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MU General Secretary Summer Update

MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl looks at your rights and AI, developments in the Fix Streaming campaign, and how we’re negotiating the best rates for members.

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By Naomi Pohl Published: 07 September 2023 | 5:38 PM
Naomi Pohl and the UK Music Delegation outside 10 Downing Street this week to discuss the impact of AI on the music industry.
The MU is pushing for copyright law to be upheld in relation to artificial intelligence. Image credit: UK Music ©

Earlier this week I attended a meeting at 10 Downing Street as part of a UK Music delegation to discuss the impact of AI on the music industry.

The union is pushing for copyright law to be upheld in relation to artificial intelligence, and for new rights to be introduced that will protect musicians and music creators from any unauthorised use of their works and performances. During the meeting the delegation reiterated that:

  • Creators should be directly represented in any consultation process
  • Consent should be sought individually from the people who make the music before their music is used to train AI technology
  • Music generated by AI will directly compete with works by human artists, and some strands of work such as writing and recording library music could be lost.
  • Creators may well wish to refuse for their works to be ‘ingested’
  • If artists do consent, there must be a fair payment system and share of revenue.
  • Current copyright must be enforced and the Government should also consider whether new supplementary rights for creators should be introduced.
  • New personality and image rights may be required to protect creators and performers against deep fakes and other misrepresentation in the media as a result of AI.

Fix Streaming

On the issue of music streaming, the Government and Intellectual Property Office are now convening a group specifically to negotiate fair remuneration from music streaming.

I expect to be included within the group and will push for better royalties for featured artists, including those on older deals, and for non-featured musicians.

We hosted a successful dinner in Parliament recently to update MPs on the issue, and we are ensuring that this stays on the Government's agenda. It is also on the Labour Party agenda and Keir Starmer was very interested when I briefed him on it last year.


Talks with the BBC about a secure future for the six Performing Groups, including the BBC Singers, continue and are likely to run into early next year.

The BBC Proms season was exceptionally successful and had more air-time than usual across all BBC stations and platforms. Our talks have covered all sorts of ground and are already resulting in increased use of the Groups within the BBC and beyond.

Our hope is to achieve increased income which will grow their budgets and also ensure the BBC gets the higher level orchestral tax relief in place.

Fighting for improved rates

We have been in dispute over pay at the ROH and our members in the orchestra voted in favour of potential strike action. We remain in urgent talks with the management and our members in the orchestra.

We also remain in dispute with the BPI over the minimum session rates. They offered a 38% increase on the non-classical rate and 15% on the classical rates, but we refused to ballot as the package of concessions required was totally unacceptable.

The offer was based on a reduction in royalties and rights that our members have currently under the agreement, more minutes of music to be recorded in sessions, and an acknowledgement from the MU that the increase in fees represents a payment in lieu of streaming rights.

The minimum session rates in the agreement are very low - £130 for a three hour session - and have not kept pace with inflation. Since January 2011 inflation to January 2023 has increased by 57% (RPI), which would take the minimum rate to £188 with no changes to the agreement. Meanwhile, other session rates (e.g. BBC TV rate, for one broadcast, currently at £246.00 for three-hours) have significantly out-stripped those that exist in this agreement.

MU instrument insurance and TUC Congress

Finally in other news, I’m pleased to confirm that our instrument and equipment insurance cover has now increased to £3000. I hope this will help members out in what I know is a difficult cost of living crisis.

I will also be at TUC Congress next week where issues discussed will include artificial intelligence, the BBC, arts and culture, sexual harassment at work, education, the climate emergency and the current RAAC (concrete) crisis affecting all unions and many workplaces. I will report back to members on TUC next week.

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