Banda MS

The Reinvention of Banda MS: A Conversation With Sergio Lizarraga

In the last five years, Banda MS has set the tone for Regional Mexican music with impressive numbers (sales and streaming) and performances on big stages. The group celebrated two wins at the Billboard Latin Music Awards last week (Regional Mexican Artist of the Year, Duo or Group and Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, Duo or Group).

After six years as independents following a lifetime with Fonovisa, the band is reaping the success of having its own label, Lizos Music. This year, Lizos was nominated in four categories at the Billboard Latin Music Awards and is regarded as one of the leading indies in Mexico.

As Banda MS (which stands for their hometown, Mazatlan, Sinaloa) celebrates its 15-year anniversary, we caught up with producer and CEO Sergio Lizárraga in this exclusive interview for Billboard

What led you to go indie and also part ways with your management? 

We made that decision because we’re convinced no one takes better care of us than ourselves. That certainty motivated us to start our own path, and people responded very well. I went back to choosing the songs we released, deciding which singer performed what song, what rhythm to use, in short, everything having to do with production. 

One of the songwriters who has been key in your success is Horacio Palencia...

There are many songwriters and many artists, but they do not always partner well with each other. In Horacio’s case, he fit in very well with us even before we were independent; there has been mutual chemistry and that is fundamental. When we launched Lizos and we were able to decide the singles we wanted to release everything changed and the results speak for themselves with hits like “Hermosa Experencia” and  “Háblame de Ti.”  This does not mean that there are not other song writers with whom we have done very good things, like Edén Muñoz of Calibre 50. He deserves a special thanks, because even though he has his own group he  gave us  a great song  (“Tengo Qué Colgar”) .

Lizos Music is a great example that an indie can be successful and that Regional Mexican music can do well even when it’s up against strong genres like urban.

There are good times for all genres. From my point of view, everything depends on the themes, the lyrics, the songs. There was a moment in Regional Mexican music where there were many groups with very good songs. Now it's the other way around unfortunately.

Why do you think the Regional Mexican music genre has stopped growing?

There are many songs on the radio, but few really good songs. This happens because many people put business before good music; they don´t care about quality. They worry more about taking advantage of publishing rights or finding songs or writers with no publishing contracts.

In our case (MS Band) if we find a good song, we try to reach a good agreement, but we don't let go of the song. Unfortunately nowadays in Regional Mexican Music, there are many good businessmen, but they are not musicians, so they don’t have the sensitivity to choose and do things with quality.

You were finalists at the Billboard Latin Music Awards for the fifth year in a row. And you got nominations both for Banda MS and for Lizos Music. How did that feel?

The first time we were nominated, we could not believe it. As the years have passed and we still have the honor of competing and winning, we think that we’re doing something right. We are definitely very grateful to our fans because they are the ones who provoke all this. And of course, it's an honor that Billboard follows what Banda MS does. Competing in general categories with stars like Maluma, Shakira, J Balvin and many others   obviously makes us feel important.
Being also finalists as record label is even more satisfying. It’s very exciting to go on stage to receive a prize as important as the Billboard because it is an acknowledgment to our work. But if we add to that the experience of seeing every our shows sell out every weekend, that’s even better.  I can’t imagine receiving awards and not having shows or not seeing a satisfied crowd. They have to go together. 

What expansion plans does Lizos Music have beyond Banda MS?

There are many plans with our artists. We signed Marilyn Odesa, the daughter of the legendary singer Marisela. We’ve  recorded a very good album, and she has great vocal quality and charisma. We also have Banda La Misma Tierra, and we’re growing them little by little. And of course, Banda MS allows us to support the development of other artists. We have had many invitations from several countries, like Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and many other places. I know there are many things we still have to do, but I´m convinced that things come at the right moment: not before, not after.