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Incom-Parra-ble: Memo Parra’s 30 years in music

Growing up in a country where concerts were banned forced Memo Parra to pursue an early career in the financial sector. However, as soon as restrictions were relaxed, his passion for live music came to the fore, and 30 years later, he’s one of the most successful promoters in the world. Gordon Masson learns more about his remarkable journey…

Born into a family that relied on contemporary art to pay the bills, it’s perhaps no surprise that Guillermo ‘Memo’ Parra ended up making a name for himself in the live entertainment sector. But, as a teenager and young adult, that career path was an impossibility.

“My dad was involved in the movie industry,” says Parra. “When a new movie would come to Mexico, he would make copies of the original so it could be screened in movie theatres all over the country. And if there was a problem with the colour or the sound, he would fix it.”

Because of that early exposure to the world of the silver screen, Parra is a self-confessed movie fanatic. “Actually, I wanted to go into the film business, but my dad didn’t let me because he wanted me to study for what he called ‘a real career’ in something, and that’s basically why I studied economics,” he says.

“When I was young, concerts were prohibited in Mexico because the ruling party of the government thought that the gathering of more than 20 or 30 young people was dangerous to the system”

While film may be among his passions, his true love has always been music. “I had the classic young boy’s room, filled with posters of Mötley Crüe and Black Sabbath,” he reports. “But when I was young, concerts were prohibited in Mexico because the ruling party of the government thought that the gathering of more than 20 or 30 young people was dangerous to the system. So, while Brazil and other countries in Latin America had concerts by the likes of Queen or the Rolling Stones or whoever, they would skip Mexico.”

Sadly, those government fears extended beyond live entertainment. “It was not a communist party, but they thought that anything consumed in Mexico should be made in Mexico, so imports of any kind were hard to get: if you wanted a new record, you couldn’t get it through a record store chain, you had to find underground record stores to get your Mötley Crüe record or your Ozzy Osbourne record or your Pink Floyd record.”

Such restrictions also impacted home life, as Parra’s father could only rely on movies approved by the government for his business. “We probably got everything eventually, in terms of movies, but the problem was that we got it at least six to eight months after it had opened in the United States. So, if a blockbuster movie debuted in January, Mexican audiences wouldn’t see it until August or September at the earliest.”

Determined to have an education that would allow Memo options both inside and outside of Mexico, he was sent to high school in Texas for a couple of years, where in addition to improving his English, he also had the opportunity to attend his first-ever concerts.

“July 27, 1983: one of the happiest days of my life – my first concert, and I got to see Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Fastway at the San Antonio Arena,” recalls Parra. “I’ve always been a metalhead. The first record I bought was KISS Alive! in 1975, and I’m still a huge fan.”

“Things started to change, so while I was working on the stock market, I also opened a nightclub”

With his first taste of live music under his belt, Parra was hooked. But with concerts still forbidden in his native Mexico City, he returned home and enrolled in college.

However, as things started to change in the 1980s, Parra and his peers were able to watch Cablevision, with channels like MTV. “It was a weird combination of everything having to be government approved, but we were not a closed economy – we would get information from the outside, and we had huge radio stations that were big on rock music. That’s why Mexico has a really deep love and respect for British music, because there were a couple of radio stations – Rock 101 was probably the biggest – who would play the latest music from around the world, even if it was difficult for us to get our hands on those records.”

Developing an intuitive understanding of finance, stocks, and shares, Parra’s first job saw him working at a local brokerage firm called Vector in the Mexican capital. But it wasn’t long before his reputation had bigger fish circling.

“Merrill Lynch hired me, and they opened offices in Mexico City with just five staff, initially,” he recalls. That stint saw Parra become head of floor trading for Merrill Lynch Mexico, but he was leading a double life, thanks to the government finally relaxing its stance on live music.

“In 1993, things started to change, so while I was working on the stock market, I also opened a nightclub – La Diabla – which had a capacity of 800-1,000 people, and I started booking and running that club. My day job was on the stock market, then I’d leave there and go to the club.”

“I had started to promote shows at bigger venues… but OCESA was already the dominant force, and I’d find myself being outbid by them for lots of acts”

Despite such an exhausting routine, Parra revelled in his passion, which saw him hosting gigs for the most important Mexican and Latin rock acts, as well as some early shows for the likes of London After Midnight, Radiohead, and Marillion.

“By 1996, I had started to promote shows at bigger venues – Los Lobos, Héroes del Silencio, Peter Murphy – but OCESA was already the dominant force, and I’d find myself being outbid by them for lots of acts.”

Nonetheless, impressed by what they saw in Parra’s independent operations, OCESA founder Alejandro Soberón made him an offer to quit the financial sector and join his company full time. “At first, I was not interested at all,” admits Memo. “It was really OCESA who professionalised the concert industry in Mexico, starting with INXS at the Sports Palace in Mexico City in 1993, so I really admired them, but at the time, I was happy with my dual life.”

