Entrepreneurs go to great lengths to find untapped markets, protect their turf and build strong partnerships that benefit multiple parties. In a business as staunchly competitive and independently minded as concert promotion, sometimes it takes a lightbulb moment before realizing the untapped market has been there all along.
“In 2019, this group of promoters in the LENUSA network organized 3,400 events, sold 4.8 million tickets and did a gross revenue of $240 million,” says Euler Torres, co-CEO of the Latin Entertainment Network USA (LENUSA). “Going by Pollstar’s numbers, that would put us as the third-largest event producer, but our data’s scattered all over the place. So we want to be recognized as a major player in this industry.”
Torres, who has been operating as a booking agent and concert organizer in Central California after being part of regional Mexican band Los Malandrines alongside brother Esau Torres, is talking about the “regional” Mexican concert industry. Long established in the United States and with event per-caps that rival American country music,
Torres says the genre’s live music industry has largely worked independently and
under the radar of the wider concert industry.
With artists and venues that many don’t consider on the national touring circuit like much of the English-speaking music market, the scene has quietly flourished but, in some ways, to its own detriment.
That’s all changing with the formation of LENUSA, which incorporated in 2021 with around 60 investor/partner promoters, venues and artists across the continent, including New York-based Zamora Live, red-hot regional band Grupo Firme and manager Isael Gutiérrez and legendary norteño band Los Tigres del Norte and manager Alfonso de Alba.
The company, with offices in California and Mexico, offers services in marketing, sponsorship and ticketing, with its own white-label mobile ticketing platform.
“What we’re doing at LENUSA is basically organizing the players that already work within this industry so we can gather our numbers to show the impact we have,” Torres says. “We have not been able to consolidate those numbers to demonstrate what these guys have been doing for the last 50 to 60 years.”
Zamora, in response, jokes via Zoom that “we’re not that old!” but says the time has long come for the regional Mexican music market to join forces, modernize and demonstrate its collective market strength in the U.S.
“I have the luxury of working in every genre of music, but really the majority of my income, of the ticket sales, comes from the regional Mexican music,” says Zamora, who along with promoting tour dates for major artists including Guns N’ Roses, Rauw Alejandro and Anuel AA, owns and operates multiple nightclubs in the northeast. Zamora is LENUSA board president. “I would say 80% of my ticketing income comes from regional Mexican music.” However, much of that income is physical ticket sales via cash or third party, making it difficult to quantify – or present to sponsors.
I see the list of the 10 largest companies that sell tickets, and I say I should be there, I can sell more tickets than those guys,” says Zamora. “We should be doing a lot more, and hopefully we can do this by pushing people to buy online.”
Continuing the mobile trend is the current phase of the LENUSA rollout. With 60-something partners actively investing in LENUSA, another 500 to 600 operators are on board to share information or use LENUSA’s own white-label ticketing platform, a mobile cashless system that is being tested at events currently.
Esau Torres, LENUSA chief operations officer, says fans during the pandemic became accustomed to purchasing tickets online and using other cashless technology, with up to 80% of transactions now taking place online as opposed to 12% or so pre-pandemic. That trend is going a long way toward integrating mobile ticketing and cashless options at concerts, where, often taking place at fairgrounds, convention centers and parking lot settings, per-caps are on par or higher than American country music events.
He said LENUSA’s founders noted the trend while looking at numbers from a PuebloFest festival event in California in 2016.
“We thought, wow, this is very relevant, this is very interesting,” Esau Torres said. “There’s a lot of opportunity because if you can roll out a technology that can capture that nationwide under one umbrella, this is huge.”
LENUSA special adviser David Valdivia is a second-generation promoter whose
family was at the forefront of the regional Mexican touring circuit and remains very
active in multiple states, mostly on the U.S. West Coast.
He says a standalone ticketing platform not only makes sense data-wise, but gives priority to their own shows and artists, which other platforms may not provide.
“We do events sometimes on the fly,” Valdivia said. “I’ll get a call from a band that just got a cancellation in Mexico, and they’ll say they have a weekend open in two weeks. I’ll put up a weekend in Oregon, Washington, Utah, whatever, within two weeks, so I need ticketing quick. If I have to call on Ticketmaster, sometimes it can be days for them to put it on sale, and then sometimes it’ll be a picture of the wrong artist, or an old picture. So there was a need for us to find a ticketing system that catered to us instead of just looked at us like a number.”
The next phase of LENUSA is to coordinate on festivals, with data in hand to present to sponsors as a unified force rather than multiple standalone events spread across the country.
While there are some similarities to the SFX roll-up of North American concert promoters in the late ‘90s, LENUSA says the priority is to make its network members stronger together.
“Ticketing is the first piece and then we’e going to start taking baby steps into how we expand into other ventures within the Mexican music industry,” Euler Torres says. “Representing the artists, making sure that this genre stays with the creators of it. We were already here, this is our cry and our message. We’re here and we’re not going to give up this genre without a fight.”