Sí Son Rebeldes: How RBD Went From Telenovela Stars To Conquering Stadiums

It’s been 15 long years since RBD performed a show in front of a live audience, but in the eyes of their millions of rabid fans who know their songs by heart and collected Barbie dolls of the female band members, they were never really gone. With a sold-out tour across North and South American stadiums and arenas this year, it is abundantly clear that the popular Mexican pop band never really left the collective consciousness since disbanding in 2009. The phrase “nostalgia tour” isn’t the most appropriate to describe the group’s 53-date trek. A more apt term that best characterizes RBD’s intent with their “Soy Rebelde Tour” would be “reclamation project;” one that has generated unprecedented demand, even in today’s crowded live entertainment market.

“I have never seen a tour come out of the gate with so much speed and fervor where literally there are so many markets left untouched and untapped that we hope to get to,” Darryl Eaton, Creative Artists Agency’s co-head of North America contemporary music, tells Pollstar. “We’re sitting on 1.4 million tickets right now, close to a $200 million gross, and there’s no sign of demand going down.”

Such a figure would easily eclipse the group’s previous tour earnings when they were at the top of the Latin music world. RBD’s 137 headline shows between 2006-08 grossed nearly $75 million, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, but the band didn’t necessarily return to take the spotlight after a lengthy absence from live music and collect a check. They have a chip on their shoulders despite selling more than 15 million records and being one of the most popular Mexican acts ever, and the group wants to prove to the world and themselves that the phenomenon that was RBD was no flash in the pan.

“We want to show people finally what we are made of because people think, ‘Oh, yeah, RBD is just this bubblegum pop group,’” band member Christian Chávez says. “I think this time we have our artistry and we’re showing this other side of us as producers, as songwriters, as creatives. … I would dare say this is the Latin tour of 2023.”

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STAR POWER: RBD, a group born out of a massively popular telenovela that went on to become the biggest pop music act to come out of Mexico, reunites after nearly 15 years for a 53-date tour that kicks off Aug. 25 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas. (Photo courtesy Live Nation)

Chávez can’t blame audiences for having that preconceived cynicism for RBD considering its origin. The group was born out of a mega-popular telenovela called “Rebelde” (which is Spanish for “Rebel”) about a group of angst-ridden, privileged teens at a boarding school who come together through their love of music. The band essentially served as a promotional vehicle for the series, which had a more extensive TV life than the typical telenovela. “Rebelde” was such a phenomenon that Televisa, the network that produced the show, extended it to three seasons with a whopping 440 episodes from 2004-06.

And viewers ate it up, including members of my own family. I recall my younger cousin, Veronica Areliz, being obsessed with the series and RBD’s music, dressing in the characters’ iconic prep school attire with the loosened, red-striped tie.

“I liked the fact that none of them were alike,” Veronica says. “They wanted to be heard and different and found each other through music at this school.”

It’s somewhat corny but effective, not only on the small screen but in the real world, as reality imitates art with five of the six members – Anahí, Dulce María, Maite Perroni, Christopher von Uckermann and Chávez – coming together again to express themselves in a way they never have before through their music, without the shackles of a major program dictating their image. Original RBD member Alfonso Herrera, who has gone on to have a successful acting career, opted not to return because of other commitments but has expressed support for his former bandmates and the “Soy Rebelde Tour,” which is co-produced by Live Nation and boutique agency T6H.

“We used to be part of a big machine and network, which was Televisa, but now this is us,” Chávez says. “This is our dreams, our hopes, our hearts, and it’s so beautiful that we can finally show this, and we’re so proud.”

It also is a dream for manager Guillermo Rosas, who promoted RBD’s tours more than a decade ago before becoming their manager. As the telenovela grew in popularity, Rosas saw the band’s potential to fill stadiums and approached Televisa to form a partnership. The two parties reached an agreement that allowed Rosas to promote the band’s tours — and Rosas’ first show was a big one: the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on March 18, 2006. RBD set a record for what was then the highest-paid attendance for a Latin concert in the U.S. with 63,101 fans watching their beloved group in the pouring rain. The show grossed $3.15 million and marked a turning point for not only RBD but all Latin music.

“It basically jumpstarted their world tour after establishing that there was enough Latin power in America to fill up a place like the Coliseum,” says Rosas, founder and CEO of T6H. “I saw a whole new market opened in America and that Latin music was perceived differently. From that moment on, other acts started exploring the idea of doing bigger arenas and stadiums. … RBD is the biggest Mexican pop phenomenon in history. There is no questioning that.”