Parra recalls that as Mexico began to receive recognition as a viable touring destination, thanks to OCESA, slowly but surely doors began to creak open for smaller promoters.

“Because of what OCESA was doing, the industry started to become a bit more interested in Mexico, so I tried to do stuff at 2,000 and 3,000 capacities. But it was hard because every time I sent an offer to any acts, there would be an offer from OCESA making my offer look low. I remember one moment in particular where I was booking a pretty big artist, but then OCESA made a bigger offer, and the agent came back to me saying, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I’ve gotta take the bigger offer.’ So that’s when I knew how tough it was going to be to compete.”

“Actually, nowadays, I have lots of agents who are my friends, and I remind them that they laughed at me 25 years ago”

He confesses, “Working on my own, I just couldn’t get the confidence of agents. I recall sending offers to every agent for the club, for 800 or 1,000 capacities, but I would not get responses from anybody. It was like, ‘Who are you? What have you done in the past?’ Then, when I was starting to build momentum, that’s when OCESA started making bigger offers on whatever I sent, meaning that I never really got into that place of gaining the confidence of the agents.

“Actually, nowadays, I have lots of agents who are my friends, and I remind them that they laughed at me 25 years ago, 27 years ago, 29 years ago…” Instead, Parra pivoted and sourced talent from elsewhere.

“I made some good contacts with people at record labels, who at that time still had budget for tour support, so they were bringing acts to do promotion in Mexico, and I’d host them at La Diabla,” he tells IQ. “At the same time, I was organising private parties and stuff for the record companies – we did a Bee Gees five-song set in my club and a party for the label, for instance.”

Again, OCESA made moves to persuade Parra to join them. “They tried to hire me a few times, but we couldn’t find any agreement,” he discloses.

However, fate intervened when the Mexican stock exchange announced its intention to computerise its systems.

“In one year, I went from sending faxes to booking Sting and Backstreet Boys”

“I loved the adrenaline of being on the floor, executing trades, so the idea of sitting at a computer screen all day did not interest me,” explains Parra. “Prior to 1999, the Mexican stock market was an open market, with people standing and shouting, ‘Buy! Sell!’ or whatever. That was what I did, and I was really, really good at it. But in 1999, that format was going to change and instead of being a live voice market, it was going to be a computerised market, and I hated that idea.

“Luckily for me, the offer from OCESA remained on the table, so, in early 1999, I finally quit my day job to join the company and focus on becoming a full-time promoter.”

Not everyone was happy.

“When I told my dad I was quitting the financial business, he didn’t get it. I remember him saying, ‘You’re 30 years old, you’re making more money than me, and you can do that for the rest of your life, but now you’re gonna start with a new company, sending faxes every day…?’”

But the contrast in the level of talent he was dealing with was immediately apparent. “The first acts I worked on were Metallica and KISS in February 1999. I was not directly involved, but I was in charge of the press department and stuff like that,” says Memo.

“I did stuff like Marillion and Radiohead on flat deals, and those were my baby steps”

Once again, Parra’s talents shone through and a few months later he had been promoted to director of OCESA’s international department. “In one year, I went from sending faxes to booking Sting and Backstreet Boys.”

Indeed, Parra notes that the difference between running his one-man operation and working for OCESA was like night and day. With no shows of any consequence in Mexico prior to 1993, dealing with the representatives of artists and bands was a thankless task for an unknown indie. Not so for his new employer.

“OCESA were very astute,” observes Parra. “When they launched in Mexico, they made a partnership with Ogden, which was sort of an equivalent to what Live Nation is these days. Every agent and manager was used to dealing with Ogden, so that definitely helped OCESA grow because people would pick up the phone when they called. So even in the early days of
1993 and ‘94, acts like Sting, Madonna, and Paul McCartney came to Mexico for the first time, thanks to OCESA’s Ogden partnership.”

Working under the OCESA banner also allowed Parra to promote shows outside of his hometown for the first time, and tasked with developing the company’s international department, Parra worked hand in glove with New York-based colleague Bruce Moran at OCESA Presents – who he states has been one of his music business mentors.

Prior to joining OCESA, Parra says he was a self-taught promoter. “I wasn’t even coming up with pitches, I was just sending offers, like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna sell 3,000 tickets at this price, and this is the venue.’ I didn’t even know that there were percentage versus flat deals and stuff. But I was doing every major Mexican or Latin act on that level in Mexico, and I did stuff like Marillion and Radiohead on flat deals, and those were my baby steps.”

“I was working with two hats: I was the booker of all the acts that came to Mexico, and I was the promoter of all the acts that came to Mexico”

The education process changed when Bruce Moran became a colleague. “He taught me everything I know about this business, how to elaborate the bid sheet, how to approach an agent, how to approach a deal. We made up a perfect combination from 1999 to 2006, as he and I would talk every day about certain acts, and I would give him the amount that we could offer, then he would do all the booking, and I would promote the show.”

