Music Production and Cultural Entrepreneurship in today’s Havana: Elephants in the Room
Monasterio Barso, Freddy
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Cultural production and entrepreneurship are two major components of today’s global economic system as well as important drivers of social development. Recently, Cuba has introduced substantial reforms to its socialist economic model of central planning in order to face a three-decade crisis triggered by the demise of the USSR. The transition to a new model, known as the “update,” has two main objectives: to make the state sector more efficient by granting more autonomy to its organizations; and to develop alternative economic actors (small private businesses, cooperatives) and self-employment. Cultural production and entrepreneurship have been largely absent from the debates and decentralization policies driving the “update” agenda. This is mainly due to culture’s strategic role in the ideological narrative of the ruling political leadership, aided by a dysfunctional, conservative cultural bureaucracy. The goal of this study is to highlight the potential of cultural production and entrepreneurship for socioeconomic development in the context of neoliberal globalization. While Cuba is attempting to advance an alternative socialist project, its high economic dependency makes the island vulnerable to the forces of global neoliberalism. This study focuses on Havana’s music sector, particularly on the initiatives, musicians and music professionals operating in the informal economy that has emerged as a consequence of major contradictions and legal gaps stemming from an outdated cultural policy and ambiguous regulation. The research privileges the analysis of alternative music scenes such as hip-hop, electronic dance music, rock and reguetón. Several case studies of cultural producers/entrepreneurs that operate at the margins of the state institutions are presented. By using a tailored variation of the creative economy paradigm applied to the Cuban context the study demonstrates the importance of recognizing the new models of cultural management that have emerged in Havana as legitimate economic actors. Although the potential of partnerships between private and state actors is acknowledged, the research concludes that the majority of these new models would have a larger positive impact by operating from a properly regulated non-state sector, where the most important incentives for artists and cultural entrepreneurs are currently located. This would require major transformations in Cuba’s cultural policy.