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Not been paid for a gig? Here's what to do

Lost fees and unpaid invoices can happen for all kinds of reasons.

Maybe your gig has been cancelled last minute, or you’ve completed your part in a recording project only to be rewarded with significantly less money than you expected. You could be working for a private music service that’s fallen behind with your regular payments, or you were hired for a big workshop that was unexpectedly cancelled.

In any case, contact the MU straight away if you're a musician still waiting to get paid.

At the MU we do everything we can to help you in recover and report unpaid wages. From advice on how to approach the other party with an initial discussion, to providing legal assistance in the unpaid wages small claims court, we're here to support you.

How does the MU help musicians get compensation for unpaid wages?

You can ask the MU for help via our fee recovery service on any and every payment issue owed to you personally, as long as it relates to your career as a musician.

Our involvement won’t always result in unpaid invoice legal action or even your Regional Office stepping in on your behalf. You might simply need advice on how best to proceed.

Your unpaid invoice recovery process will differ depending on the details of your particular case and whether you meet the Union’s criteria for legal action on unpaid invoices.

It could mean your Regional Office writing and negotiating on your behalf, or it might mean our in-house Solicitor assisting you in preparing a case to lodge in the small claims court. This might include the reimbursement of court fees paid out if your unpaid wages claim or enforcement attempts are unsuccessful.

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How does our unpaid wages recovery process work?

In many cases, simply having a conversation with the other party or writing an unpaid invoice letter can be enough to resolve things. Your Regional Office will advise you from the outset, giving you the tools to approach the dispute yourself where appropriate – so don't worry if you're not sure how to recover unpaid wages.

1. Making contact and gathering evidence

After you first contact your Regional Office, you'll usually be required to fill out a short legal advice and assistance form where you'll need to answer a few brief questions on who you are and who you're claiming against. This is the first step towards reporting an employer for unpaid wages.

You'll also need to attach a written statement setting out exactly what happened, as well as the events and dates. And you’ll be asked to include any other supporting evidence you have – including records of all relevant discussions, agreements and contracts where possible.

2. Notifying the other side

The next step will be your Regional Office raising the dispute with the other party on your behalf. This can take different forms depending on your particular case but will often result in an official unpaid invoice letter being sent from the MU to the other party, giving them 14 days to respond.

3. Negotiations

After this, the Regional Official will either enter into negotiations with the other party on your behalf – or if this does not resolve the dispute, pass the case on to the Union’s in-house Solicitor. They will continue to work with you, assuming you meet the criteria for UK legal action on unpaid wages.

The in-house Solicitor will then try to resolve the issue through correspondence with the other party. If this does not result in a solution, they'll advise you on the merits of your potential claim. Should you wish to take it further, they'll help you prepare and pursue a case for your unpaid wages through the small claims court.

4. Preparing for court

The small claims court is designed for you to represent yourself, so we wouldn't attend with you. However, we can advise you up to the hearing itself and help you with subsequent enforcement action if your claim succeeds.

Before you claim for unpaid wages: our advice

The best way for musicians to protect themselves in any engagement situation is to collect invoices, receipts and any correspondence with employers.

Although all kinds of evidence can be used to prove that you had a pre-existing agreement – from spoken conversations to emails and WhatsApp chats – a properly prepared and completed contract will give you the best chance of making a successful claim should any issue arise.

MU members have access to several different contracts and can contact their Regional Office for free advice on using these and other contracts correctly. If you're wondering how to report or claim unpaid wages under UK law, we can help.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch today and we'll help you start the process.

Find out more about contracts and the MU Contract Advisory Service.

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From gig players to part-time teachers and professional instrumentalists, MU members can access specialist insurance for musicians. This includes accident cover, health schemes, travel insurance and car insurance add-ons through the Musicians’ Union.

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Contact the Musicians' Union today

The MU has a network of experienced teams available to help musicians in all areas of the industry. If you have any questions about our services, membership or how the MU could help you, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


This is not a hobby - it's our profession

No-one should feel guilty about turning down unpaid “opportunities". Have you been asked to work for no fee?

This is not a hobby - it's our profession