthy of a music career? Do you prefer the stability of needing commercial radio airplay, retail space, and MTV video exposure to “make it”?
I think not! So …
Please stop lamenting the good ole bygone days (that never existed to begin with). Please stop complaining about the hardships of social networking and all the work required to get noticed and engage with fans. Cry me a river!
Success in music has always required talent, desire, a quest for mastery, and consistent action. That was true years ago, and it’s just as true today.
The modern-day whiners all focus on what’s missing and what’s difficult. Meanwhile, empowered indie artists such as Jason Parker, David Nevue, Rob Michael, John Taglieri, and many more see opportunities, embrace this new era and … heaven forbid … are actually making a decent living doing it.
So … are you a victimized complainer … or an empowered doer?
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Bob Baker.