The Incredible Hinsul Lazo Interview

Hinsul Lazo wants to tell you all about Museo del Disco
Jonathan Postal

The Bitch recently had the honor of interviewing Hinsul Lazo, the 48-year-old native of Pinar del Río, Cuba, and owner of Museo del Disco, an insurgent CD and DVD store occupying a West Miami-Dade warehouse.

The Bitch: Um, so you've called me a bunch of times trying to get me to write about your place, but I think it would just be easier if you manifesto about it yourself, okay? So what's the deal?

Hinsul Lazo: Okay, Museo del Disco is a concept store. It's a very unique store. It's located at 1301 SW 70th Ave. It caters to an adult crowd. It doesn't really cater to kids. It caters to music people. People who love music. When you walk into my store, you can find from jazz to R&B, from the Sixties and Seventies and Eighties to today's music. The only thing you're not going to find in my store is hip-hop and rap. I don't cater to that crowd. So what I'm trying to do is make this city aware of a music store you can drive to and there's a piece for everybody. Whether it's jazz, whether it's R&B, whether it's pop from James Taylor to whomever. I mean it could be Bobby Darin. It could be Frank Sinatra. It could be whoever you want. You're going to find it. That's the idea.

But nobody knows about it. The only stores that get published are Virgin, Specs, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, Borders. That's where people think you can go to find music. The people who go to buy music think there's no other outlets to music. And there is a tremendous store. It's 10,000 square feet of music and DVDs. It's in a warehouse district and it's a gorgeous store. It's a beautiful store. It's like no other store in this city. Not because it's my store. But that's the word from all the customers. They walk in and they're amazed it's so neat and we're so organized. It's a warehouse but it's decorated like it was a dollhouse. It's beautiful inside. Color-coordinated red and white. The furniture's red, the walls are white. The light boxes around the entire store are red. It's got pictures of all the old records, the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

So what my moan is, or what my concern is: I'm trying to take it to the next level. But unfortunately I need publicity. You know, I need some kind of a writeup, some kind of story, some kind of little push.

Um, have you tried advertising?

I did.

You did? That isn't doing it?

No. Not for the Anglo. Remember, I'm trying to bring in the American. I've got Latinos coming in to buy American product. But where's all the Americans? Where do you go to buy music when you buy CDs? Where do you go?


Just give me a name.

Well, I normally just download stuff from the Internet and burn my own CDs.

See? What kind of music do you like?

All kinds of music. Shoegazer, electronica, industrial, hip-hop, mostly.

All kinds. What if you were looking for a Miles Davis CD or a John Coltrane or a Billie Holiday, some great CD? There's only two ways to find them. Either online, because that's where people go because they don't think any store's going to have them. Or you can go to my store. And you'll find it in my store. Because that's what it's about. My store's a music store. We special-order things for people. It's the old style. And by the way, nothing in my store is bootlegged or burned or counterfeit. It's all original product.

Um, okay. When did you open?

Four years ago.

So you don't have any kind of hip-hop?

No. I mean, 50 Cent and Tupac. That's it.

So how do you decide that 50 Cent and Tupac ...

It's too big of a record. You know what I'm saying? If it's that big, big, big of a record, we're forcedto buy the kids -- the parents walk in with some of their kids. And in order to keep them in peace so they cannot be bored, we have four or five of the latest, of the top.

What about Snoop? Snoop Dogg.

Maybe one or two titles. But no. I mean we do, but we don't. If you understand what I'm saying. We do have some rap, but it's very minimal. We don't carry every Snoop Dogg CD he's released. We might have the latest one and after three weeks we get rid of it and it's on to the next. Because rap records don't linger. They don't stay as catalogues. I had a lady walk in today to my store, she walked in and she said, "Do you have Al Green?" I said, "Which one do you want?" She went nuts. She took two.  

Ah. Okay.

And this was a Latin lady, it wasn't an American woman. She spoke decent English, but with an accent. But she wanted Al Green.

Dr. Dre?

No. No, we don't carry Dr. Dre.

Is piracy affecting your business?

It affects my business, but it doesn't affect my business too much. Because the people who come to my store want the original stuff. And since what I sell is catalogue, catalogue doesn't get bootlegged.

Explain that, will you?

Catalogue music is old product. People don't burn old product. The people who buy CDs are people 30 and up. Let's say, 40 and [up] years old. And they want the original, with the original cover. They want the liner notes. They want to see who played bass or played the guitar or played trumpet on that track.

Do you have vinyl?

No vinyl. Just CDs. No used CDs.


No cassettes. And no VHS. Only DVDs.

It definitely sounds unique.

Oh, you gotta see it. Seeing is believing. But I need a little help, man.

You're taking on the big chains.

Let me tell you something: I've got $532,000 in investment in that store, in inventory.


This is a monster.

Are you in the black yet?

No. No.

But heading that way?

Yeah. Of course. Because it's a concept. This warehouse is my building, it's my property.

