THE BUSINESS OF SALSA II: Luis Mendoza is a mover and shaker when it comes to the business of Latin music in the Bay Area. Five years ago, he created Ticketfiesta.com, one of the few Latino-owned ticket outlets in the United States, and set a foundation that has established him as an entrepreneur to watch around the SF Bay. Most recently, he connected with several partners to form Montuno Productions, an organization dedicated to presenting world-class salsa on the West Coast. In the month of August he produced dance concerts with Andy Montanez and La Sonora Poncena and in September will be presenting Luisito Ayala & Puerto Rican Power. In his mid-40s, Mendoza is drawing from his Boricua heritage for his inspiration and sharing it with the Bay Area. Recently I sat down with Mendoza for a conversation about his activities and role in promoting and uplifting Latin music around the Bay Area and the West Coast.
Jesse Varela: Congratulations on the success of Ticketfiesta.com and what it's doing to help promote Latin music and culture around the Bay Area. Now you are leaping forward as a promoter with Montuno Productions, what led you to promoting your own events?
Luis Mendoza: Since I started Ticketfiesta.com I have worked with many promoters who were putting on many different kind of shows. Slowly but surely I became interested in the promotion business as well and started contacting different bands. Having worked with other promoters I had learned the ropes and decided to try to do some shows. There are two sides to my motivation, obviously the business side and my passion for the music. Having grown up in Puerto Rico I was very lucky that at my high school parties we had great artists who performed for us like El Gran Combo, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, and many others. When I decided to step into promotion I came in with a plan to bring in the big names in salsa. I've had a lot of people teach me along the way from the old school but it was the legendary Julio Mercedes of Salsarengue Productions who opened the doors for me. The Orellano Brothers at Roccapulco and Julius Melendez, who is a partner in Montuno Productions, have also helped me tremendously.
JV: I applaud you for your efforts because a few years ago we had a drought of music from Puerto Rico. It became more expensive to transport and keep up the bands as well as to pay them their requested fees. How is it now? Is there a different climate of appreciation for...