The BPM Festival’s Craig Pettigrew: Creating the Ibiza of the Western Hemisphere

The BPM Festival, held every January in Playa del Carmen, Mexico has become the destination festival. Spanning 10 days, the lineups don’t feature the usual Jumbotron EDM names. Instead, the primarily house and techno talent is geared toward the refined tastes of the more discerning dance music lover, one that enjoys the subtle daytime grooves—that aren’t necessarily accompanied by overflowing bikinis—as much as tropical nighttime rhythms that go into the early hours.

This year BPM celebrates 10 amazing years of going from strength-to-strength, yet managing to increase the quality of the experience while maintaining the festival’s underground aesthetic. Even though you can probably hear a bassline going 24 hours a day wherever you may be in Playa del Carmen during BPM’s run, it’s not a table-service-and-champagne environment. Far more low-key than that, it is more about walking down the street with a beer or a Mexican bloody Mary and dipping into a wide range of curated events. One of BPM’s founders, Craig Pettigrew, talks about how BPM went from a wintertime vacation spot for his native Canadians, an Ibiza for the Western Hemisphere if you will, to an international music destination.



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BPM is an experience that requires some disposable income. What is the make-up of your crowd?

We have people that do the full 10 days, and we offer the 10-day wristband, but the majority of the business, to be honest, is three-day wristbands for the opening and/or closing weekends, and individual tickets for each event, which this year is 86 events over the course of the festival. The majority of our sales come from the US, with Los Angeles and New York being the two strongest cities. Mexico is the second. They typically buy event tickets, and we offer discounts and do things for the locals so they can attend. England is also super-strong as our third highest-selling country, plus there are direct flights from London, the timing is right, and the money is right.


You have many events that are curated by DJs or labels. How has this influenced BPM’s character?

I believe in participation. The reason why BPM has grown is people get to participate. I don’t dictate what’s best for them. They tell me what they think is best for them. That’s been to our advantage because we get to hear a whole bunch of new DJs that I probably wouldn’t have booked if I was doing the booking myself. Now there’s a chance for them to be showcased on an international level and that’s across the board. But not every event is like that. We have our signature Ya’ah Muul events and our closing parties, and a couple of events here and there that we book.


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What are some key changes you’ve noticed over the 10 years, both positive and negative?

As we grow, we can add more things to the festival that we couldn’t have budget-wise in the beginning. One thing we’re very proud of is our sound system, which we bring from the US. It’s the best in the world for a festival with house music. We couldn’t have done that the first, second, third or fourth year. If you’re going to a music festival, sound is important.

When we started doing the festival, it was 1000 people over the course of the week. You would see the same people at every event. It had this intimacy where people were getting a chance to know each other. You’d make new friends. It was really the inception of something. And there weren’t so many rules. When you first start something that’s small, it’s very easy to do things that are a little bit more edgy. Now, we have to do things by the book, for public safety, to make sure we’re following the law. That’s one thing I wish I could go back to, the rawness of throwing a festival for the first year where you can take chances and things are a little crazier and the venues are a little more different.


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What are some things to look forward that are special to the 10-year anniversary?

A lot of returning artists, people that have been supporting us from day one are coming back. Carl Cox, the techno godfather, we’re super excited to have him. He doesn’t play in Mexico too often, two or three times in the last 10 years, so for him to come and play for us is something really special. We’re doing a lot of back-to-backs at the Ya’ah Muul events. The second one is Martinez Brothers, Seth Troxler, and local guys. Something unique that people won’t necessarily get a chance to see every day. There are a lot of cool label showcases that we haven’t had before like Kompakt, who I’m a huge fan of. And we have a really exciting closing party with some heavy hitters that we’re going to announce artist-by artist over the course of the festival.

We’re launching a new series called Solamente. The vision is to take it back to when I first started going out and I’d hear Danny Tenaglia or Junior Vasquez playing from start to finish. People are focused on set time. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about hearing someone play records from 10pm ‘til 9am. This year we’re lucky to have the Martinez Brothers do it for us. That’s going to be exciting over the next couple of years, to get behind DJs that can do those sets and really get a chance to showcase that.





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