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During 2023, musicians across all four nations of the UK were able to benefit from the MU's series of events and masterclasses for the live sector, all of which were held in MU Fair Play Venues.

These events provided valuable insights into getting the most from your gigs, funding, protecting your rights, and looking after your health and well-being. Collectively, they marked a decade of the MU’s Fair Play Venue Scheme.

Roots of the Fair Play Scheme

The MU’s Fair Play Scheme was set up as a response to concerns from MU members about the poor treatment and pay that many musicians were experiencing when performing in grassroots venues.

The scheme invites independent music venues to declare their support for the fair treatment of musicians and their opposition to pay-to-play and unfair ticketing deals. They do this by endorsing the principles of our Fair Play Guide and signing up to the Fair Play Scheme.

The Fair Play Guide offers advice to musicians on co-promotions, ticketing deals, showcases and competitions so that musicians can identify when a deal is fair. If you have played a gig at a venue where you were treated fairly and had a positive experience, you can nominate the venue yourself.

For more on the history and development of the Fair Play Scheme, revisit our blog on what we’ve achieved so far and what’s next for the MU and grassroots venues.

Panellists on stage at the Belfast Fair Play on Tour event.
The first leg of the tour kicked off in Belfast at the Oh Yeah Centre in September. Image credit: The MU ©

Tour highlights at a glance, from Belfast to Birkenhead

  • The first leg of the tour kicked off in Belfast at the Oh Yeah Centre on 14 September. It featured an informative Q&A on gigging and navigating the live music industry. Participants shared their insights on various topics such as accessing funding, taking care of mental health while gigging, and not only how to get gigs, but how to get the right ones. The event also featured special performances from Hex Hue and ROE.
  • The Exchange in Bristol hosted a live music panel discussion on 23 September. It provided a platform for musicians to engage in meaningful discussions on wellbeing and mental health and formed part of the hugely successful Wales and South West England Member's Day and Regional AGM.
  • Next we moved on to Birmingham, where Tower of Song hosted ‘The Genius of John Bonham’ Percussion Clinic on 24 September. Matt Green from the Palace Drum Clinic delved into the legendary drummer's grooves, breaking down songs like Immigrant Song, Rock and Roll, Good Times Bad Times and Fool in the Rain.
  • Glasgow's Mono hosted an event on 10 October which featured a Q&A with industry panellists on how to get the most from merchandising, how funding can help your career and how to negotiate a good deal. The night also featured performances from Kapil Seshasayee and Dave Arcari.

Couldn’t make the Glasgow panel? Read our member only advice on merchandising and view our dedicated guidance page on financing and funding for musicians.

  • Fair Play on Tour continued its journey to Cardiff at Clwb Ifor Bach on 16 October. The panel, including Gareth Bonello and representatives from Help Musicians and CULT Cymru, delved into health and wellbeing issues in live music and why it is so important to ask for help. Remember, all members can access our mental health and wellbeing advice.
  • At The Portland Arms in Cambridge on 17 October, MU Regional Officer Tom Eagle and PRS For Music discussed the challenges of navigating the music industry as a live artist, covering topics such as fair pay and royalties, the importance of written agreements in gigging, the art of gig preparation for success, and tips for choosing venues and finding suitable gigs for your act.

Didn’t make it to Cambridge or need some more support? You can now use our new guide to find out when to join PRS, the difference between royalty rates, and step-by-step instructions on how to report live performances.

  • The penultimate event took place at The Bedford in Balham, London on 13 November. The Q&A featured Helen Epega (The Venus Bushfires), Lucy May Walker, and Natalie Shay. The guests, who also all performed later in the evening, discussed their experiences of working with promoters, promoting their own shows, obtaining funding, and etiquette at gigs.
  • The tour concluded at Future Yard in Birkenhead on 21 November with two panel discussions. The first featured producer and musician Balraj Singh Samrai and Estella Adeyeri (musician in Big Joanie and music coach at Girls Rock London) and delved into environmentally conscious touring and offered practical advice to reduce your carbon footprint.

The second discussion covered financial sustainability and mental well-being on tour, with panellists Vernon Fuller (guitarist, vocalist and tutor), Jay Auty (Help Musicians) and Cath Hurley (music manager and Future Yard’s Head of Skills and Development). The panel covered how to maintain good mental health on tour and shared insights into organisations that can provide advice on funding and handling your finances.

Did you know? The MU can provide access to financial support and grants for members (such as the Benevolent Fund or Paternity Grant). View our Grants and Financial Support for Musicians page.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who joined us in our event series this year. If you attended any of the events, we hope that you found them insightful. We are already in the process of planning our next tour which will take place in 2024, so stay tuned for more updates and announcements.

Photo ofNatalie Witts-Kilshaw
Thanks to

Natalie Witts-Kilshaw

Before working at the MU, Nat, a jazz graduate from Trinity Laban, was a freelance trombone player, educator and arranger. She enjoyed a busy freelance career for over 15 years, playing and recording with renowned pop, jazz and classical artists and performing on numerous West End shows including In The Heights, Young Frankenstein and The Scottsboro Boys. Nat is now the MU's Live, Theatre, and Music Writers Official, contributing to the management of the MU's collective bargaining agreements and providing advice to members in areas such as busking, composing, songwriting, gigging and theatre.

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