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  1. 1. Researching the UK's Musicians Union: Some Reflections on Politics and Power WWW.MUHISTORY.COM
  2. 2. Structure  Project Outline:  Introduction, Origins, Methods, Outputs  A Brief History:  Overview, some views from employers, academia and the press  Musicians as workers:  What is a musician? Who are Union members?  Some significant issues:  Copyright, the music industries, relationship with PPL
  3. 3. AIMS  From the grant application:  “full account of the history of the MU by making use of the MU archive  “to give full consideration to the ways in which the MU has influenced British music and musicians in its mediations between its members and their employers since the late C.19th”  “create an account of the changes in the career of the professional musician in Britain, as well as the changing relationship between the amateur and professional worlds of music making, and the MU‟s role in these changes”  “to consider the role of the MU in influencing the policies of institutions and industries in Britain.”  “to supplement archival research with interviews of key current and former MU members, activists and staff . . . “
  4. 4. Aims, continued  “To build capacity in creative industries research and dissemination via collaborations with academics in other fields as well as non- academic institutions”  “to publish and disseminate research findings to the academic community through conference presentations, journal articles, a monograph and a website”  “to create impact beyond the academy through an exhibition; public lecture and concert; regular articles in The Musician magazine; educational workshops; project website and to pitch a radio or tv documentary. . .”
  5. 5. Origins, Soruces, Outputs  Live Music history project: etworks/livemusicproject/ - role of MU and importance of the music industries pre rock „n‟ roll  Sources and Methods:  Musicians‟ Union archive:  Other archives: BBC, TUC, Orchestral Employers‟ Association, Farmer Collection  Interviews  Existing Literature – Teale (1929), Jempson (1993), David-Gillou (2009), Cloonan and Brennan (2013)  Outputs:  Website (, conference papers, articles, book, conference, exhibition
  6. 6. Part 2: History and Criticism  Amalgamated Musicians‟ Union (AMU) founded 1893 by J.B.Williams in Manchester.  Split in profession between “gentlemen” (LOA) and “players” (AMU)  AMU = a type „organised tyranny which is the curse of modern trade unionism in this country‟ (LOA 1894).  Merger in 1921 with National Orchestral Union of Professional Musicians (NOUPM, formerly LOA) – formation of Musicians‟ Union  Decline in membership in 1930s, post-War growth in membership and power.  Consolidation since 1960s; anti-Union legislation (1980s/ 1990s)
  7. 7. Part 2: History and Criticism  Williams – job of Union to protect musicians from amateurs, unscrupulous employers and ourselves.  MU = “the spoilt darlings of the musical profession” (William Boosey)  1935-1954 - “ban” on foreign musicians entering the UK - “what do we want Louis Armstrong for? We‟ve got Kenny Baker”  McKay: (the MU) “did sterling work in keeping professional British jazz and dance music white” (2005: 112)  Paul Oliver: MU “ban” inflexible and stupid (1980: 80)  See Cloonan and Brennan “Alien invasions”, Popular Music, 32:2, pp.277-295
  8. 8. More Criticism  MU opposes the “talkies”, radio, television, records, synthesisers,  Frith: “the MU has always been out of touch with the particular needs of rock musicians” (1978: 162)  Street: “as each innovation appears to threaten jobs, the MU has resisted each one in turn . .while inspired by a desire to protect members, the MU‟s policy appears as merely reactionary.” (1986: 147)  1980s: Proposed breakaway Guild of Professional Musicians, Sunday Times warns of restrictive practices and “Dr Death”  The Guardian: “A left-wing doctrinaire organisation as tight- lipped as the KGB” (2001)  The Independent: “the glorious, unreconstructed ways of the Musicians‟ Union” (2001)
  9. 9. A organisation to spend some time on?  The Musicians‟ Union:  Luddite?  Out of touch?  Bureaucratic?  Protectionist?  Extremist?  Reactionary?  Or much more complicated than that?
  10. 10. Interlude: Some Themes  4 original themes underpinning the research:  Musicians as Workers  External Relations  Copyright  Technology
  11. 11. Part 3:Musicians as Workers  What does the history of the MU tell us about working as a musician?  What does it tell us about the music industries?  Craft Union or General Union? Open or closed?  “Anyone who follows the profession of music” –  “if they are amateurs in the purest sense, we wouldn‟t be able or want to recruit them” (Jjohn Morton, GS, 1985)  So  Who is allowed to join?  Who is/was forced to join?  Who chose / chooses to join?
  12. 12. Musicians as Particular Sorts of Workers  MU members are often part-time, self- employed, freelance workers with many different employers in a range of sectors/ industries.  Different needs and expectations from Union . .more difficult to organise, provide services and act as labour market intermediaries.  Melton: “The MU has always been an unusual Union in a sense: a large proportion of its members are self- employed, and, politically, the natural instincts of the self-employed are entrepreneurial. . .I was never conscious when I was there of the Union charging off in a political direction that would alienate its members.”
  13. 13. Part 4: External Relations: The Music Industries and PPL  The music industries and MU oversight of live music, recording and broadcasting  Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) established 1934 to collect royalties due to performers for public use of their recordings  Agreed ex-gratia payment (20%) to musicians who played on gramophone records  1947 – first full agreement between MU and PPL implemented:  12.5% of net PPL to income to go to MU for non-featured performers, BUT  Not all performers were MU members  Still ex-gratia  Amount became much more significant in later years - £60,000 (1951), £2.5 Million (1989)
  14. 14. Part 4: MU/ PPL & Live Music  Union always privileged live performance in its view of working musicians  1907 Music Hall Strike, Askwith Awards > Setting of minimum rates for live performance  PPL (1934) and BBC (various) agreements in the 1930s  1947 agreement limited public performances (i.e playing) of recorded music. Licence depended upon records not being used:  “in complete or partial substitution for musicians employed” or  “where musicians could, having regard to the size and nature of the theatre etc., be employed”
  15. 15. MU/PPL and the public use of recordings  First PPL funds reached Union in 1951. What to do with them? How to distribute them?  “For the benefit of all musicians”  Minority of recording musicians impacting adversely on the majority who earn from playing live  Fear of being seen as a “yellow” union  PPL also placed limits on the use of the fund. .could not be used for “the purposes of furthering any trade dispute or for any purpose which may be contrary to or adversely affect the interests of PPL or its member companies”
  16. 16. Spending PPL Money “for the benefit of all musicians”  By late 50s, some of funds were used to support May Day Dances, Benevolent Fund, etc.  1959: “a large proportion of the Phonographic Funds should be utilised in the direct promotion of employment for members.”  Origins of “Keep Music Live” campaign and the Union‟s Campaign For the Advancement of Live Music (latterly Music Promotion Fund).  Aim of fund?  “to improve the quantity and quality of situations where the work of musicians may be heard” (Blain, 1964)  “a very, very mini Arts Council, recycling money to musical activity of all types” (Blain, 2012)
  17. 17. Good Friends  Several examples of Union working closely with employers:  1965 / Manx Radio / with BBC and PPL  1980 / Performing Right Tribunal – with PPL vs AIRC – MU General Secretary supports PPL  1996 – Performers right recognised in UK law – MU officials site on PPL boards  Campaign - as part of UK Music – on copyright term extension  MU officials on British Copyright Council and Creative Coalition Campaign.
  18. 18. Part 4: MU/ PPL & Broadcasting  BBC becomes biggest employer of musicians in 1930s  “Needletime” agreements restricted amount of time PPL granted for the playing of records on BBC radio.  I am “opposed to all needletime”, Harry Francis, MU offiicial, 1970  Initial common interest - record labels believe radio will hit sales and MU believes it will hit live work  Needletime disrupted/ weakened by pirates and commercial radio, but remained in place until 1989.
  19. 19. Part 4: MU/ PPL & Broadcasting  PPL took MU line on negotiations with BBC – neither party wanted to unduly antagonise the MU  Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on Collective Licensing (1988)  Scard: “PPL’s activities came out with almost a clean bill of health while the Union’s influence went right down the pan.” (1991)  MMC report opened up the recording industry to those who wished to use its “product as a basis for their own enterprises” (ibid)  Government attempts to limit Union power and open up of markets, especially in broadcasting – seen as “one of the last bastions of Union power”
  20. 20. Conclusions  The history of the MU offers an insight into the working lives and practices of musicians since 1893  Multitude of approaches to Union‟s history – we are still at an early stage of the study – today I have focused on only some of those.  PPL agreement is important in understanding post- War period and relations with employers in broadcasting, record companies.  Employers with scruples?