The Musicians Union (The MU)

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The MU has your best interests at heart. They represent over 30,000 musicians across the UK, working across the whole of the music sector, including music teachers. The goal of the community is to protect the rights of its members and the music it creates, as well as connecting musicians and supporters.

What is the Musicians’ Union?

Just because you’re an independent artist or work within the musical sector, that doesn’t mean you should have to go it alone. The Musicians’ Union was formed to help you, support you and represent you. This is your profession and source of income, they can help protect your future and all your hard work.

Like any union, the MU has your best interests at heart. They represent over 30,000 musicians across the UK, working across the whole of the music sector, including music teachers. The goal of the community is to protect the rights of its members and the music it creates, as well as connecting musicians and supporters.

Continue reading to find out more information on the Musician’s Union and how they can help you navigate your way through the Wonderland that is the music industry.

Why do Musicians Need a Union?

The entertainment world, in any facet really, is one of the most unique industries across the globe. The music industry can be a ruthless warzone that can isolate and destroy people. Money is a major motivator and corruptor in the world, and this is unfortunately true in music.

No two musicians are alike, but we can all agree that most begin creating music out of the desire of expression and for the love of the music. The music industry is there to monetize that love and that expression. This creates the precipice of the clash that many musicians will run into throughout their music career.

The business side of the industry can be confusing and difficult to navigate. If you want to be a doctor, you go to medical school, then you do your residency, and then work your way up through the ranks into your medical practice. The career path of a musician is not as prescribed and can come with many peaks and valleys, and twists and turns.

Especially in this era of vast sharing and streaming of content, as well as in such tumultuous political climates, the business side of music must be handled properly. Indie artists are once again challenging signed acts for numbers of radio plays and streams, and so it’s more important than ever that they are afforded the same support and protection for their music. For musicians or music teachers looking for stability, the MU can help you find more music jobs and make important connections.

History

In 1893, the Amalgamated Musicians Union was formed in Manchester, renamed to the Musicians’ Union in 1921. Even within its first few years of conception, the Musician’s Union supported the striking of theatre workers in Liverpool after they faced pay cuts and longer working hours. For over 120 years, the MU has lobbied for fair pay, fair practice and the protection of musician’s intellectual property.

They are now in possession of a huge archive of letters, complaints and details of experiences faced by their members across the years. These archives are now kept at the University of Stirling in Scotland. These days, the MU has a national office in London and six regional offices around the country to support its members.

The Musicians Union is the only music industry union in the UK, but there are a number of other supportive organisations for those working within the music.

So What Does The Musicians’ Union do Exactly?

The Musicians Union does a wonderful job of providing resources and information for musicians so they can learn how to navigate this tricky industry. Their work, however, goes way beyond that.

Advice – The “Advice” page on their website is an important area for musicians trying to learn and understand what they will need to do to make it. The page has several sections for advice on your career, playing live, recording and broadcasting, songwriting and composing, and music education. Each of these subpages also come with recent news items on these subjects to keep you abreast of what is going on in the industry.

It is important to understand all of the different elements involved in making music. Recording and touring are both necessary for your music career however both are completely different animals and come with their own set of challenges and obstacles. The resources offered by the Musicians’ Union can empower independent artists with the knowledge they need, so that they may be taken seriously as artists.

If you’re looking to get your music licensed for sync or need help understanding performing rights and mechanical rights, the Musicians’ Union can give you all the knowledge you need. If you feel your rights aren’t being respected or you’re not being paid what you should, the MU will assist you in moving forward.

Union Support – Having resources in the form of information is great, but the protection that a union can provide is equally, if not more so, important. If you are a musician, you’ll likely be all too familiar with less than reputable booking agents, venue owners, and studio owners. It is sad to have to protect against the worst of mankind, but it is necessary.

Some of the wrongs that the Musicians’ Union sets out to make right include making sure performers are paid for their performance, to ensure copyright and performers rights are protected, and support for music teachers. The MU provides solidarity and uses the resources of the large community to ensure that you are protected.

The Musicians’ Union works hard to get the government to support the rights of their members, including intellectual property rights. Many independent artists or musicians operate within the band of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and so rely on the protection of their rights for their income. The Musicians’ Union acts to evoke change with the best interests of British musicians at heart.

Forum – Contacts are vitally important within the music industry. With such a broad spectrum of members, the MU’s member forum can connect and unite their music makers. Whether they are looking for band members, teachers, industry professionals or collaboration opportunities, members can search via location, skill or style.

Another helpful feature is their Stolen Instruments Bulletin, which aims to help victims of theft reclaim their instruments. Instrument theft can be crippling for bands and musicians, but the Musicians’ Union believes this shouldn’t get in the way of their music. Their membership kindly includes a £2,000 instrument insurance cover.

Events and Editorial Content –  As well as the myriad of online resources and access to free legal advice, the MU also hosts a number of educational music industry events throughout the year across the country. These include regional networking events, workshops and industry leader talks. The Musicians’ Union also publishes a members journal every quarter featuring news stories, interviews and campaigns from across the industry.

Campaigns

The Musicians’ Union has always campaigned for the right’s of their members and they still are. One of the biggest concerns amongst musicians ahead of Britain’s leaving the EU is the uncertainty over the free movement of people.

