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SpondonBassed

Pros and Cons of MU Membership

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Another topic has reminded me of the questions; would it be wise to join the Musician's Union? What are the pros and cons?

Don't get me wrong, as an amateur, it is not a requirement just yet. It would be good however to read the personal experiences of others to help me should I ever need to decide. My opinion of unions was coloured somewhat by my experience in the eighties. The semi-state company I worked for got into debate with the unions over the introduction of new technology and working practices.

To cut a long story short the unions were manifold among the trades. More effort was spent on getting agreement between the fifteen or so unions as to what the latest company statement actually meant than was spent on discussing the way forward. If the company had not been part owned by the state it might well have folded. We ended up on strike because "the workers" didn't get a cut of the increased profit that more efficient working practices would have made. I left the company later for several reasons. Disgust was one of them. I wasn't disgusted with not getting a cut. It was more to do with having to strike for weeks at a crucial point in my training.

It seems to me that the problem of in-fighting would not occur with the MU unless it has competitors. Should I ever (not likely) get significant employment from my hobby I may consider membership.

Edited by SpondonBassed

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I was an MU member back in my teens and always thought it was a good idea - till I had occasion to seek their help with a couple of dodgy situations - mostly with a couple of agencies.
Bloody useless. I wound up thinking that the only thing the MU were interested in supporting were the pit players, orchestral players and film/tv players. Dumped my membership and never been back. "Keep Music Live" is a great old slogan, but they seem to think it only applies to the elite few.

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I think membership includes some health insurance. I know someone who gets a treatment in Germany for a hand condition that isn't available here, paid by the insurance.

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I love the idea and was a member for a decade, but each time I had to contact them they were completely useless. Even with routine enquiries it was like hitting my head against a brick wall. I had to use the Northern office, but I expect your experience would depend on your local office.
It's a real shame as I would love to be part of an effective union for musicians.

I have heard good things about the ISM.

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The MU's luddite attitude towards the use of new technology in music in the late 70s & 80s put me off them for life. Narrow minded & backward looking.

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[quote name='ivansc' timestamp='1494659472' post='3297610']
I wound up thinking that the only thing the MU were interested in supporting were the pit players, orchestral players and film/tv players.
[/quote]
I've never been a member for that reason. They don't really seem geared up to deal with musicians playing in your typical beat combo!

However I do keep meaning to join, just to take advantage of some of their other benefits (public liability and other insurance, legal support etc)...

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I did professional (Theatre) Pit Shows and backing (TV) turns for over thirty years.
MU (or SOLT/MU) contracts/agreements where essential to us (or through the fixers that fixed us).
Guaranteed holiday pay, porterage, overtime, get ins, travel when not in the West End, rehearsal fees, any TV or a Radio advertising sessions, PD's when overseas, sufficient accommodation rates when needed, xxx amount of paid notice when show closed..etc..
Only had to use them for legal reasons on two occasions and both times came out on top financially. MU handled everything.

Of course, there was also the musical Instrument insurance along with favourable deals with certain companies, regarding car insurance (insured as a musician was rather expensive with most companies).

I am not a member anymore as I don't do that kind of work anymore.(Although they did contact me just before Christmas to say they had some repeat TV fee money for me that they had been holding for a year or so).
Most of my work these days is PRS and PPL related, so different types of contracts/agreements needed.

Depends on gigs/ work you do, but I suppose it is still useful. The Insurance related and public liability deals must be worth it.
The problem with gigs, functions and MU contracts, is getting all parties involved to agree and sign them, especially anything overseas.



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Already this is looking complicated. Here are links to the bodies mentioned so far;[list]
[*][url="http://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/"]http://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/[/url] - MU or Musician's Union
[*][url="http://www.ism.org/"]http://www.ism.org/[/url] - ISM or Incorporated Society of Musicians
[*][url="http://solt.co.uk/"]http://solt.co.uk/[/url] - SOLT or Society of London Theatre
[*][url="http://www.prsformusic.com/"]http://www.prsformusic.com/[/url] - PRS. I believe it is called the Performing Rights Society although I found no words to that effect on the first skim through their home page.
[*][url="http://www.ppluk.com/"]http://www.ppluk.com/[/url] - PPL. Any guesses?
[/list]

It appears that MCPS is a subset of PRS. Again, I couldn't easily find the words for the acronym. Helpful innit?

Some further reading is required if only to find out the actual names of some of these bodies.

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[quote name='geoffbassist' timestamp='1494663588' post='3297641']
I love the idea and was a member for a decade, but each time I had to contact them they were completely useless. Even with routine enquiries it was like hitting my head against a brick wall. I had to use the Northern office, but I expect your experience would depend on your local office.
It's a real shame as I would love to be part of an effective union for musicians.

I have heard good things about the ISM.
[/quote]
My Bro in Law is a pro player and teacher. He's a member of the ISM, as was his mother too. They have found them useful for legal advice.
They could be worth investigating.

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There's something about union membership which seems to go against the spirit of independence, individuality and freedom which many of us creative types hold dear.

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[quote name='ivansc' timestamp='1494659472' post='3297610']
I was an MU member back in my teens and always thought it was a good idea - till I had occasion to seek their help with a couple of dodgy situations - mostly with a couple of agencies.
Bloody useless. I wound up thinking that the only thing the MU were interested in supporting were the pit players, orchestral players and film/tv players. Dumped my membership and never been back. "Keep Music Live" is a great old slogan, but they seem to think it only applies to the elite few.
[/quote]

This.

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It's been suggested by many people on here regarding public liability insurance over the years, the monthly membership cost adds up to far more than just taking a policy out with Ampband. Unless you want any other benefits of which the reviews aren't great for then I'd look elsewhere.

