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MU Member Success at STUC Congress in Aberdeen

It was a successful week for MU members at the Scottish TUC Congress in Aberdeen.

Published: 29 April 2022 | 4:52 PM Updated: 06 May 2022 | 6:18 PM
Rab Noakes, Caroline Sewell, Iona Fyfe and Neil Patterson at STUC Congress
Rab Noakes, Caroline Sewell, Iona Fyfe and Neil Patterson at the STUC Congress in Aberdeen, speaking on the big challenges facing musicians. Image credit: STUC Congress 2022 – Fraser Band

Iona Fyfe, Neil Patterson and Rab Noakes represented the MU at the STUC Congress in Aberdeen, speaking on the big challenges facing members.

These included the loss of arts and culture income streams as a result of Covid-19 and Brexit, the economics of music streaming, and sexual harassment in the music industry.

All three MU motions passed, and the union thanks all Congress delegates who voted in support of musicians.

Making a living from music

“It shouldn't come as a surprise the social and economic changes from Brexit and Covid-19 have practically crippled the arts and culture sector,” Neil Patterson told delegates in a speech moving Motion 17.

The motion calls on the Scottish TUC to support and encourage support for the arts, culture and entertainment sectors at every opportunity.

Explaining the impact of Brexit on musicians’ earnings, Neil said:

“Since the end of the Brexit transition, artists such as Elton John have brought attention to the lack of freedom of movement. If artists with full touring teams are noticing difficulties, then grass-roots artists have practically no chance.”

“Add Covid to this and things just get worse. Late cancellations, ever changing rules and public uncertainty means that even home soil gigs are failing to provide a viable income source. Support programmes have let many artists down. Many have fallen through the cracks due to not fitting into any pre-determined category. It is all too common to hear about careers stalling or failing completely,” he added.

It's time to Fix Streaming and keep music alive

Iona Fyfe moved Motion 18 on the economics of music streaming. The motion calls on Congress to seek support from MPs to support the Fix Streaming campaign and the aims of the Brennan Bill.

Speaking on the motion, Iona explained why fixing streaming matters:

“It’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s there at the touch of your fingertips - and yet, streaming is almost single-handedly decimating a huge portion of both established and emerging musicians’ income.”

“At a time when the very latest Omicron variant cancelled more and more live shows, and it’s difficult to get bums on seats, early career musicians find themselves reliant on selling their work through merchandising and CD sales. But in a digital world where streaming is far more convenient than buying a physical CD, musicians are missing out on a vital income stream, which is not being replaced by the proceeds of streaming,” she added.

Put simply, “At the end of the day, I just want more than £85 for 48,000 streams.”

As well as moving Motion 18, Iona also won the STUC’s Equality Award. The award celebrates Iona’s tireless advocacy for fairness within the industry, and was presented by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Calling out sexual harassment in the music industry

Motion 64 calls on the STUC’s General Council to lobby government to improve reporting processes for women who experience sexual harassment and all those who witness sexual harassment.

Moving the motion, Rab Noakes described sexual harassment as “a scourge of many workplaces”.

He added, “it should come as no surprise to see a man move this motion. It is absolutely crucial that we get involved in the issues of the sexual harassment of women. Tackling sexual harassment cannot be left to women. We MUST reflect on our own behaviour and challenge our colleagues and friends”.

The motion was heard at the same time as a joint BBC and Guardian investigation revealed the decades of abuse of Black women by the DJ Tim Westwood. The revelations are yet another example of the power imbalances in the music industry that allow men to use their positions of power to abuse women over lengthy periods of time without consequence.

Musicians who experience or witness sexual harassment at work are encouraged to report it to the MU’s Safe Space service in confidence.

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