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Interpol perform to 160k fans in Mexico City

American rock band Interpol drew 160,000 fans to their free concert in Mexico City last weekend, according to figures provided by local authorities.

The New York band performed in the Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square), also known as the Zócalo, on Saturday night (20 April) for their biggest-ever concert.

The trio said the concert was “an opportunity to give back to their long and dedicated Mexican fan base for their unconditional support over the years”.

Fans at the show were treated to a sprawling 21-song set including hits such as 2002’s ‘Turn On the Bright Lights’ and 2004’s ‘Antics’.

The trio said the concert was “an opportunity to give back to their long and dedicated Mexican fan base”

As previously announced, drummer Sam Fogarino was not present after doctors advised him to “stay off the road for the time being” to recover from spinal surgery. He was replaced by Chris Broome, who joined Paul Banks (vocals and guitar) and Daniel Kessler (bass) on stage.

Interpol join a list of international stars who have performed at the Zócalo – the main public square in the country and the second largest in the world – including Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Justin Bieber, Shakira, Rosalía, Café Tacvba and Vicente Fernández.

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

Interpol are due in North America on 5 May for a limited run of shows, followed by festival appearances in South America. Later this year, the band will celebrate the 20th-anniversary of their second album Antics with outings in the UK and Europe.

The trio are represented by Matt Hickey (High Road Touring) for North America, and Charlie Myatt (13 Artists) for the rest of the world.

 


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Live Nation tees up women’s golf deal

Live Nation and The R&A, golf’s global governing body outside of the US and Mexico, have joined forces to make live music an integral part of one of golf’s most entertaining championships.

Last year, a headline performance by Ellie Goulding and the introduction of a Festival Fan Village contributed to a 53% growth in attendance at the tournament, according to the The R&A. Determined to use music as a driver for the competition, the governing body has agreed a deal for Live Nation to develop those extra curricular activities.

As the showpiece of The R&A’s commitment to championing the changing face of women’s golf, the AIG Women’s Open sees the world’s top 50 players go head-to-head in the most international line-up of the year. The Championship aims to attract new and diverse audiences by challenging perceptions of golf and delivering an exceptional off-course experience to match the unforgettable on-course action.

The new pact will see Live Nation produce the concert offering at the tournament, which is scheduled for the prestigious Old Course in St Andrews between 21-25 August 2024.

“There’s a huge energy and momentum behind women’s sport right now”

Although this year’s headliner is yet to be announced, the collaboration is set to elevate the overall experience of the championship by integrating live music performances.

“It is a privilege to be working with The R&A to celebrate the world’s best golfers and develop an entertainment offering that drives into The R&A’s growth objectives,” states Live Nation SVP special operations. “To use Live Nation’s capabilities and expertise within a sports environment is a great opportunity and we look forward to establishing a best-in-class experience for fans and artists alike.” 

Championship director, Zoe Ridgway, comments, “The AIG Women’s Open aims to celebrate the world’s best golfers and to do that we have created a unique atmosphere which combines golf and entertainment in a way that attracts new audiences to the sport.

“It is a world class championship so it’s vital we work with industry leading partners to elevate our off-course entertainment. We are delighted to bring this first-of-its-kind partnership with Live Nation to fruition for the 2024 AIG Women’s Open.”

Ridgway adds, “There’s a huge energy and momentum behind women’s sport right now which gives golf an exciting opportunity that we are embracing for the AIG Women’s Open. This year’s Championship will once again engage and inspire the next generation of fans who will shape the future of golf.”

In a similar move, last month AEG and its Concerts West subsidiary inked an exclusive multi-year partnership to book acts and produce live concerts around the world for professional golf tour, LIV Golf.

 


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Louis Tomlinson-curated festival heads to Mexico

Louis Tomlinson has announced he is bringing his The Away From Home Festival to Mexico.

The One Direction singer will star in and curate the brand’s fourth edition, which he launched in the UK in 2021 with a free event at Crystal Palace Park, London, in 2021.

Tomlinson subsequently expanded the festival with a ticketed event in Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain in 2022, and rolled out an Italian edition at Parco Bussoladomani in Lido di Camaiore  last August.

The Mexican leg will take place on June 8 at the Hacienda Susúla in Mérida, Yucatán. A presale begins on 16 April, with the general sale planned for the next day. Full lineup details are yet to be announced.

“We are excited to announce that Louis Tomlinson will bring the fourth edition of The Away From Home Festival to Mexico, an event curated by the singer where great artists of international stature will perform,” says a statement by promoter Ocesa.

“The Away From Home Festival has already made its mark in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy”

“The Away From Home Festival has already made its mark in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. Now, it comes to Mexico to offer a platform that will bring great talents. This festival is the perfect opportunity to discover new music and enjoy a vibrant and energetic atmosphere.”

Tomlinson also has upcoming headline dates in Panama, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica. Speaking to IQ last year, the star’s agent Holly Rowland of Wasserman Music said Latin America was one of Tomlinson’s biggest markets.

“The return to Latin America is going to be huge – Louis is playing arenas and stadiums in South America and Mexico: 15 shows across 11 countries,” she said.

Revisit IQ‘s behind the scenes feature on Tomlinson’s Faith in the Future Tour here.

 


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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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Show cancelled after grenades thrown outside venue

A New Year’s Eve concert in Mexico was cancelled after three grenades were thrown outside the venue.

The show by Los Angeles-born, Sinaloa-raised narcocorrido (drug ballad) singer Larry Hernández had been due to take place at the Casa Blanca nightclub in eastern Tijuana.

“Unfortunately because of the events that just happened at the place where I was going to perform, it is impossible to do so,” says Hernández in a social media video. “These are things that are out of one’s control, so I apologise and send you a hug.”

