The Musicians' Union: Alive and well, playing by the book
Union has been helping musicians since 1893
Friday 26 July 2013
With high-profile members including Elton John, David Bowie and Mick Jagger, The Musicians' Union has been helping musicians since 1893. George Michael had advice very early on in his career about what to charge at local gigs in north London. More recently Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera lobbied for The Musicians' Union to bring about the Live Music Act in 2012, which introduced a small venues exemption from the Licensing Act 2003. Now to celebrate its 120th anniversary this summer The Musicians' Union have been going through their archives at the University of Stirling, in Scotland, and pulling out some of the biggest moments in their history for a forthcoming book.
Highlights include Queen (pictured), who got into real trouble with the Union in 1984, when they played seven of their 12 scheduled concerts at Sun City in South Africa. The Union had banned its members from playing there, in opposition to the apartheid regime. Queen's Brian May, who claimed the band was “not political”, and they “play to anyone who comes to listen”, said: “We broke one of their [the Union's] rules... I think we broke that with the best motives in mind. So I got up and made a speech to them. ”Afterwards, lots of members came up and said, 'Thanks, we understand now – but we still have to fine you because it is in the rules'. We have totally clear consciences, but I'm sure a lot of people still think we are fascist pigs.“
The Union even put a stop to miming on Top of the Pops in 1966 – “If an artist wasn't capable of singing live, the BBC had to pre-record it in a studio rather than take it from the commercial disc,” says John Smith, the General Secretary of The Musicians' Union.
Further back in history, the Union came to the rescue in 1912 for families of the hired musicians who were killed in the Titanic disaster and were not entitled to any compensation. When the first talkies came out with The Jazz Singer in 1927, there was real panic among musicians who lost their jobs playing with live orchestras to accompany silent films and Union membership dwindled for some time.
Currently the Union is lobbying in Europe as part of the International Federation to make it easier to carry instruments as hand luggage on aeroplanes.
“If you have to put it in the hold, it gets damaged,” says Smith. “You really need expensive flight cases. Some airlines are sympathetic, some awful.”
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'