Explaining the set-up, he continues, “We had an office in New York called OCESA Presents, which was run by Bruce, and when I joined OCESA, that’s where all the bookings were made. It was a good system because the fact we had that Ogden partnership meant that Bruce, and OCESA Presents, had the confidence of all the agents and managers. In effect, Bruce would book the acts in New York, and I would be the promoter for those acts in Mexico.”

When Moran left OCESA for pastures new in 2006, the heir for that New York-based role was apparent. “I went to run the New York office, so I was working with two hats: I was the booker of all the acts that came to Mexico, and I was the promoter of all the acts that came to Mexico. So, from 2006 to now, I still wear those two hats. I’m still the booker and the promoter,” says Memo. “But thankfully now I’m surrounded by an amazing team.”

However, rather than spending countless hours on flights to and from the Big Apple and DF, Parra now bases himself permanently in his hometown. “We closed the New York office in 2010 and moved everything to Mexico City, so OCESA runs everything from Mexico now,” he explains.

Down Mexico Way
Noting that his country’s most important markets are Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, Parra states, “The other markets are not even secondary or tertiary markets – for the last 25 years, Mexico hasn’t changed much on that level. It’s still those three major markets, each one of which has a huge regional audience to service.

“Every band that reunites, it’s just crazy numbers – they maybe were used to selling 10,000 tickets, but now they can sell 60,000 tickets”

“If you look at Guadalajara, which is in the middle of Mexico, it’s surrounded by seven big cities less than one-hour-and-a-half or two-hour’s drive. So people in all of those cities go to Guadalajara for concerts. The same thing happens with Monterrey and Mexico City – there are cities with 1.5–2.5m people within a two-hour drive of Mexico City. And right now, the population of Mexico City and its surroundings is about 25m people.”

Thanks to strong demand from those three hubs, the live music industry in Mexico has never been in better shape, and while promoters around the world are concerned about the mid-tier of the business struggling, Parra says thereare no such worries in Mexico.

“Actually, from 2,000 to 6,000 capacities, if you try to find a date, you will always be fourth or fifth hold – there is a lot of activity there; it’s a strong market,” he says.

“Because of fan demand, there are a lot of opportunities to come to Mexico, and on the local scene, there’s a lot of acts that are starting to develop to a good level. Meanwhile, older acts coming back are doing huge business. Every band that reunites, it’s just crazy numbers – they maybe were used to selling 10,000 tickets, but now they can sell 60,000 tickets!”

And it’s not just the behemoth of OCESA that is reaping the rewards. “There’s a pretty good independent scene in Mexico City right now, and we love to co-promote with those indie companies,” says Parra. “We’ll partner with independent promoters from 1,000 capacities upward to festivals with a 50,000 capacity – having partners is a pretty good part of our success.”

“Of the senior people who run OCESA – maybe 10 to 15 people – I’m still the new guy, and I’ve been here for 25 years”

Growing South
Having joined OCESA when employees numbered around the 200 mark, Parra has seen the company grow year upon year to its present headcount of close to 2,500 personnel.

“When I joined OCESA, it was a pretty small company because it was only six or seven years since it opened. Now, it’s a publicly traded company, and I think we’re the third-biggest promoter in the world. Our founder, Alejandro Soberón, has done an amazing job to create this industry in Mexico.”

Naming Soberón as another mentor from whom he is still learning, Parra says, “I talk to him every day. He wants to be involved in everything, but at the same time, he lets you do whatever you want. He’s a great boss – he’s always there to provide advice, but otherwise, he just oversees and lets me make any decision that I want. And he’s been like that for the last 25 years.

“Alejandro gives people a free pass on every level of the company because he knows that he has the perfect team in each part of the organisation – production, marketing, human resources, promoters, everything. And that’s because of him. He basically lets us do whatever we need to do to make it work but also to enjoy ourselves. As a result, most employees have been here for a long, long time. Of the senior people who run OCESA – maybe 10 to 15 people – I’m still the new guy, and I’ve been here for 25 years. But even in the likes of accounting or human resources or any other part of the company, people stay for 10, 12, 14, 15 years. It’s a great place to work.”

Not Growing South
In addition to promoting artists in Mexico, Memo is also active in Colombia, but a non-compete agreement prevents OCESA from operating any further south. “We love to have associates, and we actually just did a partnership with Páramo, the biggest promoter in Colombia,” says Parra. “Festival wise, they have an event called Estereo Picnic, which we’re excited to be involved with.”

“Nowadays, a lot of Mexican, Spanish, and Argentinian acts are playing Foro Sol – it’s been growing exponentially for the last five or six years”

In addition to organising festivals and promoting hundreds of shows, these days, OCESA also runs a number of government-owned buildings in Mexico, including the iconic Foro Sol and Sports Palace venues. “We operate them to make it easier for agents and managers and for ourselves to conduct business,” notes Parra. “That part of the business is run by our operations department – a separate division.”

