Michel Boutic and the decade of reparto
It is September 2023. Half an hour ago Michel Aguilera, known as Michel Boutic, should have arrived, but at 30 years old he is a guy with a bad memory and doesn't remember the interview. He's getting old without realizing it, he says apologetically when he shows up. Fifteen years ago, when he was a kid and had a better memory, he danced. That was one of his first encounters with the street. Today, he defines himself as the fucking The company is a leader in this field, when it talks about production and distribution.
-Did you dance tecktonikMichel?
-No, I danced effect. The tecktonik it was danced by the freaks, the hippies.
That was not his thing, Michel was always repa.
After the dance stage came many more. She graduated with a degree in Physical Culture and, in order not to have her degree invalidated, she did two years of social service.
One day, he began to walk all over Havana; he walked up and down the streets with his hands full of ballots announcing concerts. He promoted Osmani García, Chacal and Yakarta, anyone; making a living in Cuba has never been easy and his payment depended on how many people went to the concert.
Another day, God knows what he was thinking, he got it into his head to sing. He, who doesn't even know the musical notes, recorded several songs that he put together in an album and signed a couple of videos. He never released them, because he didn't know what he was doing. In those years many people were into singing and he wanted to try his luck at it.
Some time later, Michel, who above all is a smart guy, realized that the real money was behind the machines and not next to the microphone. He gave up singing altogether.
For its study, it has invested in equipment and plugin about 30 thousand dollars. "All paid for, because I pay for everything," he clarifies.
"I started with a cheap studio and, out of a personal taste for my music to sound expensive, I bought expensive equipment little by little. But, of course, there are studios that have half as much as half as much as I do and have tracks stuck on the street. There is nothing defining in the recording process".
He was able to buy his first air conditioner much earlier, from kilo to kilo. He got it thanks to the famous weekly package, because before he had a record label and a studio and long before Dboutic Music existed as a record company, he existed as a promotion agency.
Tired of handing out so many ballots and sweating from so much walking, exhausted from going through clandestine recording studios and collecting music on a flash drive to deliver to DJs in nightclubs every week, exhausted from working and seeing what Cuban artists were going through, he thought that being a promoter of the weekly package would be a better option. He was not wrong. He became the official promoter of the Omega Package, a space that allowed him to get to know the Cuban music studios more closely and to get into the business.
Simultaneously, he worked as a representative of the group Los Tres Gatos, but this, as well as his never released album, did not get very far. From that time there remained a version of the famous Sorry by Justin Bieber, which the group recorded and was heard in several nightclubs in the country. It was also the first song that referenced the emerging producer and showed his name at the end of the video clip; DBouticStudios appeared on a screen.
The package was a success for Michel, but as of 2016 -with the arrival of internet to Cuba through wifi zones first, and then with mobile data- the context began to transform. To know the latest urban premiere, it was not necessary to wait for the day of the week the package arrived or pass it through Zapya, it was enough to open YouTube from any device.
Around that time, Osniel and Yordano knocked on his door looking for help. "I started managing them artistically without knowing I was doing it," he says. "That's when I started as a real manager."
"In music there are a thousand ways to reach an artist and a thousand ways to work with him. The first thing I did with Kimiko and Yordy happened unconsciously. I dressed them, wore their shoes, produced their music and videos and did the promotion. With other artists I haven't done the same job, because I don't work as a manager. I just offer them my platforms to distribute their music.
Thus, from 2019 until the disintegration of the duo in 2022, Dboutic was accompanying hits such as. The Champion, My bold, You killed me and Loser's night.
In 2023, its attention has shifted to the duo El Principal and Carlichowa and soloist Yoani Star, the three artists he has signed under the Dboutic Music label.. Now he also collaborates with Planet Records as art and repertoire (A&R) of the label, where he also works with Charly and Johayron, Bebeshito and Pokercito.
To look at an artist Michel does not follow a pattern. "In Cuba, one day one thing works for you and the next day another. Six months from now what I tell you now probably won't work. Eight years ago, duets of a rapper and another who sang beautifully worked. Not anymore, now people don't care about that, for example, they look more at a duet where one has a thick voice and is in tune and the other has a different tone."
