When Alain* graduated from the Higher Institute of the Arts, he had his own group, which currently belongs to the National Center for Popular Music.
Despite being a graduate of the artistic education system – like the rest of the instrumentalists that made up the original lineup of the band –, having a record and several recognitions, he says that he had many obstacles to be part of the catalog of one of the the music companies or representation agencies that Cuba has today.
“I knocked on many doors, and one of them resolved an audition that took more than nine months.
To enter the company, it does not matter what artistic or academic level you have because there is a parallel evaluation system.
If you are a graduate of the highest level of music education, it is assumed that you possess some technical mastery when it comes to practicing.
It is not valid”, says the artist.
This is not the only case.
Aníbal Ramos – winner of the San Remo Music Awards press award, professor of Music Appreciation and History in a pre-university and director of Cantores Claudio Monteverdi – tells Cubadebate
"technically" he belongs to the Rafael Lay Music Company of Cienfuegos, because, although one of the supposed gifts of the SRMA was that the winners would automatically be given the professional category, almost a year after the festival, they are still waiting for their endorsement.
"I don't know if it is an intestinal obstruction of the bureaucratic system of the music system that increasingly makes negotiations more difficult, or if it is carelessness and forgetfulness of the people involved in ensuring that these 'promises' are fulfilled", adds the interpreter from Cienfuegos.
Cuba has 14 provincial companies and one municipal one (Isla de la Juventud), two provincial centers, two national ones, and six artistic representation agencies.
This structure brings together 4,081 artistic units (669 subsidized and 3,412 non-subsidized)
made up of 21,335 artists and support staff, according to the 2022 Cuban Institute of Music balance report.
"Each of these companies has the task of seeking employment
for between 100 and 400 artistic units
, for which most of them do not have technical or logistical resources," the Report on the progress of improving the business system revealed. of music, presented last July by the Vice Minister of Culture, Fernando León Jacomino, in the ninth regular session of the ninth legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power.
This problem goes back to the inefficiency of a foundational structure of the music business system, which had a network of national and provincial centers for the comprehensive care of the subsidized and non-subsidized artistic potential of the entire country.
"These centers functioned as budgeted units with special treatment and guaranteed methodological stewardship and marketing through an economic design of mixed financing, where the government provided the subsidy and the rest of the financing came from marketing," explained the vice president at the parliamentary meeting. of Culture.
In 2012, at the proposal of the Ministry of Culture (Mincult), the provincial music centers were turned into companies, subordinated to the business groups of the provincial governments.
"A company was created in each province and belonging to them was established as the only way for professionalization in the sector," he said.
According to León Jacomino,
this decision generated an oversizing of the catalogs and progressively raised the degree of dissatisfaction of the musicians with respect to the functionality of these companies,
which were not provided with the technical means or working capital necessary for compliance. of their functions, nor did they have the proper training of their human resources.
The troubadour Ariel Díaz belongs to the National Center for Popular Music (CNMP) and recognizes legal protection as one of the fundamental advantages of being part of this company.
“Also the hierarchy of music, although of course, this is not always true.
If everything works as it should or according to its regulations, it would be an effective way to promote work, since the company must also take care of advertising, guarantee participation in events, logistics, production, etc.
She is the mediator between the musician and the media”.
Mauricio Figueiral, also a trova cultor, refers to the benefits of belonging to a company, in this case the CNMP, being supported by a government institution, which gives you status for Cuba and for the world as a professional artist.
“You have a legal figure of weight that intervenes in your favor before any legal claim or job offers in both territories;
access to a retirement after the years of work;
official passport with free visa for most Latin American countries or easily accessible for nations that require it;
In addition, you have the possibility of requesting a budget to support the company to perform, for example, a concert in a theater in the country for which you will not have income and that will bring culture and music to society.
In the case of subsidized artists, they have a fixed salary that responds to a certain number of activities that they demonstrate that they have carried out in the month;
You have a supporting salary, whether you are a subsidized artist or not, in the face of an extraordinary situation such as the recent covid-19 pandemic;
and allows you access to radio, television and the official press to promote your work.
“In the case of Cuba, an artist who does not belong to a company or another cultural organization such as the AHS does not have space in the traditional media, even if they have a good proposal,” emphasizes Figueiral.
Along these same lines, Gustavo*, from the Popular Music Center, comments that, although the main advantage of belonging to a music company in Cuba is that with it you acquire, through the only
existing channel, the right to make presentations and collect For them,
behind it there is an agonizing bureaucratic and paperwork mechanism that involves planning, carrying out and collecting a simple presentation.
Arnaldo Rodríguez highlights the range of services offered by Musicuba, including professional recording studios, cultural centers for presentations, and a digital and physical music marketing network.
"The international prestige that Egrem possesses is also an advantage when being represented by that institution."
Verónica* adds that, although the company should take into account the groups that make up its catalog to shape the programming of a certain event that it organizes, this is not always the case.
Along the same lines, Gustavo* points out that belonging to a company today has no advantage.