He continues, “My job description is 100% international acts. There’s another OCESA division that handles all of the local and Latin acts, and that’s becoming huge. A few years ago, the only acts that could play Foro Sol, for instance, were international superstars. Nowadays, a lot of Mexican, Spanish, and Argentinian acts are playing Foro Sol – it’s been growing exponentially for the last five or six years.”

And as those acts grow and establish international fan bases, Parra and his team often take over when the representation changes. “For example, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and Ricky Martin have US agents and US managers, so they come through me. But Tiago or Bad Bunny go through the local department,” he says.

“I’ve also created some specialist divisions in my department because Latin music is getting so big. For example, I divided reggaeton into a separate department and entity. For the most part, I only deal with mainstream Latin pop. But if you include our reggaeton business and EDM and festivals, run by Leizer Guss, whom I’m proud to have taught everything I know, I think we’re doing about 200 shows every year.”

That festival side of OCESA now includes 19 events. “I run, curate, and oversee Corona Capital, which is our biggest festival with 250,000 people over the weekend, and this year it was held 17-19 November,” he says. “You would think that it’s a festival happening in London because we had Blur, Pulp, Liam Gallagher, The Cure, Pet Shop Boys, and Chemical Brothers.”

“I deal a lot with American agents, as well as agents based in Britain, because where Mexico lies on the tour routing depends on the agent”

Every Agent’s Amigo…
Where acts tour before and after they visit Mexico also differentiates Memo from most of his promoter peers around the world, in that he finds himself dealing with representatives in both Europe and the United States to secure talent.

“I deal a lot with American agents, as well as agents based in Britain, because where Mexico lies on the tour routing depends on the agent,” he explains. “If it’s a British agent, then Mexico is part of ‘the rest of the world,’ which includes South America. So, they book Mexico, and then they do the Latin American run. But when I’m dealing with a US agent, most of the times the Mexican dates will be part of the North American tour.”

Also setting Parra apart from his fellow promoters is his impressive background in economics. “It allows me to have a better analysis of the exchange rates,” he confirms. “It also helps me have a better analysis of the whole financial structure of a show. At the end of the day, it’s a financial project – you’re selling tickets, but you have a lot of expenses, so you have got to make it work.”

While territories in Latin America have historically suffered during economic downturns, Mexico has only gone from strength to strength during Parra’s career – as proven by OCESA’s claim to being the third-biggest promoter in the world. “The Peso is strong, and thankfully, during the last 25 years, we’ve only had two devaluations, which we’ve been able to handle by increasing ticket prices,” notes Parra. “Sometimes in South America, when there’s an FX problem, the economy collapses. But in Mexico, the FX changes have not collapsed the economy, allowing the concert business to be steady and growing.”

In fact, Parra reports that the growth this year has surprised him. “At the moment, the market is accepting our ticket prices, and this is going to be OCESA’s record year, by far,” he says. “I thought it would be difficult to beat 2022, but 2023 is amazing. Ticket prices are higher than ever, but the economy is taking it well, and we are selling those tickets and seeing record grosses.”

“There will be less stadium tours in 2024 coming through Mexico, but at the same time, we’re going to have many more arena tours”

Looking ahead, he adds, “2024 is looking good as well. A lot of acts will be touring, so we already have a lot of things confirmed and a lot of things just about to be confirmed.”

However, one concerning matter next year is Mexico’s presidential election. “If nothing happens and everything goes smoothly and FX rates continue to be the way they have been for the last few years, then we’re going to have a great year as well – it’s already going to be at least 75% of what it was this year. There will be less stadium tours in 2024 coming through Mexico, but at the same time, we’re going to have many more arena tours.”

Problemas
Of course, with thousands of shows and festivals under his belt, Memo has experienced his fair share of problems. But he singles out one event in particular as a game changing moment.

“In 2014, Corona Capital was hit by a huge storm. It was enormous,” he relates. “We had to stop the festival because people literally could not get from one stage to another – they couldn’t go to the bathroom; they couldn’t go to the food stands. Everything collapsed inside the festival site.

“It was really frustrating seeing so many people just desperately trying to get out of the venue, although lots more also stayed. So everything was put on hold for three hours before we brought back all of the equipment and the festival was able to continue.

“It’s definitely becoming a bigger problem that the weather is not as predictable as it once was”

“It was the first time I properly realised that you have so many things that could happen at any given time, and you cannot control them even if you have the best plans in the world. There’s always something you cannot predict; it could be from the artist side, it could be from the production side, it could be from the weather.”

He continues, “We had a lot of years with a lot of luck. In my 25 years at OCESA, I’ve only cancelled stadium shows twice because of weather – Britney Spears in 2003 and Billie Eilish this year in March. In total, I’ve done more than 300 stadium concerts and only two got cancelled.

“After the storm at Corona Capital, I moved the dates from early October to mid-November, and that has worked so far, although who knows with the weather we’re all seeing these days. It’s definitely becoming a bigger problem that the weather is not as predictable as it once was.”

