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Interviews Photos by Yary Guiraldo, courtesy of Malena Portuondo.

Monologue by a gypsy manager

My name is Malena Portuondo. I was born in Havana in 1981. My papers say that I am a Cuban and Italian citizen. But in reality I am a nomad; now as I write I am in Spain. I studied in Cuba, in "la Lenin". I began a degree in Philosophy, from which I then switched to Philology at the University of Havana, until I emigrated to Europe, where I finished Tourism Business Administration at the University of Barcelona.

I love all animals and plants. I don't have a pet because my nomadic lifestyle doesn't allow it, but I assume as my pets those of my friends, immediately. Besides music, my biggest passions are traveling and dancing.

My father, Roberto Portuondo, was for almost 40 years director of cultural programs of the ICRT (to break the coconut, Lucas, Palms and Reeds, Colorama, 23 and M...). I have memories of him putting the headphones on me to make me listen to how well the track was produced. Vogue Madonna, or to pay attention to the chorus of Madonna's We Are the World. One of the most important memories I have is having listened to Frank Fernandez's music for the telenovela Tierra Brava. My dad played it at home about forty times until he visualized the fighting cocks that were used for the opening curtain. Those are my first memories associated with music. Years later chance -or causality- made me have to translate from Spanish to Italian and English the website www.cubamusic.comwhich contained the biography of most of the Cuban artists of all times; and that was my master's degree in History of Cuban Music. Since then, I have always been linked in some way to Cuban record labels or artists in different projects.

Photos by Yary Guiraldo, courtesy of Malena Portuondo.

I will tell you how and why I came up with the idea of setting up a digital distribution company: darkness always contains light. The pandemic interrupted my work organizing concerts with a couple of Cuban/Peruvian salsa orchestras based in Lima. I was in Mexico during that period and the confinement concretized the intention I had had for some time to help Cuban musicians put their songs on digital platforms, knowing that many of them did not have the reach, the knowledge, the resources or even the initiative to do so. Some even saw it as inaccessible. GitanaMedia, as a project, set out to facilitate that path. 

Today, all musicians know perfectly well what Spotify is and how it works, even if they can't even open it on their phones, at least they know it exists. I had already made a visionary attempt between 2012 and 2013, when the era of the streaming had just begun. A strong and abundant presence of Cuban music on these new platforms would have been a great step forward, but unfortunately Cuban artists were not prepared for this as they are today. For most of them it is very doubtful or difficult to explore the possibility of monetizing their music through these new channels and platforms. That is why we are not yet inserted in the NFT market, nor in others as innovative as the production of music for video games or music packages. sampleswhich are other forms of monetization of music, more economically successful than the streaming

At that time I also had serious communication problems with Cuban musicians. It would take days for them to answer a e-mailAnd when they could, they did it through third or fourth persons; they had to go to someone's office, ask for favors, in short... To send an album or video in 2012 from Cuba it was necessary for someone to physically bring an external memory with the material to some point in Europe and then send it to my house in Barcelona. Another serious obstacle, which still persists, is that many artists do not understand the technical and rights aspects of the streaming. As a relatively new and intangible service for Cubans, it was very difficult to explain the impact of the service. streaming about copyrights or performers' rights and phonograms. Musicians were not familiar with contracts of any kind and wanted to review the agreements or consult the negotiation even with Chachita la del agro who had a friend who worked at the embassy of I don't know where, or with the other one who had been undersecretary of monumental heritage at Unesco... I swear I'm not exaggerating! Nowadays, Cuban artists are much more familiar with that process, besides the fact that contracts are more humane and simpler.

In short, GitanaMedia is a recording project of Cuban music of any genre. A launching and visualization platform available to all Cuban music and artists, regardless of their level of education, race, sexual identity, political or religious beliefs. All Cuban musicians are permanently invited to the project. 

Photos by Yary Guiraldo, courtesy of Malena Portuondo.

