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IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
IASPM, Gijon June 2013
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IASPM, Gijon June 2013

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  • 1. Researching the British Musicians’ Union: Bridging Troubled Waters? Martin Cloonan & John Williamson 26 June 2013
  • 2. Outline • Part 1 – The Project and and our approach • Part 2 – Issues surrounding the Union – labour markets, technology, law
  • 3. Part 1 – Project & Approach • Introducing the Project • A Brief History of the Musicians’ Union • The Music Industries pre-1955 • Richard Peterson’s ‘Why 1955?’ • Musicians as workers
  • 4. Part 1 – Introducing . . . • 4 years from 2012 – 2016 • Funded by AHRC and ESRC • Exhibition, Conference in Glasgow, 2016 • Sources: Union archives; other archives (BBC, trade unions, etc.); interviews and previous accounts / media reports
  • 5. Part 1 – A Brief History • Formed in 1893 by Joseph B. Williams as Amalgamated Musicians’ Union (AMU) • Merged with National Orchestral Union of Professional Musicians (NOUPM) in 1921 to form Musicians’ Union • Membership (2011): 31 482 • Independent union; 120 years old
  • 6. Part 1 – Music Industries pre 1955 • Music industries as “a network of industries based on the production, publication, exploitation and consumption of music” (Williamson and Cloonan, 2007) • “Historically, for most musicians, performance has been the source of the majority of their income.”(Williamson and Cloonan, 2013)
  • 7. Part 1 – Peterson: Why 1955? • 6 things that matter: law , technology, industry structure, organisation structure, occupational career and market • Discusses changes in the music industry, radio programming and entrepreneurial practice. • Lacking musicians, working practices
  • 8. Part 1 – Musicians as Workers • Musicians as workers rather than / as well as creators, celebrities, stars, etc. • Musicians as workers – who are they and what do they do? • professionals, semi-professionals, amateurs? • MU: ‘anyone following the profession of music’ • 3 considerations re: Union membership – who is allowed? /who is forced? / who chooses to join?
  • 9. Part 1 – Musicians as Workers • Diversity of musical employment / occupations • Organising musicians – Union works regionally and occupationally. • Easier to organise orchestras than freelancers, small ensembles. • Musicians as particular type of worker who shape and interact with broader societal and industrial changes . . .
  • 10. Part 2 – Issues affecting workers • JB Williams: ‘a protecting Union, one that will protect us from amateurs, protect us from unscrupulous employers and protect us from ourselves.’ • Protection – especially of live work – underpins Union thinking • Threats to live work from changes in labour market in industries employing musicians; technology; law.
  • 11. Part 2 – Labour Markets • AMU identified 3 main threats to work: • amateurs • police and military bands • foreign musicians
  • 12. Part 2 – Labour Markets • Tours by foreign musicians routinely opposed • MU gains veto on work permit applications with Ministry of Labour – so-called ‘ban’ on US jazz acts • More complicated? • ‘Ban’ = racist? Inflexibly applied? • Reactions to working conditions – protecting employment to exclusion of all others.
  • 13. Part 2 – Technology • 3 most important technological advances: • The “talkies” – end of silent films (needing orchestral accompaniment) • Broadcasting / Radio – BBC formed in 1922 • The Gramophone and subsequent growth of recording industry in 1920s • MU’s approach to each of these was different and not always oppositional.
  • 14. Part 2 – Technology • The Talkies: outright opposition / sense that cinemas would ‘return to sanity’ – but MU powerless in the face of US film producers • Radio: policy of ‘regulating terms’ (1923); ‘has not reduced the employment of musicians, but, on the contrary, has increased it” (1925) • Recording Industry: regulation and control coupled with financial recompense via. PPL • Union able to see opportunities as well as threats from new technology
  • 15. Part 2 – Law • 2 types of legislation to consider: that which affects the Union and that which it has (helped) instigate. • Anti-trade Union legislation (1979-1997) – weakening of Union powers / ideological opposition to restrictive practices; opening up of markets in broadcasting. • Monopolies & Mergers Commission (MMC) report on Collective Licensing (1988) had huge impact on Union
  • 16. Part 2 – Law • Lobbying – MU advocate of the performers’ right from post-War period. Recognised in Rome Convention (1961) subsequently in EU (1992) and UK law (1996) • MU has subsequently supported other music industries’ organisations in successfully lobbying for extension of copyright term on sound recordings. • Alignment of interests / temporary alliances between union and employers
  • 17. Conclusions • Viewing musicians as workers allows us to: • Understand some of the apparently incongruous stances taken by the Union • Question when the industrial conditions that facilitated the advent of rock’n’roll actually came about in the 1920s, 30s and 40s rather than 1955.
  • 18. Conclusions • Why not? • 1921 – formation of Musicians’ Union • 1922 – formation of the British Broadcasting Company • 1927 – release of the Jazz Singer (first talkie) • 1931 – formation of EMI • 1934 – formation of Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) • 1946 – agreement between MU and PPL • 1947 – agreement between PPL and BBC
  • 19. www.muhistory.com

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