Hitmakers Eduin and Johnny Caz reflect on the group’s U.S. crossover success and how adopting social media during quarantine allowed it reach new heights to commemorate the group’s tenth year together.
Grupo Firme, a rural Mexican band, faced a watershed moment when the epidemic hit North America in early 2020: “Innovate or perish,” says 27-year-old frontman Eduin Caz. To avoid being thrown off by the subsequent lockdowns, the seven-piece band flew to Caz’s house in Mazatlán, Mexico, hired a studio that was exclusively available to band members, and produced a breakthrough album to “keep the momentum going,” as he puts it. “We couldn’t let what we’d worked so hard to create come crashing down.”
According to MRC Data, Grupo Firme’s newest album, Nos Divertimos Logrando Lo Imposible, was released in December and helped the band surpass the 1 billion lifetime streaming mark in the United States. That is only one aspect of its success. Grupo Firme had 11 entries on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart, and in October, they became the third-ever group to have a regional Mexican song, “Ya Supérame,” chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The band took up five awards at the 2021 Premios de la Radio Awards on Nov. 10: artist, norteo group, banda song (“Ya Supérame”), collaboration of the year (“Yo Ya No Vuelvo Contigo” with Lenin Ramrez), as well as the Latin award of Pride.
After signing a label and management partnership with Isael Gutiérrez, CEO of independent regional Mexican company Music VIP, the trio was launched into the public in 2017 after playing corridos (narrative folk ballads). The band had originally planned to play just one night at the Microsoft Theater, which seats 7,100 people, in July 2020, but had to reschedule owing to high demand. Grupo Firme has only played in the Los Angeles region once before, in 2019 at Pico Rivera, a community about 11 miles southeast of downtown L.A., for 9,000 people.
With seven sold-out performances this summer, the band scored a landmark booking at Los Angeles’ 20,000-capacity Staples Center as the first Latin group to perform the most gigs in a single calendar year at the facility. (Adele, with eight performances in 2016, is the only other artist who has done more in a single year.)
The performances marked the Staples Center’s first live performances in almost a year, and the act exceeded all expectations: According to Billboard Boxscore, it grossed $15.9 million and sold 177,000 tickets in the first half hour in 2021. Instead of traditional advertising, the band used its social media networks to woo followers.
“To sell a performance, all they had to do was publish one or two posts on their social media, and that was it,” explains TuStreams booking agent Tony Larios, who worked with Isael and Nederlander Concerts Latin talent buyer Eddie Orjuela to get the dates. Eduin and Jhonny reflect on Grupo Firme’s U.S. crossover success and how adopting social media during quarantine helped it reach new heights as the group celebrates its tenth year.
When you started Grupo Firme, what was your vision for it?
Eduin: Many of our friends were accomplishing great things in Tijuana, such as selling out Las Pulgas, a 24-hour nightclub. That was our greatest ambition at the time since it was the largest venue. That was all we truly wanted.
Was music an important part of your childhood?
Eduin: I recall asking for a stereo with a Los Tigres del Norte cassette one Christmas. I sat in front of the stereo for hours, listening to my cassette. On one side, there were songs by Los Tigres, and on the other, music by Los Tucanes de Tijuana. That’s when I realised I had a passion for music, but I never saw myself as a vocalist. I began performing with my friend Joaqun on buses and downtown San Ysidro when I was 16 years old in high school. We’d make $100 apiece in two hours by playing for folks waiting to enter the border.
What was his original intention for you?
Jhonny Caz: Isael’s ambition has always been to expand the brand, and he’s always wanted to bring regional Mexican music to new places. So we weren’t only doing new music and videos; we were also making stuff for vlogs, TikTok, and YouTube. Grupo Firme is a little bit of everything, so we needed to be everywhere. We sing anything from cumbia, corridos, and ballads to a version of [Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s] “Tusa.” And that variety should be reflected in our fans.
You went from performing in nightclubs to doing seven performances in a row at the Staples Center. How does an up-and-coming act achieve this?
Eduin: Regional Mexican music is no longer regional. We’re reaching out to a larger audience. We see flags from a variety of Latin American nations at our presentations. Our music is popular among Latinos, not simply among Mexican fans. People want to be a part of this phenomena because they witness seven guys smiling, singing, and sharing a beer or tequila shot. That’s why the Staples Center was packed seven times.
Jhonny: It’s something none of us could have predicted. And there’s no good reason for it. By taking care of our fans and making them a part of our experience, we’re doing things properly. The album’s and tour’s names explain it all.