In Michel's story as told by Michel, DBoutic has the good fortune to be the first in everything. He was the first to internationalize the cast and take it to Peru, the first to bring a cast member closer to the institutions by getting Kimiko and Yordy to play in Cuba for a huge audience. For that he had to meet 80 times with the director of the Cuban Institute of Music and 80 more with a vice minister of Culture. "I had to prove to them that I deserved those papers, endorsements and permits. I had to go around the world and turn around to question them about the reasons why they could supposedly play in any country but mine. Then, from that moment on, all the processes and paperwork began to smooth out.
"They cannot continue to hinder the artist who speaks in a song with a double meaning or with street language. Because of so many impediments and delegitimization they don't have young artists, because all those who manage to leave the country don't want to go back. I came back because I have my head focused on what I want".
-How was your experience in Peru, how does this international audience welcome a genre such as casting?
-It works the same as in Cuba, in Peru there were places that were full and others that were not. We played for five thousand people in a packed venue.
"The cast is internationalized. Maybe not at the same level as the dembow Or reggaeton, that is. What's going on? It is not in the market's interest for the owners of the market to see that the "reparto", a genre invented in Cuba, expands in an uncontrollable way. However, four years from now, if its exponents continue to make good music, we will have to see how far it goes".
—Does your company have any legal backing in Cuba? Can you, for example, import any inputs?
-My company is legal in Miami in the name of a relative. Here in Cuba I don't have any backing and for now I don't need it either, because I have no way of collecting and legalizing it.
"When Kimiko and Yordy split up, I opened a staff as producer of the Centro Nacional de Música Popular, which belongs to the Cuban Institute of Music. Legally, I am a producer for the company, although what I do with the artists is not entirely linked to the Institute.
"The Cuban artist is most affected by the distribution of his music and that's where I come in, I have a digital distribution system. Because of the blockade, many musicians depend on people like me, who help those who are on the street, teaching them how to take care of and charge for their music.
"Regarding supplies, I don't import them, because I don't have my own establishment. To date, the only MSME related to my work here is event organization, and that story is more complicated than it seems....
"Of course, casting has its advantages and challenges. It's all down to personal taste. The delivery audience doesn't have deep knowledge about music, so sometimes anything you release can seem like quality. With $300 you put together a studio and with it you give a club easily."
Some time ago Michel became obsessed with cars. He worked on improving and changing them. Then it was watches. For him, producing cast is the most profitable business there is. "Casting is what makes the most money, both in live performances and platform distribution," he says.
"The best way to monetize with the genre is to paste a track. With just one hit, you can earn between eight and nine thousand dollars. The bad thing is that nobody has the formula to do it. Something works and pummmm, you hit the jackpot".
-How is your relationship with artists of other genres (salseros, timberos, etc.)? Do you think that cubatón artists, for example, have had to adapt to new forms of musical creation and distribution?
-Many have continued to make their traditional music, but they have had to retract all the shit they talked about reggaeton. They have come to ask favors to the reguetoneros, those that they themselves did not want to be given companies and papers.
-And your relationship with Cuban cultural institutions, how would you qualify those alliances?
-This is a complicated country. Certainly, in every country in the world you have to have your money accounted for and pay taxes. These alliances are almost always positive for both sides, the negative is the bureaucracy that comes with it. State institutions lost control of music in Cuba. Before, 90% of the spaces were state-owned, but not anymore. Today you don't need a document from the Institute to play. Music is free, as in all countries of the world.
"In Cuba, urban music isn't played by television or radio, it's played by the public, by the people who follow you. The "reparteros" don't owe anything to anyone, only to those who listen to them. There was the era of El Benny, Los Zafiros, Celia Cruz, timba in the 80s and 90s, Cubanito 2002 and Gente de Zona in the 2000s. Now, in this decade, there are the reparteros. Reparteros came to be part of Cuban culture, to reflect in it a country not described before. Cuba has many Cubas inside, but at the end of the day, it is one". He adds and looks at the clock as one who has to leave soon".
After our conversation ended, I learned from Michel's Instagram stories that he was actually on the terrace of the Hotel Nacional-where minutes before we were talking-because he "went to buy it", or so he said in his networks with his particular sense of humor. This week he returned to the studio after two months away, he had to change venue because inspiration came to him at any time of the day and in the other location the noise bothered the neighbors. When he returned, he recorded four songs in less than three hours. Now, he says that soon he will be back to "get the kilo" out of the package. He is so multifaceted that he defines himself as "manager, music producer, promoter, infuencer and EFI".
Before concluding the interview, he reminds me what a complicated guy he is, what a champion he has become. He is right. In short, Michel also has many Michel's inside, and keeping up with him will never be an easy task.