Putumayo World Music was established in 1993 to introduce people to the music of the world’s cultures. The label grew out of the Putumayo clothing company, founded by Dan Storper in 1975 and sold in 1997. In the past twenty years, the record label has become known primarily for its upbeat and melodic compilations of great international music characterized by the company’s motto: “guaranteed to make you feel good!”
Putumayo’s CD covers feature the distinctive art of British illustrator Nicola Heindl, whose colorful, folkloric style represents one of the company’s goals: to connect the traditional and the contemporary. By combining appealing music and visuals with creative retail marketing, Putumayo has developed a unique brand identity, a rarity in today’s artist-based music industry.
Putumayo is considered a pioneer and leader in developing the non-traditional market. A large portion of its target audience consists of “Cultural Creatives,” a sociological term for 50 million North Americans and millions more around the world with an interest in culture, travel and the arts. To reach these consumers, Putumayo has built a proprietary network of more than 3,000 book, gift, clothing, coffee and other specialty retailers in the US and thousands more internationally that play and sell its CDs, in addition to maintaining a strong presence in record stores.
Dan Storper’s vision of establishing a global company and lifestyle brand is being furthered by CD distribution in more than 80 countries. The opening of Putumayo in the Netherlands in 2000 enabled the company to connect with the European music and retail scene. The expansion of Putumayo International has also extended the label’s presence in South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The company now has offices in 6 countries around the world.
The Putumayo Kids division was created to introduce children to other cultures through fun, upbeat world music. Since the release of the best-selling World Playground CD in 1999, Putumayo Kids has become one of the world’s leading children’s record labels, winning critical acclaim and honors from Parents’ Choice Awards and many others. The division expanded its globally-themed product offerings in 2011 with three fun, educational coloring books with African, Latin American and European themes. With its growing collection of children’s albums and other cultural products, Putumayo Kids endeavors to inspire children’s curiosity about the world.
Putumayo launched the Putumayo World Music Hour in 2000. The first commercially-syndicated world music radio show, it is now heard internationally on more than 150 commercial and non-commercial stations. Periodically, Putumayo presents thematic tours in conjunction with its CD releases. Acoustic Africa, a CD and successful international tour in 2006, returned to 32 cities in North America in 2011. Putumayo Kids has also produced several thematic tours.
The company’s commitment to helping communities in the countries where the music originates has led to the label contributing more than one million dollars to worthwhile non-profit organizations around the world. Charitable recipients include Amnesty International, whose 50th anniversary Putumayo commemorated via a partnership on the new Kids World Party CD, Seva, Population Services International (PSI), Mercy Corps and many more.
As international markets and consumer awareness of world music grow, Putumayo continues to develop creative ways to present exciting, underexposed global music and engaging cultural products.