If they fulfilled their corporate purpose, which is to represent artists, say find them work, expedite procedures... but speaking in silver, they don't”.
The musician believes that more than a representation agency, companies are a means of auditing the income of artists;
the only way that the State has of, with any precision, keep track of the income of the artistic units.
"They are a parasitic organism that charges up to 30 percent of an artist's income for simply getting in the way of day-to-day business."
Elena* assures that she feels helpless as a musician despite belonging to the provincial music company Miguelito Cuní, in Pinar del Río.
“We have to do a deep analysis.
They charge me a large percentage for concerts—rarely profitable.
I have to take care of paying for transportation, stage audio settings…etc.
They don't even help us with the printing of posters, posters…”.
“In the world, people look for companies that represent them legally, that move their work, that promote it, that carry out or promote projects, but you don't have to belong to one to be legal.
However, here in Cuba, if you are not from a company, you cannot work within the framework of the law”, says Verónica*.
On the contrary, Mauricio Figueiral believes that the vast majority of singer-songwriters and musicians who have an independent musical career in other countries have difficulties accessing good opportunities and work contracts in which their interests are supported.
“The most prominent or the most commercially advantaged manage to sign with the big music companies with contracts that are sometimes wonderful and other times, lapidary for their careers.
There are plenty of known examples for both cases”.
"Music and entertainment companies and agencies demand an in-depth review of their structural and functional bases", it was revealed in the Report on the progress of the improvement of the music business system presented at the ninth regular session of the ninth legislature of the National Assembly of Popular Power.
According to the document, a comprehensive transformation of the Cuban music system is required to guarantee both the improvement of its business sector, as well as the continuity of the subsidy of artistic units of high patrimonial and professional value, which should not be subjected to mechanisms of offer and demand.
Earlier, on June 30, 2019, during the closing of the ninth Congress of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said that it is unacceptable that it is not understood that all cultural institutions exist for and for creators and their work, not the other way around, and that bureaucratism and lack of professionalism stifle creation.
“The complaint is heard a lot —on which it is important that artists' organizations act— that the business system or the so-called cultural industries, in relation to artistic creation, in terms of its production, promotion and commercialization, have remained back," the president insisted.
He also added that culture can and should contribute to the country's Gross Domestic Product and that is what its companies are for.
“There is plenty of dissatisfaction among artists and creators who must manage absolutely everything to disseminate or promote their work, while those who would be responsible for doing so exercise a kind of parasitism from inactivity.
Artists have a duty to pay their taxes, but they should not have to pay companies if they have had nothing to do with the employment contracts, with their promotion or with their legal protection”.
It is an open secret that this parasitism favors corruption
It is an open secret that this parasitism favors corruption
—he emphasized— and masks the breach of the function of representation and management of opportunities for the creator and his work.
"It is useless and misleading that the little money available to the country is recycled between entities without any effect on the real economy."
Almost four years after the words of the Cuban president, most of the musicians interviewed by
for this report describe music companies as "parasites" and consider that there are more disadvantages than advantages of belonging to these institutions.
“Most of the time you manage the work yourself, you pay for the transport, and all they do is collect the invoice.
They cut you a percentage, which on many occasions is to cover the lousy results of their management”, says Elena*.
Ariel Díaz assures that the most notable disadvantage is the bureaucracy that mediates each action.
“The sometimes absurd network of steps and paperwork.
This becomes more of an obstacle than agility.
In addition to the lack of real resources to produce so many projects”.
Verónica* lists among the cons that the legal processes for claiming a contractor for late payment to an artistic unit are very slow and ineffective;
they do not have efficient promotion, much less the resources to do it;
production is very limited;
and almost all the processes and procedures to make a presentation abroad go first through the ICM, then through the Mincult, and if they do not approve it, the company cannot do anything.
“Projects deteriorate as they pass through several decision-making hands
“Projects deteriorate as they pass through several decision-making hands
that are sitting behind a bureau and have no idea of reality.
This slows down the development of cultural management ”, he emphasizes.
Mauricio Figueral, for his part, considers that the main disadvantage of having a contract with a company is that you lose the total autonomy that being an independent artist gives you.
"This means that the figure of the company will intervene and regulate all your commercial activities according to its statutes and its interests."
In addition, since the only legal way to be hired by state entities and individuals is through a prior contract with the company, artists do not receive direct and immediate payment.
“The company takes between a month and a half and two months to process it;
sometimes even longer due to delays by the first entity that issues the money.
This payment reaches the artist with a discount that ranges from the 20% retained by the company, whether or not it generates the work or assumes the production costs
It is possible to renegotiate this discount and lower it in your favor to the extent that you prove to be an effective generator of work and income”, explains Figueiral.
Arnaldo Rodríguez comments that at times bureaucratic obstacles hamper quick and effective management of a certain commercial process.
"In addition, sometimes it happens that your artistic and professional work is processed by staff with a lack of creative and business capacity."
“There is extreme bureaucratism, absurd auditions and waste of time on things that rather than promote the development of music, stagnate it.
The strategies are outdated”, argues Zoe*, the only interviewee who belongs to the National Center for Concert Music.
