¡Vive Latino, Viva México! OCESA’s Festival Emblematic Of The Nation’s Cultural Shift

COLOR VL24 212555 031624 Santiago Covarrubias OCESA
QUE VIVA EL ROCK AND ROLL: The OCESA-promoted Vive Latino is one of several music festivals performing well in Mexico. The event that took place at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez March 16-17 celebrated the nation’s culture with stages featuring lucha libre and comedy on top of the big musical acts, which included Maná, Kings of Leon and Belanova. (Courtesy OCESA)

Latin music truly is everywhere: Turn on the radio and you’ll likely run into a Bad Bunny tune; surf through Spotify’s top hits playlist and there’s Karol G; check out Coachella’s lineup and Peso Pluma is billed as one of the top performers; browse through Pollstar magazine and there are plenty more Latinx artists on our charts.

There’s no other way to dub the success of Latin music other than what Pollstar has titled the current live boom, which we refer to as “the Golden Age,” and if business is great in the States, imagine it in the home countries of the artists.

One nation having quite the moment — culturally, economically and musically — is Mexico. Old and new acts are embraced like never before and genres are bent to create unheard but familiar sounds. The term regional Mexican is no longer applicable to acts such as Peso Pluma and Grupo Firme because the music’s gone global, and major promoters like OCESA are reaping the benefits of these local success stories, especially in the festival scene.

“Each country is having a moment special right now. Just like Mexican music is having a moment, country music in the U.S. is having one,” Leizer Guss, OCESA’s director of festivals, tells Pollstar. “The lines between local and global are changing, but any festival that achieves success will be something [that leans more] local.”

What was “local” in Mexico 10 years ago isn’t the same today. The modern fan is more eclectic and accepting of any genre, and one needs to look no further than Vive Latino, a festival that held its 24th edition at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City March 16-17 and had 80,000 attendees each day. Since its inception in 1998, Vive Latino catered to rock fans and has been known to have a tough crowd that has booed performers and thrown objects at them. But no such behavior was seen this year. On top of rock acts like Kings of Leon and Bad Religion, Vive Latino fans young and old embraced a wide range of artists that included Maná (their first appearance at the festival), young corrido tumbados star Junior H, pop group Belanova and acoustic folk singer Kevin Kaarl.

The fact that Maná, which leans more into pop, was welcomed by the crowd is a testament to the evolution of the Mexican fan. The festival grounds were an inclusive space, one where even emos and punks (a rivalry that actually existed in Mexico in the late 2000s and sometimes resorted to violence) could convene and enjoy music without judgment.

“The new generations don’t have a problem with the mixing of genres and communities,” Luss says. “I think younger audiences tend to be more loving and receptive. Before, the consumption of music was, ‘I love my music, but I hate that [other genre].’ … I think it’s a much different landscape than say 10 years ago.”

While there are likely many reasons for such change, Guss believes one of them is because of the gentrification of Mexico City, which has become a destination for remote workers across the world, especially the U.S. And while there are negative effects to that change (such as rent increasing and inflation), it has pushed Mexican culture toward a new direction, one that is more tolerant of others’ tastes and willing to embrace other genres. With 23 million people living in the metropolitan area of Mexico City, Guss says it has become a “new melting pot.”

Vive Latino was emblematic of that melting pot with a diverse group of attendees, some of whom were from the U.S. and South America — and such a moment was witnessed by thousands more at home thanks to Amazon Music.

Vive Latino was a big milestone for the streaming giant, which sponsored and broadcast a Mexican festival for the first time. Amazon Music has led the charge the past few years in making major music events more accessible, having used its platforms Prime Video and Twitch to livestream festivals such as Outside Lands, Stagecoach, Primavera Sound and Head in the Clouds and provide extra content like interviews for viewers. The company’s desire to be involved with Vive Latino is not only an indicator of the growth of Mexican music but also where mainstream pop music may be headed — though some would argue we’re already there.

“There are many festivals, but this one is special because it goes hand-in-hand with what Amazon is as a brand,” Paul Forat, head of Amazon Music in Mexico, tells Pollstar. “It has an enormous interest in culture and connecting fans with artists in a particular way. [Vive Latino] is more than a music festival; it’s a celebration of culture. … All we want to do is elevate it and get it closer to fans in different ways.”

Though no streaming figures were available, Guss says Vive Latino was one of Amazon’s most successful streams and “by a lot.”

“[The partnership] gave us soundness and globalization, which was awesome,” Guss says. “… We both left with a desire to work together more often, and I think it will happen soon.”

With OCESA organizing more than a dozen music festivals a year in Mexico, Amazon Music has plenty of other opportunities to continue promoting the culture and pushing the country’s music to the forefront. The next edition of Vive Latino will be No. 25, and there’s no telling which genre will be the next one to be embraced by the rockeros of the festival. ¡Que viva el rock and roll!