Corona Capital

Op-Ed: Why Mexico City’s Corona Capital Music Festival Shouldn’t Exclude Latine Artists

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.

Mexico City’s Corona Capital has steadily become one of the most notorious music festivals. Hosting some of the biggest artists in the world, millennial and Gen Z-approved nostalgia acts, and up-and-coming names across a variety of genres including pop, indie rock, hip-hop, emo, and punk, the festival has become one of the most important events in Mexico and Latin America. With this in mind, an aspect that has become controversial for the festival over the years has been the lack of representation of Latine acts in its lineups to the point of sparking many conversations online.

Across 13 years and 12 editions, as well as an offshoot in Guadalajara, Corona Capital has garnered significant recognition, attracting a substantial crowd. In 2022, during the three-day event, more than 255 thousand people flocked to Corona Capital, making it a massive success. Pre-sale tickets usually sell out in short amounts of time, with frauds and scalpers being a commonly damning occurrence. Still, this is far from the most controversial aspect of the festival.

Upon announcing its 2023 edition, the festival received instant criticism for lack of Latine representation, with Rebecca Black being the sole artist from our communities to be featured in this event. People have demanded that Mexican and Latin American acts be included while others requested a Latine-free festival, reproducing wrong and hateful sentiments about their artistic merits. As we revisit Corona Capital’s history, we can see a clearer picture of what is happening and what is most worrying about this situation.

One common argument against including Latine acts in Corona Capital’s lineup suggests that the festival was initially designed as a music event exclusively focused on anglocentric artists — a claim that is unequivocally false. The first edition of the festival included 11 Latine artists, with acts like Adanowsky and Triángulo De Amor Bizarro sharing space with big names like Pixies and Interpol. The following year, it expanded to 13 Latin American artists, including Javiera Mena representing Chile and Brazil’s Cansei De Ser Sexy, while 2012’s edition gave us 19 acts. However, Corona Capital 2013 slimmed down the selection to just two Latine acts, NGUZUNGUZU and Mueran Humanos, and 2014 with just one, Twin Shadow. It wasn’t until 2021’s edition that Latine acts were included again, and things started to look brighter last year by having five Latine artists in the lineup. However, this trend came to a halt for the 2023 edition.

A popular justification for the lack of representation at Corona Capital is that another annual festival, Vive Latino, is already a massive festival that uplifts Latine artists. However, this is not a sound argument. Vive Latino includes artists from all over the world, even if most are Latin American, with some headliners hailing from the U.S. and UK. Musically speaking, nostalgia plays a bigger factor at Vive Latino, aiming at a slightly older demographic, unlike Corona Capital, which tends to reflect today’s trends and is aimed at a younger audience. Current Latine acts—as opposed to legacy bands like Café Tacvba, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, or Molotov—have fewer chances of reaching their audiences even if getting a coveted spot at Vive Latino. By denying them the space at a forward-looking festival, the message is that Latine musicians are not making worthy new music or quality art at all.

The message is that Latine musicians are not making worthy new music or quality art at all.

But looking deeper into the dynamics of Mexico’s festival scene, it becomes apparent that the limited space for contemporary Latine talent raises important questions about representation and opportunity. In the last decade, Mexican festivals have become a very lucrative business. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the music industry in Mexico—which includes both live and recorded music— produced more than $814 million in revenue. While the early ‘10s boasted a diverse landscape of festivals, from niche events to larger gatherings, today’s landscape has narrowed down the offer considerably. While there are still many festivals in Mexico, they offer very few spots to Latine talent that is not anchored by nostalgia.

Elsewhere in Latin America, we find incursions of franchises like Primavera Sound and Lollapalooza hosting events in countries like Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Paraguay. Though potentially threatening to reduce the diversity and shun local promoters, these music festivals boast lineups with better representation of the Latin American scene. With Live Nation having a majority stake in the country’s—and one of the world’s— biggest live music corporations, Mexico’s music business has become too big to fail, with ticket prices soaring stratospherically in the past few years without any resistance from the public. By playing it safe, it’s unlikely that something will change on its own. 

Yet, the fact remains that Latine music is finding increasingly bigger audiences, surpassing $1.1 billion in revenues in the U.S. alone. Additionally, according to a study made by the worldwide music industry organ IFPI, in 2022, Mexico was the fifth country with the most engaged audiences using paid-subscription streaming platforms and the second with short-form video app users, making it one of the most important for the music industry. Hopefully, this will make promoters and bookers consider the inclusion of artists making waves worldwide and get them their deserved spot at one of the country’s most important music events of the year. 

Corona Capital has an opportunity to set a powerful precedent for the industry as a whole — one that proves growing popularity doesn’t require sacrificing diversity. On the contrary, by including Latine artists, the festival can offer a better lineup and cater to even broader audiences, potentially becoming one of the best in the world.