Do companies meet their responsibilities to the artist?
According to the troubadour Ariel Díaz, a simple look at the contract between the artist and the company would be enough to verify that several points are not being fulfilled, among other reasons, because this legal agreement was drawn up decades ago in a reality very different from today's.
The section on “Obligations before the Artistic Unit” seems like science fiction—assess the musician—by categorically failing to comply with the following points:
Carry out marketing efforts for the artistic unit that allow it, to the extent possible, to guarantee a stable source of employment.
Carry out promotional campaigns for the artistic unit, both to obtain commercialization of it, and to promote the artistic fact that has been completed.
Carry out market studies that it deems necessary to facilitate the most appropriate use of the artistic unit.
Inform the artistic unit regularly of its management, as well as provide it with the information that is pertinent according to the relationship that is established or that is useful to assess the convenience of the services to be agreed upon.
Provide technical advice to the artist for the selection of their repertoire, costumes and artistic image, communication for issues related to the presentation abroad when necessary and legal advice related to the contracting of their artistic presentations.
Guarantee the necessary conditions for the execution of artistic presentations.
Meet the needs and technical and production requirements of the artistic unit.
But, in the opinion of Ariel Díaz, this is not necessarily due to incompetence or poor work by the institution, but rather to a lack of resources.
Although recently a change can be noticed, I believe that this contract must be reviewed and adapted to the real conditions of the Cuban scene”.
On the other hand, in the "Penalties" section it can be read: "In the event of a total or partial breach of one of the obligations contained in this instrument, the offending party will proceed to pay the injured party due to the breach of contract a lump sum, percentage or calculated by means of another indicator in relation to the value of the presentation that should have been guaranteed, adapting the sanction to the degree of compliance with the obligation, without it being disproportionate or abusive.
"The payment of this pecuniary sanction does not exempt the defaulting party from fulfilling its obligation, nor does it replace the repair of damages and compensation for damages derived from the breach, unless the parties agree otherwise."
There is no news that anyone has ever filed a lawsuit with the institution despite the long list of non-compliance by it, considers the troubadour.
"The truth would also not be fair when you cannot really guarantee your part of the contract for objective reasons
Mauricio Figueiral maintains the criterion that the company fulfills or not the responsibilities that it must have with the artist, depends to a large extent on the interest that the creator himself places in the development of his career.
“A company often manages a wide catalog of musicians of which it is not aware of details.
Therefore, I believe that in the first place it is up to the artist to approach and involve the company in the projects it is developing.
And if the entity does not look for a way to support you, even with a letter to open the institutional doors that you need, then a problem of incapacity and disinterest begins there, ”he added.
Figueiral defends Ariel Díaz's thesis and assures that he has witnessed the precarious conditions in which music companies sometimes work.
“For example, I have seen the processors with three and four travel projects and artist passports under their arms walking or asking for a bottle to fulfill their work content due to lack of transportation from the institution.
In cases like these, you must first know the effort that is being made to move your project forward before claiming anything”.
Arnaldo Rodríguez is also aware that greater business management cannot be demanded from a company that does not have access to means of transportation, technical elements, and logistics to organize a show or event, and that does not even have financing. to invest in a project of a musician or artistic unit.
“However, there are companies with limited resources and possibilities that have achieved encouraging results.
That is due to the human factor.
But in general, Cuban music companies lack both factors: the lack of financing and material support, together with the lack of professional training and the absence of businessmen with the sensitivity and ability necessary to 'move' in the music industry.” adds the director of El Talismán.
On this subject, Gustavo*
says that the breach of responsibilities with the musicians has to do with the fact that the catalogs are oversaturated with artistic units.
On the other hand, Zoe* comments that her company complies with subsidizing its artists, given that classical music, at least in Cuba, is not for the general public, and generates less income.
“Personally, when there is some kind of double bond or employment contract with another artistic or cultural entity, there has been no problem.
Now, in terms of travel procedures, they tend to be slow and there are quite extensive meetings, which delay those presentations.
Too much bureaucracy”, explains the instrumentalist.
Alain* explains that among the issues that most affect the work of artists is that the payments are made after the work, without taking into account the pre-production expense that a certain presentation entails.
“Ultimately they should be in two parts.
The first must contemplate everything that is the transfer and the expense in promotion and that, in addition, certain systems are articulated to be able to make these investments because now everything is by check”.
According to Alain*, it is as if the company ignored all the actions that a musician has to undertake to be able to perform a concert;
and assumes that the artist has the money to take it on.
“They solve nothing for us, absolutely nothing. It is an obstacle for the artist”,
“They solve nothing for us, absolutely nothing.
It is an obstacle for the artist”,
Although the company can ask for as little as three percent, Elena's group is always charged, at least 15, under the justification that they do not report much money.
"When you go to talk to people who are trained, they come to the position of strength that, 'if it doesn't work for you, you're out of here,' and we creators are left with our hands tied."
To be continue…
To be continue…
*Some of those interviewed for this report preferred to hide their identity.
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