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TV Performances At Latin Grammys Key, Execs Say

An eyeball-catching performance on the Latin Grammy awards program not only lifts recordings sales but can transform careers, according to recording executives hoping their musicians pull a Ricky Martin.

Executives at Sony Music and BMG said the Latin Grammys, a $4 million production to be broadcast on Tuesday in the United States and 120 other countries, is a venue that can overcome barriers of language, genre and country.

Martin’s 1999 performance on the long-running U.S. Grammy awards program mightily boosted sales of his self-named album and other recordings and was widely seen as making the Puerto Rican native an international star.

Last year, on the first Latin Grammys broadcast, a performance by Shakira won legions of new fans for the singer-songwriter from Colombia.

“I think being nominated is key,” said Frank Welzer, president, Latin America, at Sony Corp’s Sony Music International. “I think winning is important. But performing is the thing.”

Welzer said payoffs come quickly for breakout performers, with increased sales of recordings in the weeks after the annual Latin Grammys, and large audiences over the long term.

“If you have a dynamite performance like Ricky or Shakira, you have results,” Welzer said. “It’s not just a sales spike. It becomes a building block in an artist’s career.”

The competition is stiff for the performance slots in Los Angeles awards program, which is to be carried in the U.S. on CBS, a unit of Viacom Inc.

Scheduled performers include guitarist Carlos Santana and Jose Angel Hevia, a Galician flutist and bagpiper.

Presenters will include Shakira, film actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Latin jazz musician Arturo Sandoval.

“The prestige of winning a Grammy is very important for the artist and the label,” said Jorge Lopez-Doriga, vice president for marketing at Bertelsmann AG’s BMG Latin America, based in Miami. “But it also has a public relations side.”

Lopez-Doriga said in an interview that the newspaper and magazine stories, television coverage and radio programming spurred by the Latin Grammy awards and the process itself benefit performers, even those merely nominated.

“You always want an artist on it,” Lopez-Doriga said.

Michael Greene, the head of the Grammys and the Latin Grammys, said the program was important in introducing North American audiences to unfamiliar performers but was also helping popularize new sounds in Iberia and Latin America.

“This is not just about crossing Latin music to an American audience,” Greene said in an interview. “We are also crossing the music of Mexico to Spain and the music of Brazil to Argentina.”

Executives said the marketing benefits from the Latin Grammys were mainly in the United States, where music product shipments fell 4.4 percent to $5.9 billion during the first six months of 2001 from the first half of 2000.

But the program would become increasingly important in Latin America and elsewhere in coming years, they said.

Greene said he had long wanted to launch a Grammys program to tap into the volcanic creativity of Latin performers and the promising U.S. demographics for Latin music but had resisted modest production offers that would have reached only narrow audiences.

“We weren’t willing to ghettoize this. We wanted to wait until we could get a budget to put on an elegant show,” Greene said.

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