Despite such concerns, Parra still embodies the infectious enthusiasm he had for music when he first started organising shows 30 years ago. “I try to remind myself every time I’m at a show just to go and see the crowd’s faces and reactions,” he reveals. “Even if it’s 10 seconds or 20 seconds or one minute, knowing that all the hard work of all the OCESA team makes people happy, means it is all worth it. I’ve promised myself that the day I don’t get that feeling, I will quit this business.”

Highlights
Looking back over three decades, Parra has numerous highlights, but two immediately spring to mind.

“Doing three shows with Depeche Mode at Foro Sol was amazing. Working with them is always fantastic”

“My favourite record of all time is Pink Floyd The Wall, so when I promoted Roger Waters: The Wall, I just thought it could not get any better. I have a great relationship with his manager, his agent, and his production manager, and knowing that I was involved on The Wall, was, wow – one of the best moments of my life.

“Another big highlight was U2,” he states. “Because of some political problems, they had not been to Mexico City for a long, long time. But on the Vertigo tour, we had them playing at Aztec Stadium, and that was huge.”

Right up to date, Memo says that 2023 has been one of the best years in his career. “Doing three shows with Depeche Mode at Foro Sol was amazing. Working with them is always fantastic – it’s just what this business should be about: people caring about people and ensuring the whole business makes sense for everybody. There’s never any drama. It’s pure pleasure dealing with everyone from the band to Baron Kessler to Tony Gittins and everyone in the crew – it comes from the band all the way down.”

He adds, “It’s the same with Taylor Swift – that’s one of the most professional teams I have ever worked with. It’s an impressive machine, and there are no hiccups.”

The Future
Running the hugely successful international department of OCESA is a time-consuming job, but Parra has found some ways in which to relax and switch off from the daily responsibilities. Any spare time that he can find tends to be spent with his wife, Sandra – herself a former music business professional – and daughter, Roberta, in a place called San Miguel de Allende, named by Condé Nast as the best little town in the world for the last five years in a row.

“Right now, OCESA is really focused on festivals – making them safer and better on all levels”

“We’ve been married for ten years, and now Sandra takes care of Roberta, who is nine years old. I’m trying to help shape her taste, music wise. She loves Depeche Mode, so I’m getting there. And she’s a huge fan of Taylor Swift, which I am as well, so it’s fun to be able to take her to shows.”

As for ambitions, there’s no letting up in Parra’s drive to take OCESA to the next level.

“The company needs to keep growing so we can make the concert experience better for fans,” he states. “So right now, OCESA is really focused on festivals – making them safer and better on all levels – food wise, production wise, and the whole festival experience. Right now, we have 19 festivals, which goes from I think the smallest one with a 30,000 capacity, all the way to Corona Capital.”

Parra also reserves praise for his peers at Live Nation, which two years ago completed the acquisition of a 51% stake in OCESA. “It’s been a great deal because it’s been very smooth for us, and life couldn’t be much better. I look forward to seeing how the relationship will develop,” he says.

“My personal ambitions? I have a great team and a lot of young talent inside my company who I want to help reach their potential, as well as teaching them to respect the industry while having fun.”

“Mexico has become a hot market for the ticketing business, but it also became really hot on the social scene”

Looking ahead, Parra is predicting another busy year for himself and OCESA. “2024 is a packed calendar, including four Metallica shows at Foro Sol as the renovations there will be finished by then. I think Mexico is Metallica’s biggest market, so the crowd reaction is always incredible,” he says.

“The good thing for us is that Mexico has become a hot market for the ticketing business, but it also became really hot on the social scene. Everybody wants to come to Mexico – agents and managers want to come here when their artists visit, and that’s because of our culture and the fact we have one of the best restaurant scenes in the world: we have the top female chef in the world, and we have two or three restaurants on the top 20 worldwide.”

Enjoying that social side of the business almost as much as he enjoys the music, Parra says, “One thing that I will take when I retire is the amazing friends that I’ve made in this industry.”

He concludes, “There are a number of agents and managers who I talk to where it’s not a business relationship anymore – they have become real and true friends, and I look forward to working with them to bring music to the fans for hopefully many more years.”

 


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Ocesa director toasts Foro Sol’s ‘incredible year’

Ocesa’s Guillermo Parra Riveros has hailed an “incredible year” for Mexico City’s Foro Sol after the stadium sold more than 2.2 million tickets in 2023.

The 65,000-cap venue, which is operated by Live Nation-backed Ocesa, ranked No. 1 for ticket sales on Pollstar’s Year End Worldwide Stadium Tickets chart and No. 2 in Stadium Grosses, generating US$170,179,120 (€155.5m).

Highlights included four dates with Taylor Swift and three nights with Depeche Mode, as well as concerts by Paul McCartney, Muse, Blackpink, Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd, Arctic Monkeys, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rauw Alejandro, Imagine Dragons, Motley Crue & Def Leppard and Peso Pluma.

Speaking to VenuesNow, Parra, Ocesa’s director of international events, points out that domestic artists also played their part in the success.

