Latin America has a lot of cool rock bands and I wanted to buy a few albums today to add to my music collection. You would think that in one of the largest cities in Peru, it would be easy to find a music shop that would have a decent collection where I could find everything I wanted? No. It is not easy. You have lots of small corner shops that sell CDs, DVDs and other bits and bobs but they are completely unsorted and they are all illegal copies. I found only one shop that sold original copies but they were all old or non-standard stuff that only a fan who didn't find what he wanted in the pirate copy shops would buy. So I ended up buying a few pirate copies, after asking the guy to play them to make sure I wasn't buying blank CD-Rs.
I asked a local friend what she thought about this and how the band made money. She admitted that probably 70% or more of the market is pirate copies and that none of the money on those copies would go to the artists. But the price of a CD is so prohibitive for the average Peruvian that there is no way they could afford originals, even though local music companies did reduce prices significantly in the past few years to make original copies accessible. So the pirate copy market ensures that everybody can buy and listen to the music. As a result, the albums of Latin artists and played everywhere and everybody knows their songs. Comparatively, western music is only a niche market: you don't hear it very often and when you hear it, it's old tunes the sort of which you get 4 for 20 quid at Virgin in London. In practice, western music seems to be pricing itself out of the Peruvian market. Having said this, how do Latin bands earn a living? I don't know but I suspect that every time they do a concert somewhere, the venue is full to capacity. I will be able to confirm this tomorow by going to a concert of Los Prisioneros.