Self-management in Cuba, the experiences of four collective labels
We talked with the leaders of four independent projects about the benefits and disadvantages of self-managed work in the field of music in Cuba. From their respective niches and with their particular dilemmas Alejandro Menéndez (BandEra Studio), Osmani Espinosa (The Secret Office), Isnay Rodríguez «DJ Jigüe» (Guámpara Music) and Julio César Machado (Abstraction) agree that the challenges are immense but worth the risk.
Alejandro Menéndez (Flag Studio)
- The creative space and the dynamic way in which we understand our work, both in terms of music and management. Trying to conceive new ideas all the time, talking about music or opening the door to other talents is the main advantage.
- Being independent allows us not to rule under institutional structures conceived that are dysfunctional or do not respond to our needs. Independent in itself contains a negation; is what you, creatively and executive, want to avoid.
- Lack of dialogue with culture institutions to find mechanisms that recognize us as another type of managers with similar objectives.
- Absence of a clear legal space that allows us to know what we are and what our rights and duties are. That causes us to be "clandestine" or legal, which puts us in that gray area of the law where you do not know what the rules of the game are.
- Our legitimacy as a seal is impaired because we can not count on a bank account to facilitate our online transactions.
- Not having enough places to play our music; difficulties to intervene alternative spaces in the city.
Osmani Espinosa (The Secret Office)
- Being independent allows us to exploit and have control over all online and offline promotion platforms, from the most established ones, to the most alternative ones like El Paquete, the record sellers and the memory fillers.
- Mastering our efforts allows us to be agile, without bureaucratic obstacles and keep updated the finances and payments for our artists.
- Being an independent company, the selection of our artists is based on their values as creators or interpreters, and their profitability for the seal business.
- We are affected by not having a filiation or organization that recognizes or represents us. We do not belong to anything, we do not have laws that protect us or defend us.
- Our artists are recognized and requested in different awards, fairs and festivals. However, our visibility as a seal in these spaces is minimal and the option to create new events is practically impossible.
- By not being able to license our contents we have to sell or give away what we record to the state record companies so that they are legal and protected.
- The dependence that our artists have on the institutional representation companies, which sometimes limit and abandon them.
Isnay Rodríguez «DJ Jigüe» (Music Guide)
- We lack officiality which puts at risk the contractual relations of production, representation and rights with the artists within the seal itself.
- Since the label or our artists are not associated with any institution, our production does not achieve the reach we would like to obtain in the country's radio and television spaces.
- Not paying taxes even though it could be considered an advantage is a double-edged sword for me and my workers. We can spend twenty-five years working, which would not be recorded anywhere, for social security or retirement purposes.
- Not being able to directly charge online sales of our music, for which we need to have third parties that can make use of standardized payment platforms.
Julio César Machado (Abstraction)
- We have achieved a certain unity and recognition among creators of the world of electronics in Cuba, making new music known from a small center of attention.
- Our creative and labor freedom away from dogmas and schemes allows us to focus, as we wish, both in experimentation and in the creation of music closer to the commercial.
- Electronic music in the country is not a current with a highly favored consumption or reception, which influences some of our efforts.
- This type of music needs spaces and schedules that allow the organization of parties and high levels of volume. Access to these places is complicated and bureaucratic, which limits our scope as a seal and the development of our work.
- Electronic music, especially that of independent labels, does not receive enough promotion in media such as radio and television.