Latin

The Strategy Behind Mexico's Rapidly Ascending Grupo Firme

Grupo Firme
Mané Borja

Grupo Firme

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has filled the music industry with uncertainty, there’s been a surge of new artists to reassure that not all momentum has to be lost during this time. In the regional Mexican realm, Grupo Firme has done just that.

Hailing from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, the group – led by enigmatic frontman Eduin Caz – was known locally for singing corridos. But it wasn’t until Isael Gutiérrez, CEO of indie regional Mexican music label Music VIP, took notice of them that they were catapulted them to mainstream success.

“I liked them since the first time I heard them, but they had a 'rough' image because they mainly sang corridos," remembers Gutiérrez, who signed Grupo Firme three years ago after listening to the group in Tijuana. "I imagined them in another space, and so I had to convince them to take a different route musically."

Grupo Firme is not your typical banda artist. First of all, they’re not from Mazatlán or Culiacán, like most artists in that genre are. And the number of band members in the group is uncommon: Banda ensembles typically have 16 musicians and norteño bands five, but Grupo Firme has seven members, all ranging between 22-29 years of age. They are somewhere in the middle, straddling banda and norteño, and it was their fresh take on regional Mexican classics that helped put them on the map.

In April 2019, they took on Calibre 50’s “El Amor No Fue Pa’ Mi,” and it was an instant hit on YouTube. To date, it has raked in nearly 200 million views on YouTube. “It was impressive,” lead singer Caz says. “But what was more impressive was that Edén Muñoz (Calibre 50’s vocalist and the track’s songwriter) didn’t have an issue with us recording their song. On the contrary, he congratulated us -- because he had faith in that [original] song, but it never became a hit with them.”

Making the song a “hit” was never Grupo Firme's intention. In fact, the music video for their rendition is rather informal. They recorded the music video during a gathering with their friends from Banda Coloso. Nonetheless, the  track caught on with radio, peaking at No. 17 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Airplay chart in late 2019.

With nearly four million subscribers on YouTube, five million monthly listeners on Spotify and three million followers on Instagram, Grupo Firme has reached new chart success thanks to a handful of collaborations with fellow rising regional Mexican acts. It's a strategy commonly seen in a genre like reggaetón, where many acts collaborate for greater visibility, but one rarely used in regional Mexican.

To date, Grupo Firme has placed six songs on the Hot Latin Songs chart. Their first top 10 was a feature on Lenin Ramírez’s “Ya No Vuelvo Contigo,” which won regional Mexican song of the year at Premio Lo Nuestro on Feb. 18. The team up between Firme and Ramírez is a testament to what can happen when two indie regional Mexican labels (in this case, Music VIP and Del Records) come together. Along with Lizos Music, Afinarte Music and Rancho Humilde, both labels are breaking barriers in the genre -- and credit their artists’ success to social media and streaming platforms, as opposed to radio and/or television.

Other chart-topping collaborations include their take on “Cada Vez Te Extraño Más” featuring El Yaki, “El Guero” with Marca MP and the Carin León-assisted “El Tóxico.” Outside of regional Mexican, Grupo Firme has also been tapped by pop acts Río Roma and Reik for unprecedented collaborations. After releasing a cascade of singles, Grupo Firme released their debut album Nos Divertimos Logrando Lo Imposible (We Have Fun Doing the Impossible) in December. The set includes tracks penned by some of the most important regional Mexican songwriters to date, including Muñoz, Horacio Palencia, Omar Tarazón, Luciano Luna, Raúl Quintero and Eladio Flores.

To keep the momentum going, Grupo Firme will embark on an ambitious U.S. tour set to kick off April 10 in Kansas City, including two dates at L.A.’s Staples Center in August.