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The MU should have 'Organised' the industry many many years ago. They didn't they stuck to orchestra / theatre / film & TV etc and as such allowed their membership dwindle and become disaffected.

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Since the 60's and the demise of dance bands, the MU's condescending attitude to any of the popular forms of music and the world the guys playing it inhabited, ensured they had limited relevance to any musician born after 1945.

They were a necessary evil in the old days if you were trying to work in "official" and "traditional" entertainment, ie TV, studios, theatre and foreign tours, where they had things tied up. Even if you were a member, have a dispute with anyone they didn't recognise, like most managers, agents, record companies, pubs, clubs and venues that weren't unionised and they were at best disinterested and usually useless. A lot of the West End pit guys quit (80's or 90's can't remember) when the MU did a deal (against the wishes of the players) with the theatre owners to allow digital instruments into the shows, thus putting lots of players jobs at risk.

I was in the MU once. Only because it was a requirement for the tour. Apart from the insurance they are an expense most musicians don't need.

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Fur me st least membership is extremely useful. I wanted a dbs check for my teaching. You can't do this as an individual, but the MU will do it for you.

There's also the free insurance which is good.

They did help me a few years ago with a contact too.

They also do regular seminars and workshops that you can attend.

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[quote name='chris_b' timestamp='1494676078' post='3297772']
Since the 60's and the demise of dance bands, the MU's condescending attitude to any of the popular forms of music and the world the guys playing it inhabited, ensured they had limited relevance to any musician born after 1945.

They were a necessary evil in the old days if you were trying to work in "official" and "traditional" entertainment, ie TV, studios, theatre and foreign tours, where they had things tied up. Even if you were a member, have a dispute with anyone they didn't recognise, like most managers, agents, record companies, pubs, clubs and venues that weren't unionised and they were at best disinterested and usually useless. A lot of the West End pit guys quit (80's or 90's can't remember) when the MU did a deal (against the wishes of the players) with the theatre owners to allow digital instruments into the shows, thus putting lots of players jobs at risk.

I was in the MU once. Only because it was a requirement for the tour. Apart from the insurance they are an expense most musicians don't need.
[/quote]

Regarding the 80/90's, Chris b, It was a little more complicated, along with a few other factors as well.
Interesting read here about that period.
http://www.muhistory.com/contact-us/1971-1980/

Funniest part of the MU - The annual Diary !!
The Nokia or Motorola hastened the demise of the public appearance of that diary.
You waved the phone around rather than the diary :)
Then there was the Union Card. When presented, you got good discounts getting into Ronnie Scott's.

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Some good nuggets of historical background here. Thanks chaps. It's helping to clarify my thinking.

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I was a member back in the 70s. The great thing was the fact you could join under your stage name.

I was always amused to note (according to the area handbook) that Jaco Pastorius lived at 14 Highfield Avenue, Waterlooville. Portsmouth, as did I. :-)

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Forgot to mention that when I moved to Cambridge in 1961 the Cambridge local had a motion tabled to exclude rock and rollers from membership " because they werent proper musicians".

Happily, the OTHER Syd Barrett was the chairman/president/whatever and being a very nice old guy (also an upright bass player) he vetoed it.

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[quote name='ivansc' timestamp='1494754269' post='3298267']...to exclude rock and rollers from membership " because they weren't proper musicians"...
[/quote]

Although to be fair, in 1961, many 'rock'n'rollers' were, indeed, 'not proper musicians'..! :lol:

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[quote name='ivansc' timestamp='1494754269' post='3298267']
Forgot to mention that when I moved to Cambridge in 1961 the Cambridge local had a motion tabled to exclude rock and rollers from membership " because they werent proper musicians".

Happily, the OTHER Syd Barrett was the chairman/president/whatever and being a very nice old guy (also an upright bass player) he vetoed it.
[/quote]

I suppose one of the things that meant you could call yourself a musician at that time would have been the ability to read and write score?

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[quote name='Dad3353' timestamp='1494755148' post='3298277']
Although to be fair, in 1961, many 'rock'n'rollers' were, indeed, 'not proper musicians'..! :lol:
[/quote]

You were there at the time (like me) then, were you? This comes over as somewhat patronising, mate....
Taking age into account, just about everyone I worked with at the time knew their way around their instrument and more importantly "got" the importance of playing together as a group.
YouTube bedroom experts take note.

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[quote name='ivansc' timestamp='1494831480' post='3298724']
You were there at the time (like me) then, were you? This comes over as somewhat patronising, mate...
[/quote]

Good morning, Ivan...

Wrong side of the bed this morning, eh..? I was indeed around at the time (but quite young...). I'm sorry that you found my post to be patronising, despite the 'smiley'; it's not my preferred style, although I can stretch to it if pushed. I found the Mo Foster classic volume 'Seventeen Watts?' to be very interesting concerning the early years of UK rock, and had, myself, much in common with his accounts, gleaned from the mouths of the pioneers themselves. There were, it's true, many capable musicians around, but there were many more eager, young, enthusiastic folks inventing the genre, with little or no academic musical, nor technical, knowledge at all. The School of Life was the route that many took (and it served them well, in many cases...), but their [i]debuts[/i] were largely 'hit and miss' (often miss...) and 'trial and error' (often error...). I can quite understand the perplexity felt by an old-timer, steeped in the traditional ways of the time, confronted with a budding skiffle group, with four acoustic guitars, a tea-chest bass and a washboard, claiming to be 'musicians'. Some were to become so, but many never made beyond school leaving, and took up other careers. Times have changed; it's now pretty easy to learn music from t'web or a qualified teacher. Not so easy back then, as the popularity of the Bert Weedon method testifies. Patronising, me..? It's not my intention; just adding a touch of perspective, as seen through my small end of the telescope, and for the greater part in jest. ;)
No malice intended.

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