However, perhaps because of my musical interests and influences, and because the music indie and alternative has less attention and resources than other more popular genres, GitanaMedia's catalog is currently comprised mostly of music from the R&B genres, soulhip hop, reggae, tropical, rock, alternative pop, singer-songwriter, electronic, techno, house, deep houseEDM, bass color and infinite fusions of all of these. Initially I had the sole intention of playing the music on-linebut the demand quickly led to the need for promotion. Of course, I am not alone in the effort, I work with a team, but let's say that for them it is semi-conscious. They are the friends and friends of friends who are followers of these musicians, who are not millions, but they are active, I see them in statistics: they share and listen, this is the basis and the most important part of the team. 

We also have an ever-growing network of blogs, curators of playlistsThere are all those musicians, DJ/producers, industry professionals, magazines or magazines, like yours, that are paying attention to the quality of Cuban alternative music. There are all those musicians who put a lot of creativity and effort into recording with quality and promoting their works. Almost all of them carefully follow the instructions or marketing tasks they have at their disposal despite the many obstacles they usually face in Cuba. There is another part of the "unconscious" team, which are those excellent Cuban designers who generate covers, art covers I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their efforts! 

When I started GitanaMedia I already knew about distribution and music rights; however, learning how to apply them to artists in a simple and efficient way has been a personal master in communication. I have also learned how to exploit to the maximum all the free promotion resources. on-line and to filter paid offers appropriately to achieve organic listens, longer audience retention and, in general, higher-value followers.

I try to keep the project as open as possible to new artists, but the link usually happens by mutual attraction. In some cases, I detect in their profiles the need for support, or they detect through an artist or publication the possibility of working together. If communication is fluid and the artist's interest is consistent, we follow up on the proposal. Beyond my personal musical tastes, I pay attention to the quality of the production and I am sensitive to the potential for creativity or improvement of the artist/producer. Many times beautiful personal connections arise from empathy for our projects and a common love for music. 

Photos by Yary Guiraldo, courtesy of Malena Portuondo.

My vision is for GitanaMedia to become one of the most influential Cuban music labels. indieacoustics and electronics. In 10 years the challenges will be different. The capacity for growth of our common goals lies in our unity and has to do with the ability of us as individuals to adapt to the global music industry beyond our daily reality. It will also depend on mutual support among musicians to drive and attract investors and collaborations relevant to Cuban music. 

The most obvious difficulties we face are lack of investment, lack of access to technology and high-speed internet, the blocking of music applications and websites that cannot be visited by Cuban musicians from the island, including Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, etc., and the costs of other useful tools. The impact of these limitations is incalculable. Another negative aspect for independent artists is Cuba's lack of agreements with payment gateways. on-line such as PayPal, Stripe, etc. There were two occasions when, without prior notice, they cancelled the accounts of individual artists due to the international regulations that persist for the country, until I finally found a suitable distributor for the entire catalog. As for payments to Cuba, nowadays it is easier to make deposits directly from abroad to the artist's bank account. It can be a rather manual and cumbersome process, compared to the simplicity of transactions from abroad, but everything in life has a solution with persistence and interest.

Photos by Yary Guiraldo, courtesy of Malena Portuondo.

Another handicap is that there is no internal Cuban music industry familiar with the curatorship of playlistsor with terms such as optimization, algorithms, keywords (branding personal, link buildingThe company's marketing plan, marketing plan, disruptive communication) and other knowledge that is essential today to achieve results at a promotional level in a global market already saturated with consumer information. 

If you really want to promote, protect and empower Cuban music, there should be more subjects and courses on music industry rights, marketing and music business management in music schools and academies at all levels. The lack of experience and the absence of marketing, sales and negotiation mentality at a professional level has serious consequences for the necessary viralization, promotion and monetization of contemporary Cuban music.

Avatar photo Darsi Fernández Hyperlink with human figure. He has a bad memory only for what suits him. He dreams of retiring to read. More posts

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