There are already signs of a rebirth. One of Ecuador’s only record companies, Fediscos, was launched in 1964 and recorded some of Jaramillo’s seminal work. But it went bust in 2004 amid the changing digital landscape and widespread music piracy, said Antonio “Pancho” Feraud, who began trying to revive the company in 2009.
“Ecuador has to be one of the few places in the world where you can buy a pirated CD and they’ll give you a legal receipt,” he explained.
Feraud said the media law — which had been under debate for two years — has been breathing new life into the company. Musicians are hopeful they can monetize their work, so they’re forking over money on studio time, Feraud said. Fediscos is launching a number of new bands, including Feraud’s own project Abbacook.
While he’s grateful for the new law, Feraurd said getting government support isn’t particularly rock and roll. It would have been better if local musicians had organized and demanded more airtime on their own.
“I’m not a person who believes that we should rely on the government,” he said. “When politics gets in the middle of things you never know where it’s going to lead to in the end.”
Regulating airtime is just one aspect of the sweeping and controversial media law. Since winning the presidency in 2006, President Rafael Correa has gone after the media, winning multi-million dollar lawsuits against newspapers and reporters. He’s accused them of abusing their power and illicitly playing politics. After easily winning reelection in February, he made the new law a priority.
Along with putting media outlets on a tighter leash and breaking apart conglomerates, the new law establishes a range of quotas. Sixty percent of local television broadcasts will have to be nationally produced, and all television stations , including cable providers that carry local channels, are required to purchase and broadcast two Ecuadorean-made movies per year. In addition, 100 percent of all television and print ads have to be produced in Ecuador. That means companies like Coca-Cola and Samsung can’t roll out global, or even regional, ad campaigns.
Serrano said those changes will generate long-term, quality jobs in the country, and guarantee that artists get paid for their work. And creative quotas aren’t a novel idea, he said. Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay all have music quotas, as do France, Canada and Australia.
“We are not reinventing, as we say, warm water,” Serrano explained. “This law will help Ecuador build its [artistic] muscle.”
Parra, a Guayaquil-based singer and songwriter, studied music business at Miami-Dade College and has put out four well-received albums. While he’s managed to get airtime, he said radio stations have always favored international music. He said the new law is an opportunity and a challenge: It’s going to give local artists a platform but also make it painfully apparent how they stack up to global stars.
“This new law is going to force us to compete,” he said. “And we’re going to have to invest so that we sound as good as they do.”