More than 20 years of Artistas en Ruta, an initiative of AIE for the promotion of live music.
After more than two decades as endorsement, the AIEnRuta-Artistas program organized by the Entity of Management of Performers of Music (AIE) continues to maintain a level of excellence without blemish. The mechanics are very simple: after an official call, a jury selects several artists of different styles and backgrounds to perform performances in theaters spread throughout the Spanish geography over a quarter of the year. For example, the crop of Artistas en Ruta for the September-December quarter will take different stages of the country to bands related to the philosophy Monkey Week Son Estrella Galicia as El Petit del Cal Eril, Pet Fennec, Salto or Rufus T Firefly. If we look back (twenty a retrospective of two decades, nothing less), the list of bands overwhelms by its quality and projection. That is why we decided to question Gema Sánchez, the engine and fuel of Artistas en Ruta almost from its beginnings and who has now completed two decades at the helm of this initiative. A woman whose name is synonymous with affection, empathy and dedication to an industry that is not always as pleasant as it seems when the lights go out. “My name is Gema Sánchez and I happily coordinate the circuit of AIEnruta Artistas since 1998. I was born in La Milagrosa in Madrid, but I’m from Bilbao right up to the core. I’m Basque and very flamenco”. Does it fit better presentation?
For those who do not know what AIE is and what it does. Could you briefly summarize the entity?
AIE is the Management Entity of Music Performers. It is located in Spain and has offices in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. AIE is a collective, solidary and democratic non-profit society that manages and defends the rights of music artists in Spain, in the rest of Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, Asia and in all countries and regions where the rights of the Intellectual Property Law are respected and applied. AIE has almost 27,000 members, more than 23,000 in Spain, to whom it enforces its rights through periodic distribution processes.
You have celebrated 20 years at the helm of the Artistas en Ruta project, a circuit to encourage live music designed by AIE. How did you start everything and with what motivation did you do it?
The circuit kicked off in 1996 so it have been running for 22 years. The main motivation was to create a network of small and medium-sized rooms to support artists and groups that want to present a new work and make it easier to play outside their autonomous community.
What are the principles that Artists on Route base and how is it maintained over time?
The base of the circuit is to support the emerging scene and the more consolidated in some cases, through the cultural exchange between autonomous communities thus consolidating a stable circuit in winter of rooms of small and medium capacity. The final objective is, on the one hand, to support artists and groups to disseminate their proposals. Also, ensure and / or promote programming to the spaces where they can expose them, contributing to enhance live music. To choose the groups selected participants we do the following: twice a year (in April and October) a committee formed by music journalists, representatives of different associations of halls and cultural leaders of the participating autonomous communities.
The program works in two annual cycles, from January to June and from September to December. Participating groups are subsidized four concerts within the corresponding cycle and are given a list of rooms that usually collaborate with the circuit so that they negotiate the conditions of the rooms interested in each case. On the one hand they perceive the subsidy of AIE and on the other what they agree with the rooms. In addition, on the part of AIE various promotional actions are carried out to broadcast these concerts in different graphic, radio, television and digital media (Radio 3, Sol Música, MondoSonoro, Efe Eme, Guía del ocio and Wegow, among others).
If you take stock with a certain historical perspective, what differences do you find between this program two decades ago and what exists now?
I think that the differences that attend more to the form than to the background. There is one aspect that has not changed: both 20 years ago and today, when a band or an artist has a new job, what they need is to touch, touch and play. That’s why the circuit is as alive as it was when it first appeared. It is evident that the music industry has convulsed in recent times with the emergence of digital publishing, the consumption of music on the internet, the RRSS etc. The circuit has been adapting to all these developments always within our possibilities. For two years we have already accepted proposals in digital format and the circuit is present in the RRSS, for example.
And continuing with the same question: what differences do you find regarding the scene and musical proposals?
In the first years there were more proposals of author song: Pablo Guerrero, Paxariño, Ruper Ordorika, Luis Pastor, Bergia, Marina Rosell, Imanol, Petisme, Pla, Ruibal, Pi de la Serra, Solfa, Labordeta, Hilario Camacho … Also many flamencos like Ginesa Ortega, Agujetas, Diego Amador, Riqueni, El Cigala, Navajita, Pescao, Poveda. And there was a lot of world music and folk, artists like Na Lúa, Chouteira, Budiño, Hijas del Sol. Shortly thereafter the pop rock proposals that nourish our wardrobe background with very remarkable names were increased: Burning, Hermanas Sister, Enemigos, Love of Lesbian (when they sang in English many years ago), M-Clan, Smash, Sunday Drivers, Triángulo de Amor Bizarro, El Columpio Asesino and a long etcetera. 22 years give for a lot.