“It was an incredible year because interesting things were happening in Mexico,” he says. “Mexican acts that didn’t previously do stadiums are now doing them for the first time. So, the year-end number we had at Foro Sol is due to local acts like Molotov or Siddhartha, two acts who had never played here, performing at Foro Sol.

“It’s also the reggaeton movement. Fans’ openness to the genre as well as regional Mexican wasn’t there before when it came to concerts at Foro Sol. We had great showings for Grupo Frontera, Rels B and Feid on top of notable international acts like Taylor Swift, Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney and Lana Del Rey.”

“There are all kinds of venues with different capacities in the city to serve all kinds of artists”

As previously revealed, Foro Sol will close for renovation following two shows by Twice from 2-3 February. It will then reopen in September with Metallica’s M72 World Tour.

“Ocesa will close the stadium for a massive renovation that will update the bathrooms, suites and food and beverage stands,” says Parra. “We are going to improve every aspect of the stadium, which officially opened in 1998 with David Bowie.

“The first concerts were actually Madonna and Paul McCartney, but at the time, it was only a seasonal venue. It officially opened as a permanent stadium in 1998, so it’s been many years, and it’s in need of a facelift.”

Namechecking other Mexico City venues such as Palacio De Los Deportes (cap. 21,000), Auditorio Nacional (10,000), Pepsi Center (7,000) and Teatro Metropolitano (3,000), Parra suggests there is a multitude of reasons for the region’s current popularity with international acts.

“We have some of the best fans in the world,” he says. “Second, it’s an easy commute from the US to Mexico. And third is our economy. It’s in good shape at the moment, and the public is paying for tickets.

“There are all kinds of venues with different capacities in the city to serve all kinds of artists.”

 


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Metallica to relaunch Foro Sol after renovation

Mexico’s Foro Sol is to be closed for renovation for the majority of 2024 before reopening with a concert by Metallica.

The 65,000-cap Mexico City venue, which opened in 1993, has hosted two nights each by Muse, Blackpink, Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd and Arctic Monkeys, three nights by Depeche Mode and four dates with Taylor Swift in 2023 alone.

Other acts to have performed at the site this year including Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rauw Alejandro, Imagine Dragons, Motley Crue & Def Leppard, and Peso Pluma.

After staging two Paul McCartney shows this week, it will see out the year by welcoming Junior H on 23 November, Siddharta on 9 December and RBD on 30 November, 1-3 & 16-17 December, prior to two shows by Twice from 2-3 February. Foro Sol will then be shut until the autumn while the revamp is completed.

Metallica will relaunch Foro Sol by bringing their M72 World Tour to the venue on 20 & 22 September 2024

As a result, Informador reports the annual Vive Latino festival is relocating its next edition to the 110,000-cap Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez motor racing track.

Metallica will relaunch Foro Sol by bringing their M72 World Tour to the venue on 20 & 22 September next year, when they will play completely different setlists on each night. Support will come from Greta Van Fleet and Mammoth WVH on night one, and Five Finger Death Punch and Ice Nine Kills on night two.

Located in the Iztacalco area of the Mexican capital, the venue has previously staged concerts by the likes of Madonna, Justin Bieber, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Britney Spears, David Bowie, U2, Shakira and Robbie Williams, as well as the World is a Vampire Festival.

In 2022, Coldplay became the first international group to play four sold-out concerts at the venue, while Daddy Yankee became the first act to headline five consecutive nights – attracting 322,028 attendees overall.

 


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Pitchfork Music Festival to launch in Mexico City

Pitchfork Music Festival is launching in Mexico City next year, following editions in Chicago, London, Berlin and Paris.

The event will take place from 6 to 9 March 2024 across venues including Foro Indie Rocks!, Frontón Bucareli, Fünk Club and Yu Yu.

The first acts will be announced in the coming months, along with more venues.

“With its incredible and diverse music scene, Mexico City is a natural home for our festival,” said Pitchfork’s editor-in-chief, Puja Patel.

“With its incredible and diverse music scene, Mexico City is a natural home for our festival”

“We look forward to championing a lineup of local and international artists, and, as always, creating space for music discovery and community. I’m especially grateful to our partners at Indie Rocks for sharing our vision and bringing it to life.”

Pitchfork Plus passes are available for 4,400 Mexican pesos, and grant access to four venue shows and three club shows.

Pitchfork Standard passes are also available for 3,400 Mexican pesos, and grant access to four venue shows.

The Pitchfork Music Festival launched in 2006 in Union Park, Chicago. In 2011, the festival’s first spin-off event took place in Paris at the 15,000-capacity Grande Halle de la Villette.

In 2019, the festival launched in Berlin at the 3,500-capacity Tempodrom, featuring a mix of established artists and emerging musicians. And in 2021, the first edition of Pitchfork Music Festival London took place.

 


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Free Mexico City show pulls record crowd

Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have set a new attendance record by drawing 300,000 fans to a free show in Mexico City, according to the local government.

