November 14, 2009 / 2:11 PM / 9 years ago

Salsa label enters new era with vintage recordings

MIAMI (Billboard) - Record label Fania, the most recognizable name in tropical music, is poised for a new phase.

Since the acquisition of all its assets by Codigo Group in May, the label has revamped its logo, launched a renewed marketing push and remastered and digitized much of its catalog.

Codigo, an entertainment company funded by New York-based private equity group Signo Equity, also purchased the Westside Latino catalog last December, which includes the Discuba, Seeco and United Artists Latino catalogs.

All told, the combined assets of Codigo Music, which will now fall under the iconic Fania brand, include more than 20,000 tracks, 2,400 albums and 200 artists, including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Beny More, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barreto and Hector Lavoe, with recordings going back to the ‘40s.

It’s a jaw-dropping span of music history that’s now under one roof. Into Codigo’s Miami offices, the database of recordings is meticulously archived by format, from LPs to master CDs. The office walls tell the story in countless album covers — the records that generations grew up on.

“Our objective is to leverage the brand and build long-term relationships with Fania fans,” Codigo Group chief marketing officer Michael Rucker says, noting that Fania’s Facebook page has nearly 20,000 fans. “With a brand like Fania, people want everything: CDs, books, pictures, vinyl, everything. And we want to be the ones to facilitate that.”

One of the first things Rucker did after Codigo acquired Fania was to archive the label’s assets and store all the master tapes at a New Jersey facility owned by Iron Mountain, the information management services company.

The first Fania set to come out under Codigo is “Tito Rodriguez: A Man and His Music — El Inolvidable,” due Tuesday (November 17). The two-CD, 30-track set is part of the series “A Man and His Music,” launched last year under Fania’s previous owner. The sets boast 32-page liner notes and typically retail for $18.99-$19.99.

Last year, Fania sold 400,000 albums, including boxed sets, according to Rucker. The label also puts out midprice sets, including “Historia de la Salsa” and “Greatest Hits,” both single 10-track CDs without liner notes that retail for $12.99. But the top-selling series is “A Man and His Music.”

Early this month, Fania launched its Web site, Fania.com, from which it directly sells physical and digital music, with close to 500 albums available digitally.

In December, Fania.com will begin selling other merchandise, and Rucker says there are plans to sell vinyl in the near future.

For 2010, Rucker says, “our goal is to evaluate success not by ‘Did we sell 400,000 copies?’ but by ‘Did we reach 200,000 fans?’”

Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters

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