Apple closer to Latin America: iTunes Store-Brazil may launch next week
News broke recently of a pending iTunes Store launch in Brazil. The rest of the region may soon follow. (Getty Images)
It all started last week with a leak.
Brazilian outlet Veja reported that Apple and national megastar Roberto Carlos were in talks to release his songs via a local version of the iTunes Store. So far, the legendary crooner had been reluctant to allow the selling of his music online in the song-by-song format, but he’s said to have reached an agreement, thus unveiling a trail of conversations Apple may have conducted with major record labels in the region.
If this means Apple is finally ready to storm Latin America with the iTunes Store nearly a decade after its original launch, the media behemoth is staying true to its “no comment” culture. Univision News reached out to Apple representatives who refused to reveal any further details or confirm what’s already been discussed online.
But Veja went as far as setting iTunes Store Brazil’s launch for next Thursday, December 8.
The hopes are that Apple will eventually bring the iTunes Store to the entire region, since Mexico and Puerto Rico—strategic U.S. commercial allies—are the only ones who have access to the full features of the U.S. iTunes Store.
Latin America has been largely denied of a full Apple experience, as previously reported by Univision News, because the market “is not mature yet” for its products, according to the experts consulted. But this is also a region with some of the highest rates of online music piracy in the world, with Paraguay hitting an all-time high of 99 percent in 2005. An updated 2010 list ranks Paraguay second to Venezuela, which has an overall piracy prevalence level of 88 percent.
“I think it’s great to have options to buy music legally,” Andrés Bretel, a Peruvian rock producer who has worked with dozens of local artists, told Univision News. “But these options need to reach a majority. I’m not a big fan of limiting content for anybody and that’s something that iTunes Store does, precisely; that you buy a song and can only play it on authorized computers.”
Launching iTunes Store in 2011 makes perfect sense, since Netflix announced an expansion to some 43 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and LinkedIn just announced that it is hiring for its first office in the region located, once again, in Brazil.
With its high quality and security capabilities, the famed online store brings an opportunity for Latino musicians to increase their profits. In the current iTunes Store format if an artist from say, Argentina or Honduras, wants to sell his work, he will only get buyers from the U.S., Mexico or Puerto Rico; meaning artists are still unable to sell their work via iTunes Store in their homeland.
Bretel is also critical of the dollar-per-song system. “In Peru at least, it should be in the local currency [almost a third of the U.S. dollar],” he said. But in many Latin American countries, Internet shopping is marred with security and technical issues. Pay Pal, for instance, doesn’t work in Peru, and Bretel also points out that setting shopping carts in Peruvian websites—for up-and-coming bands, at least—“is just too complicated.”
FayerWayer, a Chilean website closely following the story, obtained alleged internal sales documents from Apple; they show that the Cupertino company is pending approval from regulators across Latin America to greenlight the iTunes Store launch. The FayerWayer article also points at the September launch of a full-featured iTunes Store in 12 European countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, and Estonia, among others.
“We also have heard about Apple launching Apple TV in Latin America soon,” Fayer Wayer’s founder Leo Prieto told Univision News. “But Apple TV with no iTunes would be a failure, so if they plan to launch one, they surely need the other first.”