Everything goes dark. And as the first words to Bad Bunny’s “Tití Me Preguntó” are absorbed through the dusty Coachella air, a chorus of 100,000 voices ring out. Bad Bunny, the first Latino performer to headline the festival, greets the crowd atop a futuristic gas station, a recreation of a viral surprise concert the singer hosted in his native Puerto Rico a couple of months prior. With each song a breathtaking new cascade of lights, screens, and design. The brains behind this otherworldly atmosphere is multi-hyphenate Los Angeles creative Adrian Martinez.
“In this show, we were really trying to figure out how to tell a narrative that connected to Bad Bunny as an artist, and do it in a way that didn’t feel like anything else we had done before,” explains Martinez. “[The gas station] was Bunny’s idea. We figured out how to use those video surfaces to create a perspective play on what the gas station could be, how it could look, and how we could give it depth, and add the background of the entire screen behind him to make it look like something that is far from the Coachella desert.”
This was Martinez’s fifth time working with Bunny on a live show. “It’s always fun working with him and his team, because they are people who really want to push the envelope,” a goal that Martinez is deeply aligned with. He has been pushing his own creative boundaries from day one, always growing, and remaining open to the universe, receptive and ready to move the needle himself.
Martinez was introduced to the music industry by accident. After graduating from college in 2013, he took a job writing for a newspaper in Orange County, a beat reporter covering high school sports. About 6 months later, the paper went bankrupt, leaving him without a clear career path. A moment of profound uncertainty. Having taken photography and editing classes his last semesters of college, and as a lifelong fan of music, he jumped in head-first with his camera in hand, not yet understanding that it would mark a life-altering moment of transition.
Luckily for him, he had friends in the industry, Tyler and Kevin Henry, who are now his partners at STURDY, a 360 creative agency focused on the music industry. “They just always saw the vision with me,” says Martinez of his ‘brothers.’ “They supported me, and helped me whenever there was an opportunity to go shoot something.”
About nine months after that, Martinez got a gig on the G-Eazy tour, shooting for the rapper’s drummer. “We were turning out content every single day. Literally sleeping with my camera in my arms.” From there, he ended up on tour with singer PARTYNEXTDOOR, then directing music videos for the singer before eventually getting to design his show in 2016.
Then everything changed. Martinez found himself at a gig in Brazil with John Mayer—a moment he describes as a turning point in his career. That concert influenced Martinez’s decision to stop focusing purely on content, instead taking on the entirety of the live concert experience. “The John Mayer trip was sick, but my brain was more focused on how the concert was working, not on how I was going to get the best possible shots,” explains Martinez. “As messed up as that sounds, my heart was elsewhere at that point.”
For Martinez, ‘elsewhere’ turned out to be the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. First, in 2017 with Majid Jordan, an impactful moment for Martinez’s career, and then again in 2018, supporting Migos.“When we got to work with Migos, that was another turning point in my career,” he emphasizes, “where I personally started looking at our operation as a real company.” In fact, Migos themselves came up with the name of his company, STURDY. “There was only one word that represented us and our work, which is, at the very least, sturdy. And we only go up from there.”
STURDY’s work ranges from creative direction and production, all the way to the live experience. “When I sit in a room with an artist,” shares Martinez, “I say that we can help put together what their album is, what it looks like on the visual side. We can be a partner creatively to execute the ideas that they have, grow them, and make sure that it’s done not just to the industry standard but way above.”
There have been defining moments in Martinez’s career, but the one he chooses as his proudest work is the Rauw Alejandro tour. “This was the first arena tour that I’ve ever been able to design, direct, and run the show myself, on that level.” The theme of Rauw’s album, Saturno, is a futuristic world, built musically and visually around space, aliens, and the galaxy. “He wanted, design-wise, for there to be a lot of circles,” expands Martinez. “So we were able to build the show around this middle circular screen as the base, with a ring of light that moves up and down and simulates this UFO abduction scene in the middle of the show.”
Moving into new territory, the artist continues, “We also have circular pods that move up and down and tilt, and those act as little UFOs. We have these flying planet drones that revolve around him for a couple songs during the show. And that was pretty cool because not a lot of shows, especially on the arena level, have really done anything like that. Every song that has a visual also has live content blended into it in a very interesting way. So the live content itself frames in, moves around, and plays a part in the visuals. Everything works together and has a purpose.”
Having catapulted onto the scene and stage, Martinez is proud about the work he has done and the growth he has experienced. “We’ve gone from starting the company at five or six people to now having almost 30,” he mentions. “With the people in the building, there isn’t a project we can’t do.” And for the future, he just wants to continue his path of learning, growing, and improving. “The most important thing for me has been being able to speak people’s languages,” concludes Martinez. “Whether I am working with a lighting director, or a 3D animator, or a director of photography, I want to be able to talk and know what I am talking about.” Martinez, now fluent in the arts of creative direction, photography, graphic design, video direction, 3D animation, and spatial design, has proven he can walk the walk, talk the talk, and like the chart-topping musicians he works with, sing the song.
Written by Constanza Falco Raez