Valentín Velasco, who founded indie Latin label Balboa Records and was its president for over 20 years, died November 4 in his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 80 years old.
A trim, dynamic man who was unafraid to test new marketing and sales strategies, Velasco initially worked with distribution company Musical Records before founding Balboa in 1984 as the distribution arm of Discos Musart, a large, regional Mexican indie. The operation soon became a full-fledged label, home to a roster that in its heyday included Joan Sebastian, Banda Cuisillos, Pepe Aguilar and Paquita La Del Barrio. Although Velasco operated Balboa as an arm of Musart, with most artistic decisions coming from Mexico, he was aggressive in marketing and promoting his music, garnering both radio and sales success.
In the 2000s, for example, Velasco worked hard to increase Balboa's marketshare, and in an article from 2005, Billboard reported how the label attained a Latin marketshare of 4.9% for year-end 2004, a remarkable number for a small, independently-distributed company. Part of that success stemmed from Balboa's "Za Za Za, Mesa Que Más Aplauda," by Mexico's Grupo Climax, which was the biggest selling Latin album of the year, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
In 2006, alarmed by declining sales of Latin music as a result of piracy, Velasco started marketing three-pack CD sets that retailed for $9.98, cheaper than pirates could sell them. The sets were a huge success, and Balboa released over 130 combos within a year.
But Velasco always said his label's success ran deeper than pricing.
"First it's having the Discos Musart catalog. Then acquiring new artists, handling and caring for that catalog and having a steady roster of executives."
Velasco stepped down from his post as president of Balboa in 2007 due to health reasons. He is survived by his wife Mara Velasco, his daughters Isel and Marita and his grandchildren Christian, Daniel, Brian and Sara.