Until now, artists have been able to travel across Europe for tours with little or no hassle. Now however with so much uncertainty over the future movement of people, the MU is lobbying for parliament to find an easy solution for musicians such as a touring visa. Without free movement, it may put off many DIY artists from touring in mainland Europe and prevent them from connecting with their audiences. Touring is vital for musicians’ income these days and could open them up to whole new audiences. Without easy movement of people, artists could be cut off from their fans abroad.

Another common occurrence that has been affecting the music community recently is that of being asked to pay shows and gigs at venues/pubs etc for no pay. In response to this, the MU is asking for its members to share their stories online of this bad practice with the #WorkNotPlayMU. The MU will support and advise you on fighting for your right to pay, advising you legally and assisting going forward. For artists at any level, getting paid is essential. Given the revenue and footfall live music can bring to a venue there is no excuse for not paying performers for their time.

Sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination are, regrettably, issues that still affect so many people within all professions. The music industry is no different and the Musicians’ Union are campaigning for the rights of every single one of its members. Together with the ISM, they have launched a joint code of practice to combat these issues within the music sector.

Benefits of Membership

As well as all the aforementioned resources and support, here’s what else you’ll get for your money:

– Free instrument and personal liability insurance

– Free copyright and property rights protections

– Expert career and business advice

– Subsidized hearing assessment and protection

– Free and discounted entry to training courses, workshops and events across the country

– Free legal assistance

Starting Out – DIY Artists

If you’re a DIY artist or are just embarking on a musical career, but you’re not quite sure if this is necessary, then consider how much it means to you to safeguard yourself and your music. You might get by alright without outside help, and many have done it, but as we all know the world is unpredictable and doesn’t always play fair. We’re not trying to cast a picture of doom and gloom, but just as you’d take out home insurance, it seems a small price to pay to protect your livelihood and hard work.

If there’s something going on in the industry that you don’t think is right, the Musicians’ Union will listen and move to change it. Whether that’s a small, local issue, or one that affects the nation and requires governmental intervention, the MU will listen and support you.

You’ll also be joining a community of fellow music makers, with skills both close and parallel to your own. The Musicians’ Union consists of over 30,000 members, the networking opportunities could open you up to new possibilities and ideas that set a butterfly effect into motion. When you’re starting out it’s important to open every door. If you’re interested in starting up a band, or maybe you need to hire someone locally to work on a producing a record with you, The MU’s forum can be a great place to find musicians and connect with them.

Who Works at the Musicians’ Union?

The executive team at the Musicians’ Union provide backing and community from the top down. Made up largely of musicians, unlike the corporate structures in many other areas of the music industry, you get an executive team that has been on your side of the table and understands the help you need. This team is made up of the following:

National Office:

General Secretary – Horace Trubridge

Assistant General Secretary, Finance & Administration – David Ashley

Assistant General Secretary, Music Industry – Naomi Pohl

The National Office is also made up of a number of specialised teams including Communications and Government Relations, Legal, Education and Training, Live Performance, Recording and Broadcasting, and Orchestral. Below are the names of the individuals that run the regional offices. If you have a problem and require assistance, get in contact with your regional office so that they can help you resolve it.

Musicians Union London office: Jamie Pullman, Regional Organiser – London

Musicians Union Scotland & Northern Island office: Caroline Sewell, Regional Organiser – Glasgow

Musicians Union North of England office: Matt Wanstall, Regional Organiser – Manchester

Musicians Union Midlands office: Stephen Brown, Regional Organiser – Birmingham

Musicians Union East & SE England office: Paul Burrows, Regional Organiser – London

Musicians Union Wales & SW England office: Paul Gray, Regional Organiser – Cardiff

All of the contact information you may require to get in touch with your local representative and the national headquarters can be found on the “About Us” section of their website.

Membership Fees

There are a lot of expenses in the music industry, and while all of this sounds like a great resource, up and coming musicians are not typically flush with cash. Again, being so intertwined with the industry, the Musician’s Union understands this. The MU offers several types of memberships.

– For supporters of the Union, you can join for free.

– For first-time musician members, you can join for just a pound for the first six months.

– A full-time membership for lapsed or returning members, the cost is 221 pounds for the year.

– Are you a member of the NUT, EIS or UCU? You can get a reduced membership for 110.50 pounds annually.

– Lastly, students can join for just 19.60 pounds a year.

It is a cutthroat world out there in the music industry. Most musicians start off with this ideal vision of being a rock star and fame and celebrity. You will soon find out that it is a tough, gritty, and difficult industry to navigate. The end result, however, is worth the fight.

The Musicians Union helps you strategically navigate this tough world and makes sure your rights are protected. It gives you the backing to defend your rights and to make sure you have a fair shot in the career of your dreams. There really is no reason to not join the best community of musicians in the world.

ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), is another professional body for musicians and recognised subject association, formed in 1882. Like the Musicians’ Union, the ISM organisation campaigns for fair practice across the industry and provide legal advice for its members. The ISM fights for rights holders in the music industry, occasionally teaming up with the Musicians’ Union to help in the fight. The ISM is based in London but you can find all their contact details on their website.

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