The eight-piece band performed in the Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square), known as the Zócalo – the world’s second largest public square after Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – on 3 June.

Founded in 1984, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have recorded 16 albums over the course of their career and performed at Coachella festival earlier this year. Their latest feat sees the group surpass the previous record holders, Mexican band Grupo Firme, who drew close to 280,000 to the square last September.

“We’ve made history again, breaking attendance records with 300,000 people in the Zócalo of Mexico City”

“We’ve made history again, breaking attendance records with 300,000 people in the Zócalo of Mexico City, enjoying an epic concert from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.” tweets Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.

Life Box Set reports the list of the venue’s top 5 crowds is completed by Vicente Fernández, who pulled in 217,000 in 2009; and Shakira and Justin Bieber, who each drew around 210,000 in 2007 and 2012, respectively.

Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía recently attracted a reported 180,000 people to the square when she closing Motomami World Tour with a free gig on 28 April.

 


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Ticketmaster and Ocesa face class action lawsuit

Mexico’s federal consumer protection office Profeco has reported that a Mexico City judge has admitted a class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster and promoter Ocesa.

The Live Nation companies are subject to multiple claims from consumers that have accumulated since 2021, alleging various breaches such as unilateral cancellation of tickets, breach of conditions and refusal to give full refunds, including service charges.

The Ninth District Judge in Civil Matters of the country’s capital, Guillermo Campos Osorio, described the lawsuit filed by Profeco as “admissible” and gave the green light to the collective action, which currently represents 521 consumers.

“These situations reflect a general breach in the provision of the entertainment service regarding various musical, cultural, sporting, artistic and recreational events, violating the rights of consumers,” reads a Profeco press release.

“This collective action is a watershed in the defence of the right to use, enjoy and enjoy cultural and entertainment services, endorsing Profeco’s commitment to eradicate abuses and asymmetries by these service providers.”

Profeco is inviting other affected consumers to come forward and join the class action lawsuit

The organisation is inviting other consumers “affected or affected by the cancellation of your tickets, denial of access or refund of your money for the cancellation to attend any cultural, sports or entertainment event during the period from 2021 to date” to come forward and join the lawsuit.

Earlier this year, Ticketmaster Mexico provided refunds and additional compensation after more than 2,000 fans were denied entry to a Bad Bunny concert at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium.

The company reported that problems occurred “due to failures in its ticket reading system” at the first of two dates at the venue by the Puerto Rican rapper, in addition to “an unprecedented number of fake tickets”. Ticketmaster avoided being fined as it has refunded the full price of the ticket, plus 20% compensation, to those affected, with the total amounting to almost 18.2 million pesos (€914,000).

Ticketmaster Mexico announced the appointment of Ana María Arroyo as its new director, replacing the long-serving Lorenza Baz, in the wake of the controversy.

 


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Rosalía draws 160k fans to free concert in Mexico

A free admission Rosalía concert held in Mexico City pulled in 160,000 fans according to local officials.

The Spanish singer-songwriter performed in the Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square), known as the Zócalo, to bring the curtain down on her Motomami World Tour last Sunday (28 April).

Forbes Mexico reports the event, which was produced by Live Nation-owned Ocesa, was subject to political controversy due to the government evading questions about the costs, amid claims it was spending $1 million on the show.

However, Ocesa released a statement ahead of time on its social media channels, suggesting Rosalía would not receive a fee for her performance.

“Rosalía is offering this concert without any kind of economic benefit with the intention of repaying the affection and love for the Mexican public”

“After her time at the Coachella festival, Rosalía is offering this concert without any kind of economic benefit with the intention of repaying the affection and love for the Mexican public that has supported her since the beginning of her career,” it said.

The promoter added it had been “entrusted with the technical production of the event”, while the Mexico City government was responsible for “security, control of attendees and civil protection”.

The Motomami World Tour, which kicked off at Almeria Fairgrounds in Spain in July 2022, was UTA-repped Rosalía’s first global trek and grossed $30.4 million from 46 shows. She has upcoming dates at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Porto and Madrid, with additional gigs scheduled in Greece, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, France and Switzerland.

The record attendance for the Zócalo, however, belongs to Mexican band Grupo Firme, who drew close to 280,000 to the square last September.

 


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Famed Mexico City venue closes down

Famed Mexico City rock and counterculture club Multiforo Cultural Alicia has closed its doors after almost 30 years in business.

The 400-cap venue has been a hub for alternative and underground scenes since being founded in 1995, hosting local and international acts such as Manu Chao, Banda Bassotti, Panteón Rococó, Ska-P, Vantroi, Sekta Core! and Minuscule Division.

Multiforo Cultural Alicia was inspired by social centres in Italy and the Basque Country, with its name adapted from 1970s Italian counterculture radio station Radio Alice, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

“Nobody came at the beginning. It was a tiny place, uncomfortable, very punk. But I didn’t want a trendy bar. I wanted a place for the people,” founder Ignacio Pineda tells AP, via ABC News.

