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The found musicians: The regeneration of the union of musicians in Galicia? – Zósimo López


In today’s blog post Zósimo López, of the University of Santiago de Compostela, discusses the historical and currrent formulation of musicians’ organisations in Galicia, Spain, along with the impact of the wider economy on collective labour activities in the music industries.


This post is a response to a conference the author attended on 14th and 15th January 2016 – entitled ‘Working in Music: The Musicians’ Union, musical labour and employment’, held in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library under the leadership of Professor Martin Cloonan and Dr. John Williamson.

This academic gathering allowed me to reflect upon how important it is to have some kind of organisation to bring professional musicians together and, in particular, on examples of such organisations in a specific local context. I reflect here on the short period of time, between 1977 and 1983, when Galicia had its own musicians’ union (the Sindicato Galego da Música) which represented musicians of all genres. I then discuss the current socio-economic situation in the live music business in Galicia and a series of interesting initiatives which aspire to create a future for this sector, such as the founding of the association of musicians named ‘Músicos ao vivo’.

The case of Galicia: the historical context

The Sindicato Galego da Música (SGM) was founded in 1977, with more enthusiasm than professionalism, and contained musicians from a variety of genres, ranging from rock bands, jazz bands and folk acts to Galician live party bands. This trade union was concerned with offering protection to professionals working in the performing arts of the time. Although the majority of its members were musicians, there were also ventriloquists, magicians, puppeteers, etc. It mediated in conflicts in which musicians were affected, especially those relating to issues of non-payment by promoters. The SGM even had its own booking agency for affiliated musicians, with 578 contracts being signed in 1981 with a value of 176 million pesetas. This trade union also established a presence on a national level, forming part of the CIESM (Confederación Intersindical Española de Sindicatos de Músicas y Musicales), as well as internationally by collaborating regularly and fluidly with the musician’s union of Portugal. However, the SGM, along with its 2,000 affiliates, lost its independence when, in 1983, it was integrated into a larger trade union, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO).

Following this merger, the area of CCOO which was dedicated to musicians was given several names and gradually lost its identity and area of specialisation as it came to include stage actors, illustrators, graphic designers, etc.

Nowadays, in 2016, two associations can be found in the area of event management and production. On the one hand, there is the Asociación Galega de Empresas Musicais (AGEM) (the Galician Association of Musical Companies), which was set up in 2007 in order to defend the professional interests of companies providing services in the area of live music in Galicia, including producers, promoters, managers and agents. Currently, there are around 15 companies associated to this group. In addition, working in the fields of infrastructure and logistics for events, there is the Asociación Galega de Servicios para Eventos (AGASE) (the Galician Association of Events Services), which was set up in 2005 and currently comprises 30 companies working in the areas of design, management, light, sound and image equipment (both setting up and providing technical services) and the production of cultural and entertainment events. Thanks to the joint efforts of these two associations (AGEM and AGASE) and in cooperation with the trade unions Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) and Central Intersindical Galega (CIG), the collective labour agreement for cultural events, services and productions for the autonomous region of Galicia was passed on 14th April 2015.

Over the course of recent years, and possibly due to the instability brought about by the economic crisis, several dedicated musicians’ associations have sprung up. First of all, mention should be made of the two associations for musicians belonging to Galician live party bands, the “Asociación Galega de Orquestas” and the “Asociación de músicos y cantantes de verbena galega”. To provide some context for this, it should be mentioned that, in Galicia, the majority of professional musicians who have worked, or work, in this region belong to “live party bands” or “dance bands” playing popular music in which Latin rhythms are predominant (cumbia, merengue bachata, bolero, pasodoble, etc.). In 1983, it was estimated that there were around 500 of these groups performing in Galicia. In 2013, 624 Galician live party groups were accounted for in an industry worth €26 million, directly employing some 4,000 people.

The current situation

Músicos ao Vivo is perhaps the modern association which has gained most media coverage. This organisation was set up at the end of 2008 with the aim of providing a forum to bring together the professional concerns of live performers. It currently has approximately 350 members and has achieved many of its aims, such as:

  • Creating and maintaining the system of invoicing and registering in the Social Security system within the labour normalisation plan for Galician musicians;
  • Regularly offering training programmes;
  • Setting up the Federación Española de Músicos Asociados (FEMA) (the Spanish Federation of Associated Musicians) in order to defend the sector on a national scale, in collaboration with other associations within Spain such as Musicat (Catalonia), MusXXI (Madrid), Umtrade (Madrid) and Promusic (the Canary Islands).

In terms of media attention, however, one of its greatest achievements has been to promote the “Martín Códax” Awards for music as a means of providing visibility to a large number of musical projects created in Galicia or by Galician musicians. This awards ceremony is sponsored by a well-known Galician wine producer and has been running for three years. Up to the present time, awards have been given to musical projects in 15 different categories and visibility has been provided to 521 different projects.

The economic crisis, then, has led to a new desire for reinvention, which seems to be producing a resurgence in the area of professional musicians’ associations. However, there is still one significant obstacle which must be overcome in order to protect the work of professional musicians: that of achieving unity. Why are there two associations for live party bands in the same Autonomous Community? Why are there specific associations for musicians who play one particular instrument (for example, the bagpipes or stringed instruments)? Perhaps if professional musicians from all fields (jazz, theatre, studio, classical, live party bands, etc.) joined forces, they could establish themselves as a strong group; a stable and protected front against abusive practices on the part of promoters or intermediary agents.

Such an entity, be it an association, a trade union or whatever we wish to call it, should have the purpose of uniting all professional musicians, whatever genre they belong to and whatever their training or the instruments they play.

All that is necessary is something as simple as achieving unity for the common good. Perhaps the association Músicos ao Vivo could hold the key for success in this aspect.


Fandiño, X. (coord.), González, M., López, Z., Neira, H., Regueira J.C. (2013). Do palco ó escenario: Unha aproximación á industria da música nas festas populares de Galicia. Santiago de Compostela: Andavira Editora.

Fandiño, X., Regueira, C., López, Z. (2013). Informe Orquestras de Galicia 2011/2012 (As orquestras). In Margarita Ledo Andión & Maria Inmacolata Vassallo de Lopes (eds.). Libro de Actas. XIII Congreso Internacional Ibercom (pp. 3375-3384). Santiago de Compostela: IBERCOM, AssIBERCOM, AGACOM.


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