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The other big “U” in my life – Unions!

I have had ukuleles in my blood for over seven years – but unions for nearly 40.  So, that this would be my second post was pretty much inevitable.

Musicians’ Union advice

We are all operating in the music industry in one way or another.  All as players, in more than one sense of the word; some as workers, some as volunteers and some as both.

Whether you are a professional musician, semi-professional or strictly “just for fun”, it is well worth studying the #worknotplaymu decision tree.

The stories behind the decision tree

These reveal the bigger picture and the impact of the the decisions we make, on ourselves and on others:

In summary
  • The Musicians’ Union does not say that you should always charge a fee
  • Neither does it say that you should always play for free
  • It wants you to be street-wise when you make each choice

Can’t see the wood for the trees?

If that decision tree looks daunting (it did to me at first sight!) it is worth the effort.  It gives you a set of basic rules to bear in mind.

If you have those rules in your head:
  • it will be easier to weigh up a situation quickly if something is sprung on you
  • you can decide what is relevant and what is “noise”
  • you will feel under less emotional pressure and better able to make an informed decision

If the rules are not in your head, how about a chart on your wall, in your uke case or saved on your computing gadget?

Here is a pdf file for you: worknotplaymu flowchart

Complicated because comprehensive

The #worknotplaymu decision tree takes into account:

  • professional musicians and their families  being expected to survive on air and their love of music: #worknotplaymu charity stories
  • local “cake stall” events, where everyone is chipping in for a good cause and neighbourliness, half the stallholders having bought and cooked all the ingredients to sell their flap jacks and Victoria Sponges to the other half, who are busy flogging their home made greetings cards for charity
  • everything in between
Some decisions are easy

At community “cake stall” events, nobody is going to gripe that someone really should have booked that Jamie Oliver to turn up and toss flaming pancakes in the air.

Likewise,  no one is going to expect their family, friends and neighbours in the local uke troupe to demand parity with the UOGB.  Particularly when they clearly would be happy to crawl over broken glass for a chance to get up there and strut their stuff!

Advice for charities

From Last Minute Musicians, a site full of advice for both performers and for those looking to book a band:

We advise charities to contact local businesses for sponsorship for the music and entertainment for charity events, as it’s really important for future events and for the success of the evening that you have really excellent music.

Playing for charity

Examples of choosing to play for charity in a thought-out way:

If you thought any of those examples were the same as randomly playing for free, have another look at those articles under “The stories behind the decision tree”.

Rates for professionals

Musicians' Union Work Not Play

Links are to 2014-15 rates.

  • If you are booking a professional musician on behalf of a Making Music group, there are agreed rates.  There is also some useful history and background on that page.
  • Last Minute Musicians has published the current Musicians Union recommended rates.

Work or play?

For most of us it is play.  Gigs, paid or not, are a chance to have even more fun, often in support of a good cause.

For others, gigs are a stepping stone towards music becoming part or all of their livelihood.

livelihood: “a means of securing the necessities of life”

Some already depend on playing and/or teaching music to support themselves and their familiesand the rest of us benefit from them continuing to be able to do so.

Work and play?

One way ukulele clubs and groups can combine work and play:

  • getting paid for amateur gigs (see decision tree)
  • then using some or all of the money to help fund performances and workshops by professional musicians.

There is a reply form below if you have any other ideas, or any comments on this article.

Liz Panton