LAMC 101: Intro to the Latin Alternative Music Conference

LAMC founder Tomas Cookman / photo courtesy of Cookman International

New York City continuously seizes to amaze millions, notably for its unmatched entertainment empire. Summer just rolled in, and with that, New Yorkers and visitors expect tons of riveting shows to occur like every year. If you’re familiar with its music festivities, know a thing or two about the Latin alternative scene and know the difference between Bonnaroo and Vive Latino, then surely you’ve got the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) pinned down. But there’s a good chance you don’t know beyond the acronyms, or simply define it as the Latino SXSW or Latin CMJ. If your case is the latter, don’t worry. Let us guide you through it and give you the 101 on LAMC.

What is LAMC?

Though the LAMC is a critically acclaimed event that celebrates the Latin music scene, it’s actually normal to encounter music fest-goers who aren’t too familiar with it. Mainly because 1) they’ve never been to New York, 2) are not too exposed to the Latin alternative milieu. Whatever the case is, here’s a brief rundown.

Firstly, LAMC is a five-consecutive-day summer series of live music and panel discussions–this year commencing July 9-13. Yes, a bunch of Latino artists perform in all of the showcases who obviously play Latin alternative music, and yes again, they are based anywhere in Latin America, Spain or the U.S.

But who’s behind it, why does it exist, and how did it come about?

LAMC was founded by entrepreneur Tomas Cookman, CEO and founder of Nacional Records, in 2000–same year as Vive Latino and Latin Grammys. It emerged during a pivotal time when newer sounds of Latin music sought a more appropriate place to reside, outside of conventional Latin categorizations (regional, pop, rock en Español, etc.). Cookman was already responsible for importing and representing Latin alternative heavyweights like Manu Chao, Aterciopelados, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and other wunderkinds to the U.S. audience via his management and thriving label bringing the “New Sounds of Latin Music”–National’s slogan.

In a convo with Cookman, he recalls, “A little over 14 years ago, I noticed that a lot of the general market conferences were having Latino panels. They were more often than not about the genres of music that I was working with, supporting and championing–and they were well attended. That got a conversation going and before you knew it, the first LAMC was announced.”

Thereafter, Cookman with Nacional Records have been accountable for groundbreaking newer artists into the US such as luminary techno newcomers Bomba Estereo, Nortec Collective, Mexican Institute of Sound, The Pinker Tones among countless more. But when it comes to LAMC performers, not all of them are part of the Nacional roster. Some include artists from Latin American indie labels you probably never heard of like Quemasucabeza (Gepe), Arts&CraftsMX (Torreblanca, Delorean) to corporate major ones that everyone knows like Sony (Calle 13, Julieta Venegas) and Universal (Mala Rodriguez).

Another important thing to know that often gets misconceived is that…

LAMC 2013 happens July 9-13 in New York City.

LAMC isn’t your Latino SXSW or CMJ

Sure, all three above have similar formats (e.g. live showcases, panels, badges, etc.), but very different agendas. SXSW is focused on showcasing local and international music in Texas’ culturally renowned music-heavy city, Austin–a focal point and key differentiator. And CMJ Music Festival introduces college radio, industry types and the audience groundbreaking music around the world across Manhattan and Brooklyn.

So how is LAMC different from these? Three words: Latin alternative music. It is more than just a “Latin” genre but a subculture and an attitude, which we’ll shortly get to. To Tomas Cookman, he explains, “The beauty of it all is that [all music conferences] are important and serve their purposes. It would not make sense for there to be just one outlet for all this creativity. Imagine only the Cannes Film Festival but no Sundance or Toronto Film Festival. The same goes with the Billboard Latin Music Conference [which covers only Latin POP (Shakira, J Lo)]. Music is so varied and markets are so complex that it is key that there are professional and well-run events for people to get together and show what they are all about.”

So what is the LAMC all about? It’s about Latin alternative.

Now, Latin alternative is a fairly new subculture and music genre for the mainstream. Technically, neither “Latin” nor “alternative” are actually real music genres, but as my colleague Matt Barbot of Remezcla puts it, they are “umbrellas covering tons of different styles that have some basic things in common.” Under those umbrellas we’ll see that ñu-cumbia is like cumbia with newer elements, reggaeton and moombahton are totally different sounds and styles, and rock doesn’t have to be ‘en Español’ or is not limited to be. For these reasons and more ‘Latin alternative’ exceeds the categorization of what ‘Latin music’ was considered to be by the mainstream.

But really, it takes way more than a paragraph to explain it all, and Cookman knows that pretty well. He states, “Defining Latin alternative is a full time job as “rock” can be (and all the genres within that broad word). It’s hip-hop (and all its variations), electronica, reggae, tropical… well, just about anything. It’s about wanting something new” He reassures that it’s not just a sound but also an attitude and a feeling, as opposed to being defined by a drumbeat or rhythm. So you see, the spectrum of Latin alternative is very wide with a bright, evolving, and promising future ahead of it.

So what should you expect at LAMC?

First thing to do is reserve your badge. This will guarantee your entry for those five days. It will include access to the press area, panel discussions, and interaction area, all held at the New Yorker Hotel. Here, lots of networking, mingling, and publicity exposure occurs as well as knowledge gaining in the panel room addressing today’s most sought-after topics and debates in the music and media industry. You’ll also notice tons of industry types waiting to sign the next Calle 13, and others aiming for the latest exclusives on Los Rakas, Astro, Natalia Lafourcade… Surely, expect to attend indie and acoustic showcases, massive outdoor concerts, and more, all held in Central Park’s Summerstage, The Mercury Lounge, Crotona Park, S.O.B.’s, Gramercy Theatre, and Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn.

Indeed, this 2013 will be a bit different then those proceeding because LAMC is expanding not just in music but also in film, books, spoken word and food. Cookman informs us that this is the first year of LAMC Latin Tastes of New York. He says, “We continue to grow year after year and it is our goal to make this the center of all things cool and Latino every year. For one week in July, whatever your art is, you can celebrate it in New York.” And as the saying goes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

Now that you got the 101 on LAMC, we await to see you there. Check out the full lineup here and for more info visit

Isabela Raygoza

Isabela Raygoza is an indie music enthusiast who is on a lifelong search for discovering new sounds. She was born and raised in the borderlands of Tijuana/San Diego, and was exposed to a musical hybridity as a child working in flea markets and also impersonating Mexican pop artists as a kid in carnivals. Fast forward many years, she received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and M.A. from New York University. As a writer, music critic and musician, her works have appeared on MTV Iggy, Remezcla, VICE, NPR's KPCC, Latina Magazine, and Bitch Magazine.

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