Faced With the Collapse of State Companies, Cuban Artists Ask for Less Bureaucracy and More Music

The artist Frank Delgado at the Cuban Art Factory (FAC). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 3 April 2023 — The idea is taking hold in Cuba that musicians could end up working in the private sector, although with limitations. The regime still does not give clear signs about it, but the second part of the report “Do music companies in Cuba represent their artists well?” mentions the possibility of “expanding and diversifying the music business system and offering the artist other alternatives in relation to the market,” although it is clear that the priority is to “strengthen the socialist state enterprise.”

The full report takes up the calamities from two weeks ago and specifies some of the government proposals to reverse the debacle of the sector, including the divorce of the business part from the political but without the second disappearing. Deputy Minister of Culture Fernando León Jacomino tells Cubadebate that some of the conclusions drawn lead them to propose several solutions aimed, above all, at making music companies profitable.

The most outstanding of the novelties is to give autonomy to the mechanism of accreditation of professionalism through the creation of the Registry of Professionals of Music and Musical Shows as “the only method of professional and legal accreditation of artists.” State companies must have profitability indicators, and artists must demonstrate that they can contribute to generating income, which will allow them to remain on the payroll. To do this, they have six months.

“Today, companies have to include in their catalogs all the artists who want to be professionals. If they operate under those conditions, they cannot be asked to be efficient, because they do not choose who they work with,” says the official.

On the other hand, Provincial Music Centers will be created, which will be in charge of enforcing the “cultural policy in private spaces and attending to subsidized artistic talent.”

From León Jacomino’s words it also follows that there is a plan to open the services related to the area to the private sector, and he gives as an example transport, which currently depends on the provincial companies of the State because there are no rules that allow others to hire a service that they cannot assume. The same applies to hosting, instruments and up to 14 “joined” activities, as the deputy minister refers to them.

“All the entrepreneurs we have are empirical,” adds Jacomino, who considers it essential to redesign the system of attention to subsidized artists, create a system of professional training in cultural management, present a strategy of export and promote attraction of foreign investment and new laws for the protection of artists.

The flexibility, in any case, will be very relative, since the companies will “link” to the provincial governments and must meet “the needs of the territory complying with the policy established by the ICM [Cultural Institute of Music] and the Ministry of Culture.”

Despite the numerous cases of corruption that have occurred in the sector, recognized in the previous report of Cubadebate and reported to 14ymedio also by a Cuban soloist, the section dedicated to this issue is smaller in this Monday’s text. The official newspaper talks about delays and non-payments but tiptoes over them.

“It takes several months before the payment of a performance is transferred to the company, as usually happens with Artex, famous for delinquency despite charging juicy percentages. This means that sometimes violations are incurred in the centers where the presentation is made in the face of the obvious need to guarantee the immediacy of the collection of fees,” confesses troubadour Ariel Díaz about a practice that is an open secret and that he defines as “the migration of musicians to the private sector where there are no papers or rules and they are paid, as is commonly said, ’by hand’ seconds after the end of the performance.”

The statements collected by Cubadebate, mostly anonymous, emphasize that the malfunction is systemic because there are many people who participate as intermediaries. However, they avoid directly accusing the authorities. “The blame is not on the companies but on all the fabric in the background,” reads the text, which dilutes the guilt between a faceless bureaucracy, officials supposedly far from reality and drivers or doormen who keep the money.

Laura Vilar Álvarez, director of the Center for Research and Development of Cuban Music, has participated in the proposal to reform the system and defends that music is profitable but balanced with the artistic side, since each style has a specific reality. However, it leaves the decision of what art is in the hands of the politicians of the Communist Party. “It is a company, but it is also a problem of the governor, of the provincial director of Culture. Music can’t be the last line. The function of the artist is not only to entertain. Art is the background and essence of spirituality of the Cuban nation,” she says.

“We need less paperwork and more music,” demands the artist Mauricio Figueiral. But for now it does not seem that the commitment to privatization is radical, since the control of what is put on a stage is at stake. In the words of Arnaldo Rodríguez, singer and music producer:

“The forms of non-state management can be used to boost this system, but we must not privatize the industry. The country must inject funding to the system to return to the hierarchy in the main public spaces, where today the immediacy and competence of private management prevail, which, to obtain positive economic results, are not promoting the best of our music and Cuban culture.”

Ofelia, the artist consulted by 14ymedio for the previous report, believes that the state system will end up collapsing alone. “Because if they open up now, they will see that everyone is going to leave those companies. There will be only the sacred cows of the Revolution, the devoted ones, and I don’t know to what extent, either, because companies have always been a control mechanism that artists hate,” she argues before ending with a plea for the liberalization of the sector.

“Music should flow freely, without state control and without mechanisms that hinder the creation, work and development of musicians, unless it is to support, not to hinder, which is what these companies do.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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