Are you doing anything else, like real estate?

No. This is it, buddy.

What were you doing before?

Distribution. Music distributor. It's called HL Distributors. It's my distributing company.

And you're doing Cuban music from the island?

From everywhere. Cuban, Colombian, Argentinean, Brazilian, Venezuelan, Mexican product. Buddy, everything. I bring in from Puerto Rico. I import directly from Cuba.


From where?

Iran? You know, any Middle Eastern ...

I do have some Youssou N'Dour. One or two. I do carry world music.

Turkish house?

No, no. We're not, we're not, that exotic. C'mon.

I'm just thinking of stuff I've heard in the clubs recently.

You're good. I like that. That's what I want. I have some Arabic, but on the world side I'm a little lost. I carry everything, but I don't know exactly what I have.

The Bad Touch

The arms race for school security is on. Since this past April, visitors to the Miami-Dade County school district's main administrative building at NE Second Avenue and Fourteenth Street have been required to go through new and improved Orwellian processing in order to attempt to call upon the bureaucrats within. Instead of merely signing a log and obtaining a hall pass, visitors now have to submit driver's licenses for scanning by a machine resembling an espresso maker. The machine snaps an unflattering portrait and spits out a sticky tag with a bar code, name, and picture for the visitor to apply to her clothes. The Bitch grumpily submitted herself to this process recently, but then she wondered: What in this building is worth stealing or biting anyway?

Two companies, Texas-based Raptor Technologies and West Palm Beach's SISCO Corp., loaned their respective wares to the district in the hope that visiting school principals and other administrators would fall in love with the sleek omniscience of the machines. There's sex in the pitch, as in keeping offenders away from children. Turns out while Mr. Coffee scans IDs, it also checks personal information against a database of undesirables, such as those convicted of molestation-type crimes.

In April, Raptor persuaded three schools (American High, Hialeah Miami Lakes High, and Lawton Chiles Middle) to purchase the software, which runs about $1500, not counting annual upgrades. These schools can then see whether parents, contractors, or any other strays are registered sex offenders in any of the 43 states currently in the database. If a match is made, a warning pops up and a text message is transmitted to school officials. Carol Measom, Raptor's marketing director, says the system is in more than 600 schools in Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Arizona. Measom rattles off a list of chilling statistics collected in Texas, showing that most sex offenders visiting schools are also parents, and 73 percent of the offenders have committed a crime involving underage victims.

But the field of "visitor management," as SISCO Corp.'s bubbly director of sales Jonathan Fox calls it, is competitive. "The school market is hot," he says. Thus SISCO, which has for years sold screening systems to the cruise-line industry, offered to install its product at school district HQ free, for a limited time only. This caused Raptor to take its system out, Measom says, so the SISCO guys couldn't eyeball it too closely (the three schools still have the system).  

The SISCO system, which goes by the brand name Fast-Pass, was designed with other security considerations in mind. Cruise lines, for instance, aren't generally noted for their hyper-vigilance in policing potential sexual-assault perpetrators. After 9/11, Fast-Pass and other SISCO technologies received a huge boost. They've been installed everywhere from NYPD offices in New York to area hospitals to the building that houses the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Fox says even the Miami Herald is looking into getting the system. His contact there suggested he talk to the school police, which is how Fast-Pass came to public education. The company is also wooing the Broward County school district, which is considering spending $2.7 million to place units in all of its schools.

This system, which Fox describes as "more robust," allows purchasers to search several databases to keep out the unwanted -- for instance, noncustodial parents who aren't allowed to pick up their children, individuals barred via restraining orders, or any other searchable criteria selected. "It can be used in so many different ways," enthuses Fox. "Could you use it to keep other undesirables, such as lobbyists, out?" The Bitch muses aloud. "It can be used a number of ways," Fox repeats and then pauses. "You're being facetious." Nah. Just wishful thinking.

The information is also archived, so theoretically a searchable record of every visit to the school district building could be kept. The Bitch wonders whether all of these records would be available to the public. The district is a public entity. If it creates a record, anybody can request it. So she requested a copy of all the visitor scans processed the day of the last school board meeting. "Huh, that's an interesting question," school district spokesman Joseph Garcia said. "Nobody's ever asked for it before. We'll have to see what that looks like.

Okay for a Chumbawamba Concert

The Bitch has an opinion about wearing white shoes, which is: Don't do it, especially with a suit. No less an authority than Esquire Magazine disagrees with the sartorially preoccupied hound, though, because the publication has seen fit to reward this activity by naming Mark McKenzie its Best Dressed Real Man in Miami. (She allows that the subset of those two groups -- "Real Men" and "Best Dressed" -- is surpassingly small.)

What really caught The Bitch's eye, however, was not so much McKenzie (fourth from the left), an account executive for 99 Jamz, but the unexplained presence of Michael Capponi (on the left), a consistently well-dressed real man, in the photo submitted by Miami's Circle One Marketing.

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