Indie Labels Are Driving Regional Mexican Music’s Surge: Here Are 6 That Are Leading the Pack
Just a couple of years removed from regional Mexican music’s debut on the Billboard Hot 100, there’s at least one common thread running through the genre’s sudden surge in mainstream popularity: Independent labels, not the majors, are leading the way.
It was a big deal when, in May 2021, Gera MX and Christian Nodal‘s country-tinged “Botella Tras Botella” became the first regional Mexican song to hit the Hot 100, where it debuted at No. 60 — and the genre’s presence on the chart has only exploded since. Overall, música mexicana is having a record year, with consumption for the genre jumping 42.1% so far in 2023, topping all but K-pop, which is up 49.4% year to date. As of July 15, 2023, a total of 27 regional Mexican tracks have entered the tally this year alone, and most of those songs — including Eslabón Armado and Peso Pluma’s “Ella Baila Sola,” which made history by entering the top five of the chart — were released by indie labels.
Historically, indies have played an outsized role in launching the careers of regional Mexican heavy hitters, including Pepe Aguilar, Jenni and Lupillo Rivera, Banda MS, Carin Leon, Natanael Cano and Grupo Firme. Today, with a social media-first mentality and non-traditional marketing strategies, they continue to dominate the field – albeit at a higher level than ever before. Not that major labels are entirely absent from the equation: Over the years, some indie labels, including Rancho Humilde (Junior H, Natanael Cano) and Lumbre Music (Yahritza Y Su Esencia), have partnered with the majors to help their artists reach a wider audience.
Below, we run down six Mexican music indie labels that have fueled the genre’s surge on the Hot 100.
Founded in 2009 and based in Los Angeles, DEL Records has been home to Mexican music titans such as Gerardo Ortiz and Ariel Camacho Y Los Plebes del Rancho. Now, with a new crop of artists including Eslabon Armado, Lenin Ramírez, Los Del Limit and T3R Elemento, DEL has cemented its stronghold on the genre. Eslabon Armado’s “Ella Baila Sola” with Peso Pluma instantly became a hit and broke a number of records when it was released earlier this year. On the Hot 100, it peaked at No. 4, making it the first Mexican music song to enter the top 10 on the chart. In May, the Mexican-American group, led by singer-songwriter Pedro Tovar, also scored its sixth No. 1 album on the Regional Mexican Albums chart with Desvelado, which additionally peaked at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums tally (dated May 13). According to the company, DEL Records does not have partnerships with any major labels.
Other notable artists: Ulices Chaidez, Panchito Arredondo, Cheli Madrid
The West Coast powerhouse launched in 2008 by Jimmy Humilde and business partners José Becerra and Roque Venegas is behind corridos tumbados pioneer Natanael Cano and is credited on Hot 100 charting songs by Cano (“AMG” and “PRC”), Junior H (“Fin De Semana”) and Fuerza Regida (“Bebe Dame” and “Ch Y La Pizza”). In 2019, the label signed a worldwide distribution deal with Cinq Music; a year later, it entered a partnership with Warner Music Latina, with Atlantic Records signing on as a “key ally” for Junior H and Cano. “I understand that Warner has a way bigger reach and experience than we do,” CEO Humilde said then. Last year, the label’s urban corrido group, Fuerza Regida, signed with Sony Music Latin through a partnership with Rancho Humilde.
Other notable artists: Ivonne Galáz, Movida Distinta, Nuevo Armamento
Street Mob Records
Founded by Fuerza Regida frontman Jesús Ortiz Paz around five years ago, the West Coast-based label has co-released (alongside Rancho Humilde) Hot 100-charting Fuerza Regida tracks like “Bebe Dame” (with Grupo Frontera), “Ch Y La Pizza” (with Natanael Cano) and “Igualito A Mi Apá” (with Peso Pluma) as well as Chino Pacas’ “El Gordo Trae El Mando,” which peaked at No. 58. Following in the footsteps of Rancho Humilde, this year, Street Mob signed a worldwide deal with Cinq Music to distribute the label and expand its opportunities in branding, sponsorships, merchandising and synchronization. The pact will also include new talent discovery.
Other notable artists: Calle 24, Chuy Montana, Juanpa Salazar
California-based label Lumbre Music hasn’t been around for long, having launched in 2019. But it’s already made a splash on the charts thanks to signee Yahritza Y Su Esencia, which scored the label’s first entry on the Hot 100 last year with the trio’s debut single, “Soy El Único.” This year, Lumbre returned to the tally with “Frágil,” a collaboration between Yahritza Y Su Esencia and Grupo Frontera produced by hit maker Edgar Barrera that peaked at No. 69. Last year, Yahritza Y Su Esencia made the jump to a major Stateside label by signing with Columbia Records in partnership with Lumbre and Sony Music Latin. “Yahritza Y Su Esencia made something that we just want to amplify because we think they’re doing something special for the genre,” Columbia senior vp of A&R Julian Swirsky previously told Billboard. “We want to help globalize the sound, that’s our main role here, aside from helping them with certain partnerships or certain collaborations.”
Other notable artists: Omar Rodríguez, Nivel Codiciado, Legado 7
The relatively new label was founded in February 2022 by producer and songwriter Edgar Barrera, who tells Billboard he launched the Miami-based company “because I want to create a safe space to cultivate emerging artists, to create with them, to collaborate with them, to guide them on their journey in the music industry.” A joint venture with Sony Music Latin, BorderKid is the label home to Grupo Frontera, who have entered five tracks on the Hot 100 this year, including “un x100to” with Bad Bunny, which peaked at No. 5 on the tally in May.
Other notable artists: Alex Luna, Neeus
Double P Records/Prajin Records
Founded by veteran executive George Prajin, Prajin Records is home to Mexican music’s biggest star today: Peso Pluma. Distributed by The Orchard, the label signed Pluma in 2021, bolstering the Mexican corrido singer’s global career. Since breaking out earlier this year with collabs such as sierreño anthem “Ella Baila Sola” with Eslabon Armado and a remix of Yng Lvcas’ reggaeton track “La Bebe,” Pluma is leading the charge with his signature corridos, powered by distinctive instruments such as the trombone and tololoche. In April, he launched Double P Records — where he serves as CEO/ head of A&R — as a subsidiary of Prajin (all of his music since has been jointly released by Double P and Prajin). So far, Pluma has placed 20 songs on the Hot 100 and, with his third studio album, Génesis, which was released in June, he broke Bad Bunny’s 24-title record by placing 25 simultaneous tracks on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart — a record the Puerto Rican star had held since May 2022.
Other notable artists: Jasiel Nuñez, Raúl Vega, Tito Laija