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IASPM UK and Ireland, September 2012

  1. M A RT I N C LO O N A N A N D J O H N W I L L I A M S O N 5 T H S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2 Researching The Musicians’ Union
  2. Outline  Context  Perceptions of the MU  About the Project  Why it is important
  3. Context  Amalgamated Musicians’ Union formed in Manchester, 1893  Merger with London Orchestral Union of Professional Musicians in 1921  31 482 members (2011).
  4. Enemies of the Union  “You are invited to attend a meeting in Manchester on 7th May 1893 to discuss forming a Union for orchestral players. The Union that we require is a protection Union. One that will protect us from amateurs, protect us from unscrupulous employers, and protect us from ourselves. [J.B.Williams, 1893]
  5. Perceptions  London Orchestral Association: “organised tyranny which is the curse of modern trades unionism in this country” (1894)  William Boosey, PRS: “these gentlemen who are the spoilt darlings of the musical profession” (1922)  McKay: “the ban did sterling work over two decades in keeping professional British jazz and dance music white.”  “Virtually every one of the music’s practitioners, nearly all of whom were black, were kept out of Britain by an overwhelmingly white organisation, the Musicians Union” (2005)
  6. Perceptions  Oliver: “the ‘ban’ was as inflexibly applied as it was stupidly imposed.” (1980)  Frith: “the MU has always been out of touch with the particular needs of rock musicians.” (1978)  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. While inspired by a desire to protect members, the MU’s policy appears as merely reactionary.” (1985)
  7. Perceptions  Sweeting: “a left-wing, doctrinaire organisation as secretive and tight-lipped as the KGB.” (2001)  Mendick: “the glorious unreconstructed ways of the Musicians’ Union . .you have a scenario that would make Arthur Scargill weep with nostalgia.” (2001)  Lawson: “it is a massive black mark on a Union that has done so much for grassroots music. You’re effectively crapping on the best music discovery, fan- generating, culture-sharing, life-benefitting ecosphere that musicians in the world have ever experienced.” (2010)
  8. About the Project  Extension of previous work on music industries, generally and  Live music industry AHRC project –  Importance of pre-1955 music industries  Importance of MU in these agreements  Primary source: Musicians’ Union archive @ University of Stirling:  Minutes and agreements  Publications  Correspondence
  9. Importance  3 main areas:  trade union  working as a musician  the music industries
  10. Importance / Trade Union  Lack of dispassionate analysis from both inside and outside the union  No detailed history of the Union  Footnote in the history of Trade Unionism – but  Involvement in TUC and its leadership  Unique contemporary nature of the Union
  11. Importance / Working Musicians  Debates around what constitutes a musician and who can become a member  Craft Union vs. General Union?  Problems of acceptance of part-time/ semi-professional members
  12. Importance / Music industries  Union missing from most accounts of British music industries  MU at the centre of agreements underpinning relationships between employers and musicians – for example:  MU rates for live performance  BBC / ITV/ Broadcasting agreements  PPL / public performance  Lobbying with other industry organisations on copyright related claims
  13. Conclusions  Need for history of Musicians’ Union of interest beyond labour relations / Union members  MU as a lens for understanding the music industries and how these have changed – specifically with regard to:  Organisation of workers in the music industries  Payments / how creative work has been rewarded
  14. Conclusions  Caves (2000): “ The basic forces driving the organisation of workers in creative activities”  Hesmondhalgh (2007): “how has creative work been rewarded in the complex professional era?”  Need to understand why it acted the way it did, when it did.