This Is The Modern World, Lille, June 2013

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Slides from presentation on the British Musicians' Union and technology by John Williamson at This Is The Modern World conference at the University Lille 3 on 13th June 2013

Slides from presentation on the British Musicians' Union and technology by John Williamson at This Is The Modern World conference at the University Lille 3 on 13th June 2013

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  • 1. Synthesisers: Friend or Foe? The British Musicians’ Union and technology John Williamson This Is The Modern World. Pour une histoire sociale du rock 13 June 2013
  • 2. NME
  • 3. The Musicians’ Union  Formed in 1893 as Amalgamated Musicians’ Union, merger in 1921 to become Musicians’ Union  Between 30-40 000 members for the last fifty years  Currently 31 482 members; Income around £8m per year; operating surplus (2011) = £1.2m  JB Williams: “a protecting Union: one that will protect us from amateurs; protect us from unscrupulous employers and protect us from ourselves”
  • 4. Technological Disruption . . .  Street: “as each innovation appears to threaten jobs, the MU has resisted each one in turn, first opposing multi-track recording, then mellotrons and finally synthesisers and drum machines” (1986: 147)  3 major threats to live music employment during twentieth century:  Broadcasting / Radio  “The Talkies” – end of silent films accompanied by orchestras  The recording industry
  • 5. Technological Disruption / Broadcasting  BBC (British Broadcasting Company / Corporation) formed in 1923  Opposed by theatre, concert and Music Hall owners  MU: “our policy shall be one of regulating terms. . an extra fee to be negotiated with the management on the lines of the difference between once and twice nightly terms”  1925: broadcasting “had not reduced employment of entertainers but, on the contrary, has increased it. It should not be discouraged but controlled.”
  • 6. Technological Disruption / The Talkies  Number of musicians working in cinemas increased to 16000 by 1928 before advent of films with sound  Union membership dropped from 20000 in 1929 to 6740 in 1936 – mass unemployment among former cinema musicians  Farmer: “big cinema combines, controlled by the film manufacturers, would soon be masters of the situation.”
  • 7. Technological Disruption / The Talkies  Number of musicians working in cinemas increased to 16000 by 1928 before advent of films with sound  Union membership dropped from 20000 in 1929 to 6740 in 1936 – mass unemployment among former cinema musicians  Farmer: “big cinema combines, controlled by the film manufacturers, would soon be masters of the situation.”
  • 8. Technological Disruption / The Talkies  Number of musicians working in cinemas increased to 16000 by 1928 before advent of films with sound  Union membership dropped from 20000 in 1929 to 6740 in 1936 – mass unemployment among former cinema musicians  Farmer: “big cinema combines, controlled by the film manufacturers, would soon be masters of the situation.”