Self Promoting to Succeed: Local Musicians Tell Their Stories
Published Feb 2, 2011 - (Updated Aug 30, 2013)
Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2011 issue.
In an old American joke, a New Yorker (or presumably, a famous performer) is approached on the street near Carnegie Hall with the question, “Excuse me, sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” He replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” Today’s competition among professional musicians trying to make a living playing their instruments is no laughing matter, however. Not only is it absolutely essential to stay on top of their game by practicing, it seems that in order to truly succeed, the new rules of the game require three additional P’s: promote, promote, promote. Thinking outside the box, the following Puerto Vallarta musicians have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to self-promotion, achieving notoriety and a steady following among visitors and locals. They are but a handful of performers attempting to make a living in Banderas Bay. However, we single them out because they are, well, good self-promoters and news about their activities reaches our inbox on a regular basis.
Grano began visiting Puerto Vallarta in 1995. Like many others, her visits from Vancouver, her home base, progressively increased in length, until eventually “discovering” Bucerías, 20 minutes north of downtown Puerto Vallarta, where she settled four years ago with her husband. Prior to that, she used to lodge in a downtown hotel and performed in venues such as River Café, Cuates y Cuetes and Garbo. Back in Vancouver, she was a member of the city’s musicians union, clearly understanding the importance of self-promotion. “I remember when I had to stand by the fax machine and send news to each newspaper about an upcoming show, one by one. It would take forever!” Now she uses youTube, her own website, www.armigrano.com, and other online resources to distribute news about her performances.
One of the most significant challenges for any working musician in a destination such as Puerto Vallarta is finding a performance venue, and beyond that, finding one that will hire for enough nights per week to make it worthwhile. For Manila-born jazz vocalist Armi Grano, the solution was risky, yet simple. In her own words: “I bought my own gig!” Indeed, in December, 2009, she noticed that one of the many beachfront restaurants in Bucerías was available. Trusting her own intuition, she opened “Encore” only days after signing a lease (www.encoreonthebeach.com). Nowadays, she sways the sizable expat community from the USA and Canada in Bucerías (“the core of my fan base,” she praises) several nights a week with a carefully selected jazz standards set list, a skilled trio behind her, and an eclectic menu of pan-Asian cuisine.
While still children, brothers Immel, Lázzaro, Giorgio and Carlos, better known as “Los Bambinos,” began performing on Vallarta’s streets in 2003, easily recognized by their brightly colored shirts. This early experience earned them, along with their well-honed performance style, recognition among locals and tourists. Now handsome young men, they are still working hard, wearing different color-coordinated outfits each week. A project important in the evolution of this group has been the annual concert series they present with the help of their supporters and promoters. This year marks their sixth season, which runs until April.
Los Bambinos have released three CDs of music covers and one of original music. They plan to introduce a new CD in 2011 under another name and musical concept; however, they won’t stop working under the name that has brought them recognition. For more information on performances and projects, call 222-6412.
The down-to-earth lifestyle of this pair of musicians and singers of Mexican music is reflected in their handmade CD covers. From the beginning, Daniel Sánchez and Camila Aguirre wanted to wrap their work in an original way, handcrafted rather than the ordinary plastic box, which led to the idea of employing people around them to produce their covers.
The Frixoleros began by playing on Vallarta’s city buses, later moving on to local restaurants, currently performing at El Arrayán restaurant. Although they have advertised in print, they find the best introduction to their work is attending one of their performances. Their next step? Currently, they are considering entering the Internet music distribution market. For bookings, call cell (322) 116-4669.