IASPM, Gijon June 2013

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IASPM, Gijon June 2013

  1. 1. Researching the British Musicians’ Union: Bridging Troubled Waters? Martin Cloonan & John Williamson 26 June 2013
  2. 2. Outline • Part 1 – The Project and and our approach • Part 2 – Issues surrounding the Union – labour markets, technology, law
  3. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 11. Part 2 – Labour Markets • AMU identified 3 main threats to work: • amateurs • police and military bands • foreign musicians
  12. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 19. www.muhistory.com

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