The Caliente Column

Discos Sabinas Branches Out
By Doug Shannon (

Discos Sabinas (Disa) has been Mexico's largest grupo and norten~o
label for decades. Founded by Don Domingo Chavez, who passed away in
1993, the Monterrey-based company has signed such luminaries as

Most of Disa's artists have traditionally been licensed to L.A.-based
FonoVisa records in the U.S., but ever since 1990, when Disa
International began operating in the U.S., it's been able to hold on to
a good portion of its acts. Its current best sellers include BRYNDIS,
LOS REYES LOCOS, LADRON, and ZARKO, whose debut CD "Hoy Se Casa Mi Amor"
has sold over 50,000 copies in the U.S. in less than six months.

However, the Monterrey office calls most of the shots on who to sign
and what videos to make.

Though some of Disa Mexico's biggest acts are signed to FonoVisa,
promoter Jose Vasquez says he believes that Disa International stands
a good chance of reclaiming them once their contracts expire.

He joined Disa after working for Management Plus, an agency that has
managed the careers of acts such as ESTRELLA and JORGE ALEJANDRO, among
others. Last summer Alejandro became the first Tejano act to sign with

Vasquez says that FonoVisa seems to have a monopoly at times.

"If a station plays FonoVisa's songs eight times an hour and Disa's
songs once an hour, I'm not doing my job as a promoter because FonoVisa
has such an investment in that radio station," he said.

The label's most ambitious project is its current expansion into the
Tejano, salsa, and international markets--simultaneously! Vasquez
says the label is taking a big risk and spending a lot of money up
front. However, they believe that over time they can develop these
acts, such as KGB, LOS DODOS, and LEO ALEJANDRO, into successes.

In addition, Disa Mexico has signed the hot young Tejano group
Albert Zamora y Talento, though the band famous for "La Prieta Casada"
remains at Hacienda Records in the U.S.

As a promoter, Vasquez's job is to get Disa's singles into good,
heavy rotation on stations throughout Texas. This requires traveling
frequently--and not just to the major markets of Dallas-Fort Worth,
Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso. It's also important to get
cooperation from stations in growing cities such as Odessa, San Angelo,
Lubbock, and others.

Loyal program directors are rewarded by being able to book the label's
hottest groups at dances or festivals at very low cost. From Houston's
Cinco de Mayo festival to San Antonio's Hispanic State Fair, there
are plenty of opportunities for this kind of promotion.

Another way in which Disa plugs its artists is by buying airtime on
selected stations. In Chicago, it has a half-hour program called
"Grupomania." Any of you familiar with the powerhouse AM stations in
Northern Mexico know that "Disa owns the night." In blocks that
sometimes last two-and-a-half hours, Disa pays to have its artists
played over and over again, night after night, on radio stations
whose signals can reach from Oaxaca to Dakota if the weather's good.

Videos are now becoming a key part of a promotional package, and
Disa has relied heavily on Ovidio Teleproductions in recent years
to produce its artists' videoclips. Ovidio Rodriguez airs them on his
Telemundo show, "Tu Onda," and the videos are also sent to other shows
such as "Onda Max."