I should have been clued in when Fania Records promised to be a sponsor for a club called Anda! that I do with fellow deejays Gazooo, Ray Ricky Rivera and Mando Fever. The folks at Fania suddenly backed out on their sponsorship for no apparent reason other than to say that there were going to be "changes in the company." Then I read this today: according to an announcement made on Decarga.com, Emusica, who had purchased Fania in 2005, has sold Fania to Signal-Equity, a company that, according to their website, specializes in “leveraged buy-outs, roll-ups, restructurings and secondary purchases of investment portfolios in the media and technology sectors.”
Also according to Descarga.com, it seems that Signal-Equity intends to be respectful of the catalog and “appears to be committed to doing the right thing with this historically significant material.” Formal announcements and future release dates are planned for late summer or early fall.
What does this mean for the fans of Fania Music? Signal-Equity seems like it’s one of those companies that takes failing businesses and turns them around for a profit. The best-case scenario is that Signal-Equity will improve upon what Emusica has started with the catalog. Emusica did a great job reissuing and re-mastering the classic titles that have been out of print for decades. However, my criticism is that there were way too many compilations, including ones aimed at people new to Fania Records that neither appealed to new fans nor Fania enthusiasts. Also, there were way too many “Greatest Hits” packages, many from the same artists. Currently, there are five different Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe and Celia Cruz “collections,” most of which contain the same songs. Perhaps Signal-Equity will focus on the many titles that were still in the Fania vaults rather than barrage their customers with endless greatest hits packages?
The worst-case scenario is that it will take Signal-Equity a while to either resell Fania or re-release the current catalog, which means the remaining titles currently in print will eventually run out. This is what happened just before Emusica took over the Fania catalog, forcing stores such as Amoeba to have a Salsa section devoid of its titles. Imagine a soul section without Motown or a Jazz section without Blue Note and that might explain the severity of having no Fania titles in stock.
My advice to the Fania Heads? You may want to pick up those remaining titles you have perhaps been holding out on, because who really knows if or when they will return? I’m kinda kicking myself right now for passing up a few gems.