Shine On, Crescent Moon

Love him or hate him, Miami Sound Machine architect and Crescent Moon Records visionary Emilio Estefan is a major force in contemporary Latin music

Albita's arrangement, for example, consists of two contracts, according to her manager, Miriam Wong. One is a three-record recording deal on Crescent Moon; the other grants worldwide publishing rights of her songs to Foreign Imported Productions and Publishing, Estefan's publishing company. This is typical of the agreements Estefan makes with new artists.

However, for some musicians, such as local singer-songwriter Nil Lara, it's a bum deal. According to Lara, who at one time discussed a possible recording deal with Estefan, "The money just wasn't there." Since then Lara has opted to record two self-produced CDs of original music, and controls the rights to the songs himself.

A common alternative to the kind of recording-publishing deal that Estefan makes with singer-songwriters is one in which a recording contract with a label is signed and an album is recorded before the artist decides how to manage publishing rights. With the product in hand the writer can demand a high advance on royalties if songs on the album become radio hits. An artist also can decide to retain the copyrights to his or her songs and contract a publishing company to administer the royalties for a small percentage.

"Virtually every kind of arrangement imaginable exists," explains Loren Iosa of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), which monitors songs played on the radio and keeps track of royalties owed.

Jon Coletta, a spokesman for Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), a similar organization, notes that Estefan's arrangement isn't unusual, explaining, "It depends on what else he's [Estefan] doing for them."

With that in mind, for an artist such as Albita, the benefits of signing with Estefan go beyond the value of any royalties his company might receive for the compositions she writes. The Cuban singer puts it succinctly: "Emilio can make an artist's career."

"Albita's a Vogue model now," Estefan proclaims, beaming.
Well, not exactly. But the Cuban singer did don a man's white tuxedo for an Italian Vogue photo shoot with the Estefans and other Miami persnalities. Those pictures were taken by Cuban-American photographer Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte, with professional styling by Tico Torres, who gave Albita an elegant retro image that plays up her androgynous style. Rodriguez-Duarte subsequently showed the photos to an editor at Mirabella, who immediately commissioned an article on the Cuban singer for a fall issue of the magazine. And after celebrated fashion photographer Richard Avedon saw the shots, he had her sit for a portrait that will accompany an upcoming article in the New Yorker.

Known for stubbornness when it comes to maintaining her individuality, Albita nonetheless has agreed to alter her look slightly since joining the Estefan team, maintaining elements of the sophisticated style created for the Vogue shoot. She has traded in her once-trademark punky leather wristband and tight black jeans for long skirts and Guess boots. A flattering, Thirties-esque bob has replaced the short spiky hairdo she previously favored.

"The music business is all visuals these days," Ingrid Casares explains. "We're like any record company. If you've got raw talent, you sign them and then you work with what they've got." Lately Casares has been working on getting more exposure for Albita. A short article on the singer appears in Spin magazine's September issue, while a feature story for Interview magazine is scheduled to be published to coincide with her album's release in November. And in August, on Casares's recommendation, Albita performed at Madonna's birthday party at the star's Miami home. Madonna was so impressed that she asked Albita to appear in the video of a song on her upcoming album.

"There's nothing wrong with looking good," offers Estefan. "That's what happened with Jon Secada. Ingrid got better clothes for him and a better hair person, and that's great A you can see it in the video. When I signed Donna Allen, I signed her because I believe in her, but I said, 'Donna, try to see if you can lose some weight,' and she lost 40 pounds.... Now she feels she accomplished something.

"I work out. I'd like to be eating all day," continues Estefan, who can be spotted every morning running or biking on Ocean Drive. "I don't, because I like to look good. I don't want Gloria to look good and I weigh 400 pounds.... Now, if you look bad...like, okay, I cannot change my face. It's the face I was born with. It's a good thing Gloria fell in love with my hands because with this face she never would have married me," he says, contorting his mouth into a sad clown frown, then springing back to a smile.

"If you're a performer...you don't want to see someone jumping around on stage weighing 400 pounds."

An attractive commentator for a Spanish-language TV network entertainment program suddenly seizes her jersey minidress with both hands and yanks it down with the savage tug of a professional wrestler grabbing an opponent's hair. The movement thrusts her breasts up until they're threatening to pop out from the dress's low neckline. Satisfied with the adjustment, the TV reporter rubs her red lips together and points her microphone in Andy Garcia's face.

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