In many ways, the band and series sparked a cultural shift in Latin America and the music industry, reaching audiences from every region the old-fashioned way before the streaming boom, making their achievements that much more impressive to Live Nation Senior Vice President of Latin Touring Hans Schafer.

“I can’t really think of anything that has had that mass success in any other language,” says Schafer. “Whether the influence was musically or culturally, that’s their legacy, and it points to how diverse we are in terms of taste musically. … This is a tour for many fans that never got to see the group for the first time. It’s reliving that nostalgia, reliving those memories that defined so many of our memories with rushing home from school to catch [‘Rebelde’] live because it was going to be on at a certain time, and you have to be home to see it.”

Even in an era where reggaeton and regional Mexican dominate airplay and streaming, RBD’s pop sensibilities are more than welcome as some of the world’s biggest stars have expressed their admiration for the iconic group. Bad Bunny posted a video of himself singing RBD’s hit “Sálvame” on social media last year, which of course went viral, and Karol G also admitted to being a fan of the song when she performed a duet with Anahí at a show in Mexico City last summer.

CAA Agent Rudy Lopez Negrete was at that concert, saying he “saw 15-year-old kids who were there to see Karol singing the RBD song. So, I thought, ‘Oh my God; there is going to be a new generation. It’s not just going to be old fans, but it’s going to be their kids and people rediscovering them. I think that exponentially made this tour as big as it’s become.”

RBD In Concert "Empezar Desde Cero" Tour
MUCHO DINERO: RBD, performing here in 2008, grossed more than $75 million from 142 headline shows reported to Pollstar since 2006, and their agents at CAA expect the group to rake in more than double that figure with their upcoming “Soy Rebelde Tour.” (Photo by Eduardo Parra / Getty Images)

Rosas has worked hard the past three years to get RBD back on the live circuit, but the members’ schedules prevented that dream from happening. Everything finally came into place them in 2022, and they officially announced RBD’s reunion on social media in December, sending fans into a frenzy. The tour, “Soy Rebelde,” was appropriately titled for a band that wanted to rebel against the challenges they experienced being controlled by a TV show while celebrating a transformative period in their lives.

“I’m not going to lie to you, in the beginning, it was hard because we had all these deep scars, each one of us, from the past,” Chávez says. “When you’re a teenager, growing up on TV with people judging you, you begin to think, ‘Yeah, maybe I’m not a real singer, artist or musician.’ We all went through this process of throwing old skeletons out of our way to let the light shine through … and cleanse ourselves. It’s a beautiful way of saying we love fans of the ‘Rebelde’ generation, connecting with our inner teenagers and closing a cycle with gratitude.”

For the first time, Rosas and RBD are their own producers, creative directors and bosses. They’re creating something that they can proudly call their own, and Rosas promises a unique show for every city on the band’s route.

“It’s not just a show. It’s a living movement,” Rosas says. “It starts in El Paso [Aug. 25 at Sun Bowl Stadium] and that night will be historic on its own. The people are going to experience something that is only going to be happening that night, and it’s going to be evolving weekend by weekend. … We don’t have any limits. It’s something that we love, that tells our story and gets our point across.”

The core messages, of the show as well as the band, of acceptance and caring for one another haven’t changed in 15 years, and Chávez, who identifies himself as a gay man, looks forward to spreading that positivity to a new generation, especially one that is living in a tumultuous time.

“I’m going to be honest: [my bandmates and I] are totally different,” he says. “We have different personalities and stand for different things, politics and beliefs but, at the end, we love and respect each other. That’s what we want to put out there because the world is so divided. … For me, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s about supporting the trans community and trans kids. That community is suffering a lot right now, and we have to put all of our attention on them and help them because they’re our brothers and sisters. We have to stick together for a better future.”

With 1.4 million tickets sold, it’s obvious that the world is ready for that message as well as more Latin music. RBD has four sold-out shows at BMO Stadium (22K capacity) in Los Angeles and a record six sold-out concerts at Foro Sol (65K cap) in Mexico City. The initial slate of 24 arena and stadium dates sold out in less than 24 hours, figures that amaze even the most seasoned music agents.

“We hope to be announcing to the fans and the places that we haven’t been able to get to yet that we are going to be able to get there because the band has made it clear that they want to see as many of their fans as possible,” Eaton says. “When you see Bad Bunny last year being the biggest touring artist in North America, that has to get even the people that don’t listen to or understand or have been involved with the Latin music business to stand up and have an a-ha moment to what is achievable in the Latin music landscape now.”

Negrete adds, “The doors have been broken open, and there’s no going back.”