You gotta watch the video. (Update: Ugh, Sony BMG has stupidly geo-blocked most of the world from viewing this video on YouTube.
Josh Kun has a piece in the New York Times about the Mexican cumbia band Los Pikadientes de Caborca, who hail from Mexico's Sonora region. Their crazy ride to stardom and a major label contract was sparked by a cellphone ringtone for the song featured in that video, above.
Last year Los Pikadientes de Caborca recorded "La Cumbia del Río" — a bare-boned singalong about dancing and partying by the side of a local river — on a home computer, uploaded it to their cellphones and, with help from Bluetooth and Memory Sticks, shared it with friends. The song quickly went viral, and its grass-roots popularity led to heavy rotation on radio stations across Sonora; before long, cellphone videos of people dancing to the song were flooding YouTube.
Los Pikadientes had no record label, but suddenly they were the digital darlings of regional Mexican music, with a hit on both sides of the border.
Sony offered the band a record deal and rereleased "La Cumbia del Río," which spent six weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Regional Mexican chart. The song's ring tone sold more than 150,000 copies in the United States, and the band released a debut album, "Vámonos Pa'l Río," which was nominated for a 2008 Grammy. The song is still on the Latin charts.
"We have to be honest; we wouldn't exist without cellphones and ring tones," said Francisco Gonzalez (who goes by the single name Pancho) of Los Pikadientes, whose new album is scheduled for June, complete with an elaborate ring-tone marketing plan. "We ended up doing eight months of promotion in the United States because of that one song. We're the ultimate cellphone success story."
Update 2: Jose Marquez from holamun2.com says,
Happy to see the Mexican Village People on BoingBoing. :-) here's a TV interview they did with us in February. And here is a text interview with them from last October. And finally, we also worked with the band to make their first video before the label had a chance to. The guy in the video works in I.T. at NBC Universal.