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UN pumping $1.3m into Cuban music biz

With the two-year anniversary of Cuba’s restoration of diplomatic relations with the US fast approaching, a UN agency is providing a “helping hand” with rebuilding the Cuban music industry.

Drawing on a US$1.3 million budget provided by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) project is aiming to promote entrepreneurship and boost the export value of an industry that has “suffered” badly under a five-decade US trade embargo.

“Cuban music has a well-deserved international reputation due to its incredible quality and the talent of its musicians, but the country’s music sector needs further development in order to optimise this asset and grow internally and externally,” comments Carlos Chanduvi Suarez, head of Unido’s Latin America and Caribbean regional division.

According to Unido’s Charles Arthur, the project will focus on expanding both the recorded and live markets by, among other things, “developing business models, training musicians, producers and engineers, advising on branding and marketing strategies and supporting wholesalers and retailers”.

Cuban music has a well-deserved international reputation […] but the country’s music sector needs further development in order to optimise this asset”

By the end of project, in 2018, Unido says the value of sales in the Cuban music industry will have increased by 30%, and the sector become “more inclusive and sustainable”.

The Rolling Stones played their first show in Cuba last March; an event widely seen as a turning point in a country that once banned all Western-style rock’n’roll – including the Stones and Beatles – for “ideological deviation” from the communist line.

Michael Vega, WME’s former head of Latin music, told The Fader in 2015 a liberalising Cuba has the potential to be a major market for live music. “We’ve heard of a lot of A&Rs and writers going over to Cuba and doing scouting trips,” he said. “It just seems that every day you hear about someone having gone or planning to go.”


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