By Jacob Katel
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If passion and enthusiasm could be bottled and sold, chances are Fernando Perdomo would earn enough residuals to last a lifetime. A seasoned music maven with a big-time pedigree, he has recorded some of the best music on our local scene while raising the bar with Forward Motion Records, a boutique record company that promises to export Miami's pop-rock to the world. Following in the footsteps of previous homegrown labels — namely TK and Y & T — the Miami Beach-bred Perdomo has built a roster that comprises not only local talent but also acts with international cache. The list includes a pair of teenage twins, some certified Latin superstars hoping to break into the American market, and an aging yet reliable rocker who first found success four decades ago.
"My goal is to find artists that want to be successful," Perdomo declares. "I'm passionate about what I do. I love this shit. I live for it."
Since the label launched in July, Forward Motion has released five albums, five singles, and an EP. Perdomo himself has been responsible for two of the releases — a collaborative disc with Vic Kingsley and a reissue of the first album by his own band, Dreaming in Stereo. And for the time being, he's also involved with almost every other aspect of the label's operation, including A&R, marketing, and promotion, while girlfriend Samantha Thrall — soon to be the mother of their first child — handles web operations, graphic design, and visual layouts.
He comes across as an amiable and eager multitasker, but Perdomo is also grounded in the realities of the record business. After all, he's not a newcomer; he has garnered both a decent income and critical kudos by backing Latin artists such as Paulina Rubio and Mexican singer Cristian Castro, producing locals like Transcendence and Ex Norwegian, and serving as the singer, songwriter, and musical mainstay for Dreaming in Stereo. But still he struggles to transcend the Miami bubble.
"I feel I have to push and push and push," Perdomo insists. "Miami is a tough town. It seems I'm just not hip enough. I'm not cool enough, not hip-hop enough, not Miami enough. I'm 100 percent Cuban, but I don't look Cuban and my music doesn't sound Cuban, so somehow I don't fit in. But then again, that's only made me more determined."
Fortunately, his determination has paid off. The label has contracted two companies — one local, one national — to work on licensing deals. At the same time, Forward Motion has negotiated with another outfit to place its music on iTunes, secured a showcase at the upcoming Miami Music Festival, and begun making plans for national distribution. So far, five of Perdomo's acts have applied for SXSW, and he's hoping to showcase at the annual confab, one of the biggest in the biz.
For the time being, though, Perdomo says 90 percent of Forward Motion's music will be offered digitally, with physical copies pressed when justified by demand. The plan is to keep overhead low and introduce acts with singles before coming out with full albums. It's a strategy he calls the "rapid-release system." "Back in the day, record companies would hold their releases until there was a buzz, generated by radio airplay or a review in Rolling Stone. The whole idea with Forward Motion is to keep the music fresh and have it readily available at the outset. So the process of promotion is slower. We'll market a record for three years and it won't grow old because we'll continue to put out videos and new promotional materials and maintain awareness."
The bottom line: Perdomo is more than happy to focus on his growing stable of artists for now. But he also suggests that if South Florida proves too limiting, he would consider moving somewhere that better suits his ambitions. Asked about that possibility, he replies somewhat cryptically.
"We're a Miami label," he insists. "But one that probably belongs in L.A."