For most established acts, the switch from major label to indie requires adjustment. But for Mexican romantic duo Los Temerarios, the shift, after a decade with regional Mexican giant Fonovisa (now part of Universal Music Latin Entertainment), hasn’t been so dramatic.
That’s because Los Temerarios’ Adolfo — composer, producer and businessman — and Gustavo Angel — the voice that gives life to his older brother’s creations — have always licensed their albums instead of signing with a label (save for a brief moment at the beginning of their 35-year career), keeping the rights to and control over their masters. Now, as they prepare for the Oct. 16 release of “Mi Vida Sin Ti” (“My Life Without You”), their first independent project since 1997, the brothers are simply doing what they know: recording, promoting and selling their own music.
“We made the decision to be independent over 20 years ago and created our own label, AFG Sigma Records, which distributed our albums for several years,” Adolfo says, referring to a period (1990-97) when Los Temerarios rose to prominence to become Mexico’s top-selling romantic group. In 1997, they signed a licensing agreement with Fonovisa, which distributed the act and also bolstered it with aggressive radio and TV promotion, helping establish the two as superstars. Still, Adolfo says, “In today’s music industry, it’s not necessary to sign licensing agreements. So we’re doing everything ourselves through our new label, Virtus.”
Virtus will release “Mi Vida Sin Ti” through distribution deals with two indies: Select-O-Hits for the United States and Puerto Rico and CD Regia — the Mexican distribution company owned by former Disa owner German Chavez — in Mexico. Produced by Adolfo with Rudy Perez, the 10-track set hews close to Los Temerarios’ signature mix of wistful love songs with arrangements that veer from traditional Mexican (cambia, ranchera and the keyboard-heavy sound associated with Mexican romantic groups) to sophisticated pop, a duality no one else in their sphere embraces. “Mi Vida Sin Ti” more than ever showcases Gustavo’s high, expressive tenor.
“They’ve really returned to their roots,” says Perez (Christina Aguilera, Julio Iglesias), who began working with Los Temerarios several albums ago because they wanted to attract a pop audience that went beyond their traditional regional Mexican listenership. This time around, Perez says, “we fused their new, more pop sound with the past. Adolfo is a genius at knowing his brand and what his audience likes. Many times he’ll say, ‘We can’t do that because my audience won’t get it.’ And that’s really important with a group as big as this one.”
Los Temerarios have notched eight No. 1s on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, more than any other group in any genre in the history of the tally. In addition, they’ve notched 22 top 10 albums, plus four chart toppers on Hot Latin Songs, including the first ranchera to hit No. 1. All told, they’ve had 41 chart hits.
The success is in no small part due to the enterprising nature of the brothers, who started their careers self-releasing their own music, a formula their reggaeton counterparts would follow years later. “I would take our little demos to every label, and they’d all say, ‘Come back next month,'” recalls Adolfo, who was barely in his teens when the duo first started to record. “Since no one wanted us, we released our own albums to sell at our gigs. Then we started taking the singles to radio and we’d drop off the albums in consignment at the local record stores. When we started selling 5,000, 6,000 copies, suddenly they wanted to sign us.”
Now, more than 30 years later, “Mi Vida Sin Ti” is being handled with that same spirit. To support the release, Los Temerarios have assembled a team of people they’ve long worked with, including former Fonovisa marketing VP Alberto Del Castillo, who handles marketing and promotion through his company In Motion, and former Univision Music Group head of sales Jeff Young, who oversees sales and marketing through his company, Venetian Marketing Group. The Angels’ manager is Mayra Alba, their cousin, who has long worked with them and books their tours.
Key to the release, Young says, is a low retail price of $8.99-$9.99 at most outlets. “We thought it was the right thing to do,” he says. “They’ve been out of the market four years and we wanted to give a good value.” Although Los Temerarios filmed a Walmart “Acceso Total” special and their album will be the anchor of the retailer’s Oct. 16 release slate, they’re not giving any retailer exclusivity nor are they releasing special editions tied to specific retailers.
The same applies to radio. The title track/single is only being worked in its original grupero/pop version. But, Del Castillo says, a major plus is the duo’s current 68-date U.S. tour, on which it’s playing venues in the 4,000- to 6,000-seat range. It’s the act’s biggest stateside trek, and will allow for promotion at every stop. That kind of following, Perez says, makes the difference. “A group with such a loyal fan base will never have a problem, regardless of what’s happening in the industry,” he says. “Those fans are going to support them, always.”