Too many people think going into business leaves no space for artistry. They have no idea how much creativity comes into play when you’re an entrepreneur! And for creative entrepreneurs like singer-songwriter Cattski Espina, CEO of Cebu-based 22 Tango Records, success is all about melding great artistry with great business decisions.
With almost two decades of productive work in the industry, you might say Cattski knows the ins and outs of being a musician. Cattski was songwriter and frontwoman of the Cebu-based band Cattski, which released their first self-titled EP in 2001. She followed this up with the release Vacuum My Inside in 2004 and Sound Mind Speaks Volumes in 2009, then Cattski Ten—The Anniversary Album in 2010.
For Cattski, business smarts are an essential part of her success as an artist. “Being both an artist and an entrepreneur progress hand in hand,” Cattski tells us. “As an independent artist, I had to handle the business side of things myself. As much as I had to create the music, I also had to promote and market it myself.”
The “Motherfolker” at Work
She’s taken other Cebuano artists under her wing, writing and producing songs for several other local singer-songwriters and earning her the affectionate nickname “the motherfolker.” Through 22 Tango Records, Cattski not only helps produce and market their music, but also drives an ongoing advocacy to promote homegrown Cebuano music and musicians.
22 Tango Records, in fact, started out as her exclusive record label—eventually releasing records by other artists from 2010 onward, as Cattski expanded her CV to include production duties. “Everything that I do for other artists now, being 22 Tango’s CEO and a music producer, I did for myself for 10 years before I ventured on the record label,” she explains.
“My role changes, from picking songs; picking studios and engineers; managing the recording budget, and coaching musicians and vocalists to get the best possible performance out of them,” she says. “I bridge the technical and artistic sides of the journey from raw song to finished record.”
Cattski admits that the business side of her operations sometimes fazes her—but she treats it as a learning experience. “I wish I wasn’t so scared about the numbers part of the business—if I learned that sooner, I think I would have been more effective,” she explains. “It’s important to have data. You can use it as you go along. It’s important to have a keen sense of the numbers.”
Nurturing Cebuano Artists
22 Tango’s growth, from such humble beginnings, has benefited from Cattski’s investment of time and capital—sustainability and further growth, though never assured, looks well within reach. “To address our challenges, we’ve come up with doable marketing strategies and we continue to work hard to release good music, produce unique events and provide valuable music experience in Cebu,” Cattski tells us.
One event Cattski takes a lot of pride in the Listening Room. It’s a series of events run by 22 Tango, which encourages audiences to follow what they call their #shhhhpolicy, in which the audience is encouraged to stay silent throughout the artists’ performances.
The artists, in turn, are asked to perform their original music instead of cover songs and encouraged to share the stories of what inspired them to write the songs they’ve decided to perform. Meanwhile, their Cuppa Folk series of events brings acoustic music to coffee shops all around Cebu.
“We are always on the lookout for new homegrown Cebuano artists to work with, and we continue to work with our existing artists on new material,” Cattski tells us. “We released two new albums by different artists earlier this year and are working on a third. Once that is done, I’ll have time to work on my own album—my fifth.”
Singer-Songwriter at Heart
That’s right—Cattski, for all her hard work, still lives for the days when she’s working on her own music, which hops across different genres from acoustic pop to digital folk to electronica.
She writes and sings in both English and Cebuano. “I lean towards creating music as an expression—my natural state is to create without the consideration of an audience,” she tells us. “It’s challenging because it is a business, and because it is, the audience or the music consumer has to be considered. That’s just the reality. I’m still working toward creating a balance.”
Whether you’re a visual artist, a music artist like Cattski, or any other kind of creative, it is absolutely possible to merge your passion with business success. The image of the starving artist need not be your image, if you can find or make a market for the art you want to create.
Learn more about 22 Tango Records from their website, 22tangorecords.com. You can also get updates on Cattski by following her on Twitter @CATTSKI, liking her Facebook page at fb.com/CATTSKI, and checking out her original music on Spotify and Youtube.