GazetteXtra reports that people threw what appeared to be fragmentation grenades, which did not detonate, from a vehicle on Sunday (31 December).

According to Tijuana’s secretary of security and citizen protection Fernando Sánchez, the Mexican army arrived on site to remove the devices.

Baja California governor Marina del Pilar Ávila says the case is being investigated, but no evidence had been found of a direct threat either to Hernández or the concert venue. No arrests have yet been made.

Mexican singer-songwriter Peso Pluma also cancelled a concert in Tijuana last year following death threats

Hernández’s breakthrough album, 2009’s 16 Narco Corridos featured “vivid depictions” of drug trafficking culture and reached No.4 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart.

Mexican singer-songwriter Peso Pluma, who is similarly known for making narcoculture references in his music, also cancelled a concert in Tijuana last year following death threats from local drug cartel members. The October 2023 performance was set for the 33,333-capacity Estadio Caliente stadium.

The cancellation came after several public banners from alleged cartel members targeted the 24-year-old Guadalajara native. The band Fuerza Regida cancelled a show at the same stadium “for reasons beyond our reach” due to death threats.

“I would say there’s a situation between the criminal groups and the narcocorrido singers,” Tijuana mayor Montserrat Caballero told 12News.

Last November, the Guardian reported that local politicians in the city voted to ban narcocorridos from being performed or even played in the city, claiming they glorify violence and the drug trade. However, attempts to censor the genre have appeared to only enhance its popularity.

 


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Mexico to gain new 20,000-capacity arena in 2024

A new 20,000-capacity arena is due to open in Guadalajara next year, becoming Mexico’s second-largest arena.

Touted as the city’s first modern arena, Arena Guadalajara will host sports, live music, cultural and social events.

After pandemic-related delays, the arena is scheduled to open in September 2024 on the intersection between major roads, Av. Periférico and Calzada Independencia.

Designed by KMD Architects, the arena’s facade is “designed and imagined for the City of Guadalajara, inspired by its colourful landscape and local materials, such as the Huentitán Golden Quarry and the Tequilero Blue Agave”.

Zignia Live’s venue portfolio also includes Arena Ciudad de México and Arena Monterrey

The company behind the arena is Avalanz Zignia Live, a tour promoter and venue operator that is one of two major players in the Mexican live music business, according to the Global Arena Guide 2023.

Zignia Live’s venue portfolio also includes Arena Ciudad de México (cap. 22,300) and Arena Monterrey (17,599) – the country’s two busiest areas, according to the Global Arenas Guide 2023.

The former venue – Zignia Live’s flagship – last year celebrated its 10th anniversary, while the latter turned 20 this year.

Guadalajara, in the western state of Jalisco, home of mariachi and ranchera music, is Mexico’s largest conurbation after Mexico City and Monterrey.

 


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IQ 124 out now: Year in trends, Memo Parra, Poland

IQ 124, the end-of-year issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now to give you some reading matter over the holiday season.

The December/January edition brings down the curtain on 2023 by wrapping up the key trends and takeaways from the global live music business over the past 12 months, as well as looking ahead to what’s in store for the industry next year.

In addition, we celebrate trailblazer Memo Parra’s 30 years in music, charting his unique journey from stock market trader to director of international talent at giant Mexican promoter Ocesa.

Elsewhere, we crown road warrior Malcolm Weldon as The Gaffer 2023, and Derek Robertson glances back across the first ten years of First Direct Arena in Leeds – speaking to the people who have helped make the last decade such a success.

And in our latest market report, Adam Woods visits Poland to learn about the growing optimism among live music industry professionals.

For this edition’s columns and comments, FanFair Alliance’s Adam Webb highlights the reasons for the UK-based campaign’s relaunch, as ticket touts get ever more sophisticated, while Christina Hazboun, Keychange Project Manager, UK, at PRS Foundation outlines some of the initiatives the gender equality scheme is employing to end the music industry’s patriarchal landscape.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next few weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £8 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 

 


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Ocesa Seitrack forms JV with Warner Music LA

Ocesa Seitrack has linked up with Warner Music Latin America and radio host Sergio “Checho” Rodríguez to launch booking and brand partnership agency Touring The World.

Helmed by Rodriguez, the joint venture will have offices in Colombia, Mexico, Spain and the US.

Billboard reports the company will provide support to acts in areas such as touring, brand partnerships and booking, and will also benefit from Warner Music Spain’s existing artist services company Get In.

Alex Mizrahi, CEO and founder of Ocesa Seitrack, Ocesa’s booking and artist management agency, says the new business will “expand the concept of booking and provide a solution for artists so they can have both a touring strategy together with branding and sponsorship efforts”.

“At Ocesa Seitrack we have been building the itinerant commercial structure we have today for 20 years,” says Mizrahi. “This alliance between friends and renowned professionals will bring enormous benefits to the artists and entrepreneurs we work with.”

“Touring the World is created by and for artists and their fans”

Touring The World, whose current roster includes Piso 21, Manuel Medrano, Elena Rose, Yng Lucas, Blessd, Molotov, Lagos and Ximena Sariñana, will focus on rising talent “who we think have global potential”, adds Mizrahi.

All Warner Music artists will be offered access to its services, which will be supported by the label’s expertise and infrastructure, in addition to Ocesa Seitrack’s commercial structure. The vision, however, is for the venture to be independent, with no obligation for Warner artists to sign to the company.

“We want to avoid conflicts of interest, and for that to work, it has to be an independent agency,” says Warner Music Latin America president Alejandro Duque.

Rodríguez will oversee teams in Colombia and Mexico, while working closely with Get In in Spain.

“Touring the World is created by and for artists and their fans,” he adds. “This alliance fills me with excitement, standing alongside the finest partners one could ask for.”

 


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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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