Wednesday, 23 November 2011

What are we worth?

SESSION: What are we worth?

onvener(s): Tim Whitehead

Participants: Chris Greive (Scottish Jazz Federation), Rick Finlay, Annick Adjo, Jack Davis, John Cumming , Mao Yamada, Keith Michael, Val Fenton

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

A review of the economic realities of being a professional musician, and it’s impact on their lives and the development of the art form.

TW observed that BBC was an example of an institution (the largest employer of musicians in UK) whose agreed rates of pay are below a living wage (eg fee for live performance and rehearsal on national network radio £93 represents £15 per hr gross or annual earnings (if the musician worked at that level for a 40 hr week based on that rate of £25000 gross per annum in London). Cost of housing , and other expenses requires much bigger basic income.

Rick said very grey areas needed clarifying. The MU often asked for solidarity from members on specific issues , but failed often to get the response/commitment to support. Further discussion ensued about how to achieve that solidarity in the jazz field, and several examples of undercutting and lack of solidarity on working conditions were cited.

There were offered several ideas of how to encourage our fellow musicians

To understand the significance of their actions , including MU being more pro active in this area, and encouraging the musicians to action.

Several people expressed their fears of the effect on their career on taking such actions.It was felt that the Union could offer support in these circumstances.

John Cumming suggested we were aiming at the wrong targets. Musicians should research which areas would most help our cause, and then targeting them-would take time , but the current economic climate might see change 5 years hence. Big funders and institutions have entrenched positions around their interests and have good strategies for defending them.

It was suggested that the level of funding offered by Arts Council and others was proportionately so low compared to other art forms like opera and orchestras, that an adjustment in distribution could be achieved within the current levels of overall funding.

We should pull together professionals from other ares of finance etc to advise on possible scenario changes in the coming years to enable us to strategise.

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