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  • 1. + RESEARCHING The musicians’ UNION: SOME initial observations Researching the Musicians’ Union: Some Initial Observations Martin Cloonan and John Williamson MU Conference, Manchester 23rd July 2013
  • 2. Introduction • Background to the project • Approach and Methods • Some themes • Outcomes http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 3. Project and Background • ‘full account of history of MU. . .’ • ‘ways in which the MU has influenced British music and musicians’ • ‘an account of the changes in the career of the professional musician in Britain’ • ‘role of the MU in influencing policies of institutions & industries’ http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 4. Project and Background • ‘interviews with key current and former MU members, activists, staff. . ‘ • Dissemination of findings via collaboration with academic and non-academic institutions http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 5. Origins • Previous work on the music industries and history of live music in the UK • Domination of recording industry and post-1955 music industries • Importance of pre-1955 agreements that MU was party to & • Importance of live music for working musicians http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 6. Origins • MU’s role understated or derided in pop music / jazz studies • Awareness of MU archive - first access 2010; subsequent article on jazz “ban” written with Matt Brennan. • Successful application to AHRC; John appointed to work full- time on project http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 7. Methods and Approach / Starting Points • Website: http://www.muhistory.com • Outside of Union’s archive little material about MU hsitory • Official Histories: ES Teale (1929); Mike Jempson (1993) • Labour and Music Histories: specific eras or aspects of MU’s work; musicians’ unions in US and Australia written about in more depth http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 8. Methods and Approach / Starting Points • Frith: “out of touch with the particular needs of rock musicians” (1978: 162) • Street: “inspired by a desire to protect members, the MU’s policy appears as merely reactionary” (1986: 147) • Media: assorted attacks on Union most famously in Melody Maker, Sunday Times and various broadsheets circa 2001 http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 9. Methods and Approach / Starting Points • Sweeting: “a left wing, doctrinaire organisation as secretive and tight-lipped as the KGB” (The Guardian) • Mendick: “the glorious, unreconstructed ways of the Musicians’ Union, where you have a scenario that would make Arthur Scargill weap with nostalgia” (The Independent) • Out of touch? Bureaucratic? Protectionist? Extremist? Reactionary? http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 10. Methods and Approach / Other Archives • BBC Written Archives @ Caversham • TUC Archive @ London Metropolitan University • Orchestral Employers’ Association @ University of York • Henry Farmer Collection @ University of Glasgow • FIM and AFM archives http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 11. Methods and Approach / Interviews • Over a dozen interviews so far – former elected and salaried officials; branch / regional organisers; EC members; musicians, DJs, record company personnel; more to follow . . http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 12. Methods and Approach / Steering Group Matt Brennan (University of Edinburgh), Chris Burgess (People’s History Museum), Keith Gildart (University of Wolverhampton), Penny King (freelance arts consultant), Tony Lucas (MU activist), Robert Noakes (Neon Productions/ MU Exec Committee), Karl McGee (University of Stirling), Mark Pemberton (Association of British Orchestras), John Smith (Musicians’ Union), Matt Stahl (University of Western Ontario) http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 13. Themes • Musicians as workers • External relations • Copyright • Technology • Gender, race, politics, genre, etc. etc. http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 14. Themes: Musicians as workers • Musicians widely portrayed as artists, creators, entrepreneurs, celebrities, stars. • What is a musician? For the union this was a practical consideration. • “Anyone following the profession of music” • Those allowed to join; those forced to join & those who choose to join http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 15. Themes: Musicians as workers • Diversity of musical occupations - lives shaped by instruments they play but also genres, spaces & ensembles they work in • Implications for organisation: regionally; by occupation and by genre • Working conditions have implications for their organisation within a Union • Musicians as particular types of worker http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 16. Themes: Labour Markets • Initial threat to employment from amateurs, police and military bands, foreign musicians • Amateurs – undercutting; reminder of need for payment • Military / Police – historic threat / used at public events • Foreign musicians – lengthy resistance in all genres, came to a head in jazz • All reactions = protecting employment of its own members http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 17. Themes: New Technology • The Talkies: mass unemployment, opposition, powerlessness • (radio) broadcasting: cautious support for radio – “has not reduced employment . .but increased it” (1925) – agreements with BBC • Gramophone / Recording Industry: combination of control and regulation; deals with PPL and BBC • Union saw opportunities as well as threats http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 18. Themes: Changes in the Law • Legislation that impacts on (e.g. trade union legislation) and is instigated by the Union (e.g. copyright) • Monopolies and Mergers Commission (1988), Broadcasting Act (1990) had direct impact – govt. opposition to ‘restrictive practices’ • Lobbying on performers’ rights throughout post-War period • Alignment of interests, at different times with different employers http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 19. Conclusions • Archive has allowed us unique insight and to consider new approaches to union & music industries’ history • Musicians as workers helps explain the union’s position on a number of historical issues • MU is worthy of detailed study – unique set of circumstances, history and industrial relations http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 20. Outcomes • So far . . Website, conference papers, articles • Journal and magazine articles • Book / Books • Radio / TV programmes • Conference, exhibition and gig – Glasgow 2016 http:// www.muhistory.com
  • 21. Contacts Thanks! Martin Cloonan: Martin.Cloonan@glasgow.ac.uk John Williamson: John.C.Williamson@glasgow.ac.uk http:// www.muhistory.com