To Join or Not to Join?
Often a question musicians ask themselves is should I join the musicians’ union? As part of the Celtic Clan series of blogs, we like to cover lots topics.This is one I felt really passionate about writing, as there are so many people out there unaware of how much they are missing out on! Before I joined the MU, I had no idea what they offered. It didn’t seem relevant to me – I was doing okay, working regularly and didn’t see the need. Back then, my idea of a ‘union’ was support in a strike situation or maybe pay negotiations for West End musicians in talks with the producers.
Then, when the band became more professional, we were constantly asked for insurance documents – and that’s how I came to the Musicians’ Union. They provide fantastic public liability cover as part of the deal.
BUT – IT WAS A REVELATION TO DISCOVER WHAT ELSE WAS ON OFFER.
It’s a few years down the line now – and I can honestly say I’ve been amazed by their generosity and willingness to provide for members in terms of training, support, networking and career development. When I was wondering if I should join the Musicians’ Union – I had no idea of what was on offer.
Here are a few examples of what’s waiting for you if you join:
TRAINING COURSES – often free! I’ve been on an introduction to studio recording course. Met some lovely people, gained great insight and lots of knowledge.
NETWORKING EVENTS – really fun and well organised. Great food and lots of drink. Often structured around a talk first, and then mingling. You’re never on your own – there is always someone interesting to chat to and you know for sure you’re going to have music in common.
LEGAL SUPPORT – If you find yourself in a dispute and need advice or representation – these are the guys to help you. We’ve taken advice twice when trying to recover money for work done.
FINANCIAL HELP WHEN YOU’RE IN TROUBLE – How many other unions offer this? They have a benevolent fund which exists to help people in times of crisis. It could be an illness that has stopped you working, and they may help with mounting bills. Or perhaps they will fund a holiday to recuperate. They may pay for you to re-train in another skill if you can’t work as a musician any longer. It’s funded from legacies and donations and has changed thousands of lives since it began.
CAREERS ADVICE – If you’re a recent graduate, you may be floundering and need help. Or maybe you’re already self-employed and need guidance on how to make it all work. Perhaps you’re a music teacher who needs updating on legislation or teaching techniques? Well – the MU run regular regional workshops that deal with these subjects and much more.
A BRILLIANT CONTACTS BOOK – This is worth its weight in gold! Full of advice and contacts – everything on guidance on how to audition for an orchestra, through to pay negotiation skills, musicians union payment rates,
A GREAT, INTERACTIVE WEBSITE. This includes a really useful forum – and a notice board where you can advertise your things for sale.
PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE – Up to £5million! You can’t argue with that.
POLITICAL ACTIVITY – They lobby! They make changes. They work for you. Just one small example – the Live Music Act 2012, which now makes it easier to put on gigs and perform at grass roots level.
EDUCATIONAL CHANGES – They work with teachers. And pupils to ensure music is high on the curriculum.
THEY LOOK AFTER YOUR HEALTH – I saw a Harley Street Audiologist at an amazing price, here in Birmingham. It was part of an ear health day – my hearing was tested, and I had some special ear plugs custom-made to knock out damaging noise that could worsen my tinnitus. Brilliant service!
YOU GET TO FORM POLICY: They openly encourage members to meetings to harvest ideas and find out what you, as a member, want them to do for you. You see a gap – make it known, and they will do their best to plug it.
If you’re wondering ‘should I join the Musicians’ Union?’ – then the answer is a resounding yes. Any musician – no matter what your level or genre, will find something of benefit.