Rubén Abellán, 34, is a senior expert in Spanish geography. “There were days when I played in Huelva and the next day in Teruel. I ate a few trips like that in a truck. You spend weeks away from home,” says this singer, who remembers his days as an orchestra singer. Now he leads a tribute band with three identities: A contracorriente, when he covers El Canto del Loco; animals, when sloth plays; and Marcha back, a mixture of pop and rock in Spanish. On Sunday, July 24, he sang sport shoesAnd the Joseph’s mother also kisses In Valdeavero, the city of Madrid of 1,500 inhabitants on the border with Guadalajara. “The audience gives up, they know all the songs.” This summer they also encouraged him in El Tiemblo (Avila), Novalas (Zaragoza) or Tudela (Navarra). José Sirigu, 31, singer of the Super Hollywood Orchestra, adds: “You travel so much that it’s only natural that you get the name of the city wrong on stage. It happened to me once and you don’t see how it pisses them off.”
The distance between the locations where they perform is not the only problem for these artists. They also work almost every day. “I’ve had months of 25 performances. Maribel Olmedo, 28, explains what cities have always celebrated. Now he sings in honor of Van Gogh’s ear, in which he has slowed.” But I spent eight years in the Louisa Orchestra where I didn’t stop in the summer. He’s very, very tired,” he explains. Robin Abilan adds: “In those shows, you put in a lot of physical effort. Assemble and disassemble the team at each location in the heat, every day, and then for hours on stage. There are rounds in which I lost weight.”
Orchestra performances are long, sometimes six or seven hours. Olmedo continues: It gives time for “some people in the public, a few, to get drunk too much.” “Often in the morning they do not control. I have experienced very unpleasant situations, very sexist. This is not the norm but it happened to me.” Jose Manuel Esteban, 45, a member of the Nuevo Compass Orchestra, witnessed similar situations: “I’ve seen men overdo it with mates, macho drunks messing with them.” It’s not the only conflict Esteban has experienced with his band: “At night, without protection, things happen. We once asked some drunkards about our instruments, and since we didn’t give them to them, they kicked us off the stage.”
Abellán and Olmedo changed orchestras for tribute ensembles, with fewer dates and short concerts. “You end up needing it for your personal life. You miss a lot: get-togethers with friends, family, vacations…”, says Abilan, Olmedo’s romantic partner. “I started in the orchestra when I was 17, which is the age when you want to party a lot. I did it because I love singing and theater, but at the same time I wanted to go with my friends. You don’t see your family because you sleep during the day, and when you wake up, your mood is not the same. Best, you can’t sleep at night… your rhythm changes,” Olmedo adds. “You live behind you more than the rest of the world. While they are resting we work. It’s hard to bear if you have a family and want a normal half-life. In the summer it is,” says Fernando Ramos, 49, who sings in Cadiz the night he attends this newspaper. “It’s much clearer.” “The next day we go to Jerez and along with the Quintana de la Serena (Badajoz),” says the Retroversión orchestra official. “Usually we move within a radius of about 200 km, but if they call us we go to Oviedo. Little happens because they have to pay you for petrol.” They also perform on special occasions such as weddings.
This summer is especially tough for these artists. For various reasons: “The municipalities want to take back what they couldn’t do during the pandemic. This is crazy. Between August 1 and 17, we have 14 performances,” notes Isidoro Lopez, 73, president of the Hollywood Super Orchestra. “I’ve been at this for many years and this summer I’m working harder than ever.” He continues, “In addition, there will be municipal elections next year. All mayors want to leave a good taste in the mouths of voters after two years without parties. Whoever spent 10 now spends 12.” Than relying on the public, the better. Everyone pays instantly except them, which takes 60 days and sometimes more. “It’s embarrassing,” Ramos adds. “There is now a lot of work even in winter: If it’s not for patron saint festivities, it’s for the chestnut festival in November,” Esteban says. According to Lopez, the increase in demand coincides with a decrease in supply: “Many orchestras have closed their doors during the pandemic. Members have looked for other professions and this means that those of us who have endured have a lot of work.”
At the moment, according to Lopez, this does not affect the price charged by the orchestra. We were afraid after the epidemic [el 75% de los músicos de España experimentó una contracción del 90% de su actividad en 2020, según la Unión de Músicos Profesionales], so we closed almost all dates in November 2021 at a lower price than we could ask for now. Thus, a change in status does not improve the salaries of musicians either. The artists consulted for this report talk about a range of €100-250 per concert. “In the summer we get 60% of the year’s salary,” Sirigu adds.
For some music it is complementary, as for Olmedo and Abellán, teachers between September and June. For others, like Javier Estrogo, 41, it’s their only source of income. “To survive you have to do everything,” explains this drummer, who plays in eight different bands and teaches this instrument. “It’s hard to get along, but with alternatives you can do it. Sometimes I have to do two concerts on the same day,” he explains. “It’s an unsafe life, you don’t have stability in other jobs. Those years of the pandemic have been very difficult, but others earn so much more. You learn to live with it and you make up for it. We all would like everything to be clear in the long run, but then I think of How much I love my job, traveling in the truck from one place to another and congratulating myself.”
The optimal contractual scenario for this type of artist, explains Estrugo, is “they sign you, and they hire you for show day; but that’s the least common.” Esteban narrates the rest of the options: “You can be self-employed and get billed for that day, which doesn’t reimburse you for months due to high fees. It might be that the performance comes to you through an agent that stays around 20%. Another option is to be part of the artists’ cooperative, So you don’t have to be a self-employer (they charge you about 7%.) Another possibility, more common than they should be, is to get paid in B. A lot happened with town halls 15 or 20 years ago, and now it’s It’s not common.”
“The world of music is very beautiful, you enjoy it a lot, but for artists like us, it has a very complicated part,” continues Esteban, who distinguishes between “the celebrity” in their dressing room “even the fruit they pick” and “that we don’t have towels.” Nor Catering, or anything; If you do not have time for dinner, you are looking for life.” This is how innovative solutions, such as those of Abelán and his comrades, appear since the tribute to El Canto del Loco. They have changed in the public hall of the Valdeavero City Council.
This is the fifth chapter in the Unstable Summer series, which presents testimonials from workers in particularly stressed or challenging sectors during July and August. If you want to share your testimonial, you can do so by mail firstname.lastname@example.org.