In any case, the committee always tries that all the styles are represented, without forgetting the jazz, always present in all the cycles. With the appearance of indie, the proposals have been changing towards more alternative sounds and the styles are intermingled and reinterpreted with the naturalness that corresponds to the new times: electronic and neighboring, experimental music, dub, reggae, folk-country-rock, afrobeat, shoegaze, rap, trap and all possible and imaginable fusions fruit of the musical wealth we have. All this until you reach the punk riot grrrl of Las Odio or the folktronic of Le Parody, for example.
Do you consider that currently there are enough initiatives of the type Artists in Route in our country?
They will never be enough if we stick to the huge number of bands and projects that need support to publicize their work.
What feedback do you find in the music scene after 20 years defending the project?
First of all there is the gratitude, as a common note of the selected groups. Participating in the circuit is very positive because it allows them to go to touch cities away from home that in other circumstances they could not afford. The number of groups and soloists who have consolidated their career after passing through our circuit is considerable and very encouraging to continue betting on this model: Niña Pastori, Estopa, Anie B. Sweet, Jacobo Serra, DePedro, Julián Maeso, Zahara, Vetusta Morla, Niños Mutantes, Maika Makowski, McEnroe, Oso Leone, La Habitación Roja, Pony Bravo, Guadalupe Plata…
On a personal level: what has been the best and worst of betting after a project of these characteristics?
The best thing is the satisfaction of being support to the groups that want to move forward and present their new works. The worst one: manage the frustration of the groups that have not been selected. The budget is what it is and about 30 groups are chosen per year. Taking into account that we receive more than 600 per year, imagine. The majority must be told no and encourage them to keep trying.
Suppose I have a band with a good live, good reviews and some positioning in the scene. What can make my project in the selection of Artists in Route?
There are no magic secrets or formula. On the day of the selection committee (there are two in a year), AIE invites some 30 journalists, representatives of the associations of halls and representatives of the autonomous communities collaborating to vote and make the selection according to their own artistic criteria.
In addition to Artistas en Ruta, AIE is a rights manager and also invests in the development of musicians offering coverage, visibility or training. Do you think that musicians know what the story is about and do what they can to get the most out of your proposal or against the majority they remain in the clouds?
One of our goals is to inform your rights to as many musicians as possible. To this end, we have been working on a dissemination plan on Intellectual Property for several years and we give talks at universities, schools, festivals and wherever they call us. I invite all musicians to visit our website www.aie.es. In it we punctually give all the information about what we do in society, both from the cultural area (scholarships, grants for cultural projects and tours abroad, international exchanges thanks to the agreements established with the Instituto Cervantes and AECID, circuits …) as from the Care Area. We have an effective line of grants aimed at all partners who need it.
Do not you sometimes feel like preaching in the desert? Do you think that all this effort will one day crystallize in the form of a generation of more trained musicians, active and aware of their rights?
I do not feel like I’m in a desert, it’s more like a sound jungle. I love my job and I firmly believe in what I do. I trust that our efforts do not fall on deaf ears in most cases and we feel that we meet the goals we set for ourselves. The idea is for musicians to learn how to manage and decide the course of their careers. For this we also offer training courses on a wide range of topics, so that the artists are up to date with the new trends in self-management, recording and promotion or management of RRSS, for example.
With the new boom of the festivals and taking into account that you are very focused on the circuit of theaters, do you think that with this proliferation of macro events the culture of theaters and clubs could be weakening?
I think that it adds up and that it does not weaken, because the circuits of theaters and the festivals do not coincide over time. From October to May the concerts focus on the halls and from May to September the salsa is in the open-air festivals, coinciding with the summer. I do not think it’s wrong that there is so much supply. What does not seem right is that it is almost always the same groups that jump from one festival to another. From here I launch a proposal: why not open those festival spaces to lesser-known groups and that there is always a stage dedicated to emerging music? I leave it there. AIE is also present in some festivals through our line of cultural projects, collaborating with groups that have previously passed through the circuit.
After all these years in the trench, what would you ask for music today?
May I continue to excite and excite as before.
You are recidivist collaborators in Monkey Week SON Estrella Galicia almost from the beginning. How is your experience with the festival? Do you consider these initiatives to be more focused on the showcase format and to make visible unknown bands?
Keep in mind that our collaboration with MW and other festivals is a very important qualitative incentive for the selected of each cycle. In the case of MW, the format fully coincides with the philosophy of AIEnruta, as it develops mainly in theaters. The groups that we program in festivals of greater format assure a diffusion and a public that would take a little more in obtaining if they tried it by their own means.
To finish, a question type magazine of tendencies: the future of the national pop-rock is …
It is vital that the current music get recognition by the administrations as part of the cultural heritage. The music industry has a weight on the GDP much higher than other disciplines more recognized and supported. For this, the professionalization of the sector in all its sections is essential. Another essential issue is also that the requirements to obtain a license that allows the performance of concerts have a national character over any regional or municipal regulations. In France, the creation of affordable rehearsal rooms associated with rooms for playing was very successful. We have advanced in many things but there are many things to do.