Greetings all, hope you are surviving and taking care of each other. Below is a letter I sent to Horace Trubridge, the General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union about the need for the
union to organise a concerted campaign for it’s members, many of who are adversely affected by the corona virus crisis. Please share, especially MU members.
I hope you are well and continue to be so. It seems to me that you are facing the first major national crisis of your general secretaryship with the effects and implications of the Covid-19 virus for musicians and venues. The second will be after Brexit and in all likelihood a third will be a global recession ( for good measure) as a background to both events. I have been inundated this week with messages from friends, colleagues and ex students who have had performing work, teaching, tours and festival appearances cancelled with no indication whether they will be rescheduled and when. We are all fully aware of the endemic low pay and increasingly precarious nature of most freelance
musical work and instrumental teaching, and the nature of the current crisis means that there is great uncertainty about income levels returning over the coming year. From an MU
perspective, I would hope that the first priority is obviously the health and well being of
members and the second is to help them to survive financially until things improve. Under
the circumstances, it behoves those organisations and people who are relatively stable
financially, with reserves and salaried staff, to help those who are not and whose position will become increasingly serious over the coming months. The MU is also part of this and
although not set up as a charity obviously, has a duty of care to members and various
charitable objects which were not shied away from in the past.
I have looked at the MU advice about Coronavirus on the website and whilst there is some
useful information (which seems to be regularly updated), I feel there needs to be stronger
leadership from the MU and a concerted campaign and assistance package that not only helps musicians in an practical way immediately but also empowers them to work together to help each other and their communities. I propose the following:
-SOLT, PRS, Help Musicians UK and the MU set up a joint fund to help members with loss
of income from cancelled gigs, teaching and tours. If the music industry in the UK is worth
￡5.2bn, then there must also be reserves that would help those that actually create and
perform the music.
-A joint campaign is launched with UK Music, the Creative Industries Forum, the Music
Venues Trust to lobby the government for funds to sustain freelancers over the coming
months. The CIF have already begun to do this.
-A campaign directed at audiences and supporters on how they might donate tickets or
support local venues and musicians via crowd-funding, in conjunction with the Music Venues Trust.
-To support and add weight to the new campaigns being made by individual musicians for
Spotify and Bandcamp to pay more in royalties and to tackle i-tunes over this issue.
-To discuss with the orchestras via the orchestral officials ways in which freelancers can be
assisted in conjunction with the ACE plan in progress.
-Major discussion with employers in theatre, cruise ship, hotel work about how they might
pay musicians retainers of some sort.
-Continue to create a database of work lost by surveying members in order to quantify the
damage and to lobby more effectively (as we did with Lost Arts).
-Work with Hub Reps to find out what is happening in the Music Hubs around the country
and feed that information to Arts Council England who are currently preparing an emergency funding plan for freelancers and portfolio organisations.
-Ask regional organisers to find out what local help and community networks are available
around the country – I’m thinking of free meals, food supplies and other assistance.
This kind of unprecedented crisis requires mobilising help and assistance throughout the
music industry across the UK and the MU is well placed to lead and co-ordinate a major
campaign. I am asking you and the EC to do everything in your power to help musicians
through this emergency situation in accordance with rule 1, 2e 2g, and 3b.
All the best,