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Conflict and Consensus: The Musicians' Union and industrial relations in the British music profession

presentation on MU research given at UEA, Norwich on 15th April 2014

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Conflict and Consensus: The Musicians' Union and industrial relations in the British music profession

  1. 1. + Conflict and Consensus: the Musicians’ Union and industrial relations in the British music profession Martin Cloonan and John Williamson 14th April 2014
  2. 2. Introduction • Context – project and MU history • Industrial relations in the British music profession since 1893: • Musical labour and employment • How the MU has influenced policy • The MU within the trade union movement / musicians as workers
  3. 3. Our project • Funded by the AHRC and ESRC – 4 years from 2012-16 • Key aims & objectives: • ‘full account of the history of the 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 public policy’
  4. 4. A Potted History of the Musicians’ Union • Formed by Joseph B. Williams as Amalgamated Musicians’ Union (AMU) in Manchester, 1893. • “A protection union . . to protect us from amateurs, unscrupulous employers and ourselves.” • 1890s – period of growth in musical work and trade unions. • Splits between London / elite musicians and rest of country.
  5. 5. History, contd. • Merger with NOUPM (formerly London Orchestral Association) in 1921. • Talkies + economic problems —> decline & unemployment in 1930s • Growth through Voluntary Organising Groups + BBC + recording industry + post War demand for live entertainment. • Relatively stable membership - currently 30 446 (2012), slower decline than trade unions generally.
  6. 6. 120 years of industrial relations in 2 minutes . . • When we think of musicians as workers what happens? • EMPLOYERS: in 1895 places of work included theatres and music halls; assemblies and dances; balls; lectures and entertainments; bazaars; Garden Parties, Wedding parties; church services + summer seasons at seaside (piers, etc.)
  7. 7. 120 years of industrial relations in 2 minutes . . • Initial negotiations with individual theatre owners, then groups of them, then employers’ organisations • Growth in number of employers reliant on state funding via BBC, Arts Council, etc. • Ever changing locations of employment in private sector: music halls, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and cafes, ballrooms, palais, cruise ships, resorts, ice rinks, etc.
  8. 8. 120 years of industrial relations in 2 minutes . . • musicians often viewed by other workers as ‘double jobbers’ • 3 (fluid / flexible) types of musical employee: permanently employed; self-employed and freelance employees; casually employed musicians. • Most fall into self-employed / freelance category. • DHA: “only 10% of musicians are full-time salaried employees. . Half of musicians have no regular employment whatsoever” (2012:14)
  9. 9. MU and policy • 3 major areas of policy of concern to the Union: •Copyright – since 1911; agreement with PPL in 1946; performers’ rights; copyright terms extension on sound recordings. •Broadcasting – since 1922 – 3 phases: BBC monopoly; advent of independent television (1955) and radio (1973); lightly regulated market since MMC report (1989) and Broadcasting Act (1990) •Employment - live performance – police / military bands /jazz “ban” / protecting jobs for British workers / subsidy: Music Promotion Committee
  10. 10. Musicians’ Union / methods • How have they gone about influencing policy - (i) on their own and (ii) with other Unions or employers. • On their own: collective bargaining / threat of strike action – but only de facto closed shop in orchestras and few strikes, so negotiation and threat of strike action • Long and short term alliances: with other trade unions nationally and internationally / with employers where interests align (e.g. copyright?) or government pressure (UK Music)
  11. 11. Conclusions • 3 major contributions made by the MU since its formation: •pay and conditions: rates (in some cases) remain high and over provision of orchestras remains •performers’ rights: lengthy campaign- finally recognised in Rome Convention and British copyright law in 1996. •patron of musical events: support for orchestras, jazz through Music Promotion Committee
  12. 12. Conclusions • Context of changes in music / cultural industries since 1979 as well as changes in employment law. • 1980s Union legislation + MMC Collective Licensing report(1988) + Broadcasting Act (1990) ended most restrictive practices set up by Union • MU a forerunner of ‘new unionism’- already worked with employers and extensive range of services provided.
  13. 13. Conclusions •Peripatetic nature of workforce + non-essential nature of the work + ‘entrepreneurial’ tendencies of members result in •Pragmatic rather than dogmatic leaders willing to engage with employers and (on occasion) privilege needs of individual members over notions of collectivism
  14. 14. Contact Us. . . Thanks for listening. Please have a look at the website. ( ) Feel free to get in touch . . . John Williamson: Martin Cloonan: