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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
Outline
 Context
 Perceptions of the MU
 About the Project
 Why it is important
Context
 Amalgamated Musicians’ Union formed in
Manchester, 1893
 Merger with London Orchestral Union of Professional
Musicians in 1921
 31 482 members (2011).
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]
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)
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)
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)
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
Importance
 3 main areas:
 trade union
 working as a musician
 the music industries
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
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
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
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
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.
IASPM UK and Ireland, September 2012
IASPM UK and Ireland, September 2012
IASPM UK and Ireland, September 2012

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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.