“We always considered ourselves a political space, rather than a music venue”

“We always considered ourselves a political space, rather than a music venue. We did something that nobody was doing.”

However, Pineda opted to close the space for good last month, saying he didn’t like how the La Roma neighbourhood around the venue had changed due to gentrification.

“I think there will be other places,” he adds. “This won’t stop here, it’s an independent movement, it’s culture. But I might come back at some point and sit on the bench in front of the Alicia, have a mezcal and cry.”

 


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Rock fest boom continues with new Ocesa event

Ocesa is the latest promoter to capitalise on a renewed demand for rock music with a new festival called The World Is A Vampire.

The Mexico City festival is curated in partnership with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, with the band headlining the 4 March 2023 event.

Interpol, Turnstile, Peter Hook & The Light, DeafHeaven and The Warning are also slated to perform at the first edition, taking place in Ocesa’s Foro Sol (cap. 65,000) stadium.

They will be joined by Ekkstacy, Chelsea Wolf, Margaritas Posridas, In The Valley below, El Shirota and Acid Waves.

“Mexico City will be covered by a deep and dark night, night owls will congregate in a feast of music and good rock, which will mark the beginning of a quasi-twilight celebration,” reads a statement from Ocesa, which is Latin America’s largest promoter, now owned by Live Nation.

Live Nation is behind a slate of new rock-focused festivals announced in the last 12 months

Live Nation is behind a slate of new rock-focused festivals announced in the last 12 months.

Most recently, LN subsidiary C3 Presents announced a brand new US festival for hard rock and alternative music fans called Sick New World. System Of A Down, Korn, Deftones and Incubus are set to headline the one-day event, taking place on May 13 2023 at Las Vegas Festival Grounds.

Prior to that, the live entertainment giant unveiled a new alternative music festival for Atlantic City, New Jersey (US), called Adjacent. Blink-182 and Paramore will headline the all-ages event, slated for 27 & 28 May 2023 (Memorial Day Weekend).

These two new festivals came after Live Nation premiered “emo nostalgia” festival When We Were Young in October at Las Vegas Festival Grounds with headliners Paramore and My Chemical Romance.

The 85,000-cap “emo nostalgia” festival was expanded to three days due to demand, and the 2023 edition sold out before the 2022 event had even started.

Next year’s instalment features a pop-punk twist featuring headliners Blink-182 and Green Day, who will be joined by the likes of 30 Seconds To Mars, The Offspring, Good Charlotte, 5 Seconds of Summer and All Time Low, Yellowcard, Rise Against, Sum 41, Pierce the Veil, Gym Class Heroes, Michelle Branch, Thrice, Rise Against, Simple Plan and New Found Glory.

 


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Mexico embraces drive-in concerts

Promoters in Mexico are the latest to embrace drive-in concerts, with live shows planned for Mexico City and Toluca, following the adoption of the popular Covid-safe show format in Puerto Rico earlier this month.

Drive-in concerts, or autoconciertos as they are known in Spanish, have brought the live experience back to music-deprived fans across the world in recent months.

Move Concerts premiered the format in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the start of the month, with Pedro Capó performing to 1,500 vehicle-bound fans.

Now, the format has made its way Mexico, with the first drive-in concerts set to take place at the beginning of August.

The Foro Pegaso (10,000-capacity), an open-air arena in Toluca, some 60km west of the Mexican capital, is hosting a series of 2,000-carpacity drive-in shows from 7 August, kicking off with Mexican rock band Moderatto.

Subsequent performances will come from rock band El Tri and Tejano group Intocable, who are also playing the first-ever drive-in concert in El Paso, Texas next month, on 14 and 15 August respectively.

Promoters in Mexico are the latest to embrace drive-in concerts, following the adoption of the popular Covid-safe show format in Puerto Rico earlier this month

The Foro Pegaso shows are promoted by Miami-based company MH Music Live. Tickets are available here, costing Mex$1,500 (€59) per car, with up to four people allowed in each.

The Mexico City Arena is also trialling drive-in concerts next month, with a show by blues-rock band Real de Catorce and rock group Salvador y los Eones on 8 August in its special open-air arena. Tickets will become available here on Thursday (16 July).

The arena has been hosting drive-in film screenings and family theatre events since the beginning of July.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Entertainment and Media Outlook Mexico 2016-2020 had estimated the Mexican live industry to be worth US$276 million in 2020, before Covid-19 wiped out much of the year’s event calendar.

In the first quarter of 2020, CIE, one of two parent companies of leading Mexican promoter Ocesa Entertainment, reported a 6% fall in revenue compared to the same period of the previous year, due to over 200 coronavirus-related event cancellations.

CIE had been due to sell its 11% stake in Ocesa to Live Nation, but the deal was called off earlier this year, after the promoter was unable to agree revised terms with CIE and fellow Ocesa stakeholder Televisa Group.

 


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