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Representing the Interests of Members Globally Through the International Federation of Musicians (FIM)

A report from the 2021 FIM Congress from MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl, discussing issues from the climate crisis to diversity and inclusion in orchestras.

Photo ofNaomi Pohl
By Naomi Pohl Published: 28 May 2021 | 9:09 AM Updated: 01 June 2021 | 10:23 AM
Photograph of a collection of instruments, a microphone, acoustic guitar, keyboard and various percussion.
Topics included social security for musicians, climate change, access to music education, diversity and inclusion in orchestras and all-rights buy-outs. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM), which brings together musicians' unions across the globe, held its first online Congress in May 2021. There were over 80 participants, representing unions from every continent, and it was clear that musicians are facing similar challenges wherever they live and work.

Motions discussed covered topics such as the need for better social security for musicians following the Covid-19 crisis, climate change, access to music education, diversity and inclusion in orchestras and all-rights buy-outs. There was also a statement approved setting out FIM's aspirations on equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as one on fair remuneration of musicians from streaming.

Congress also received a fantastic presentation from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on the economics of streaming which chimed with our own #FixStreaming campaign and the issues that have been discussed in the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry here in the UK.

WIPO will be publishing a report on this issue soon which we hope will be useful in moving discussions forward on equitable remuneration; guaranteed royalties for all musicians on streaming.

John Smith, previous General Secretary of the MU, was elected President of FIM again and our General Secretary Horace Trubridge was elected to join his team of Vice-Presidents. Congratulations to them both. We are well-represented and respected at FIM and have valuable relationships with our equivalents in many FIM member unions, which we put to good use on behalf of members.

The MU's representatives at FIM Congress gave some fantastic speeches on a range of issues. Below are a few excerpts to give a flavour of the event.

A leading voice on the most serious issue facing humankind

Rick Finlay on climate change:

"The words used in this motion are critical to demonstrate that FIM and its member unions are absolutely serious in recognising the impact of the climate crisis. When we come together at Congress we all share a responsibility to the musicians that we represent.

“We want to be able to show them that FIM, as the highest international body representing their interests, is a leading voice on the most serious issue facing humankind. Of course I want FIM to be the kind of organisation that expresses views held by me and my colleagues on the international stage.

“It remains my hope that FIM member unions will examine their own working practices to be more sustainable and eliminate waste of energy and materials. Our [FIM] General Secretary in his activity report says, ‘Solidarity has been the FIM’s governing principle … In this spirit, some of our members like to speak of FIM as a family.’

“As in all families, our greatest hopes and efforts are directed to those that are beginning their lives as musicians, and those yet to come."

For children and young people music is essential

Dave Lee on music education:

"We talk about Diversity and Cultural choices. Our aims cannot be achieved unless we start at the bottom - the root. Education and opportunity. Let’s grow the fruits that our talented children possess. Irrespective of socio-economic background and diverse cultures letet us provide an opportunity that is open to all, free of charge and allows students to explore their talents. That opportunity must las throughout their education.

"We have to accept that the choice they make will undoubtedly be their choice in the end. It may be Jazz. It may be Folk. it could be Pop. It just may be Classical. We will just have to wait and see. Patience and commitment will be needed.

"It’s ironic the the one art form that helped us through the pandemic lockdowns was music - the very art form that governments across the world are now starving of funds. At the end of the second world war Churchill was asked about cutting the Arts budget to help pay the bills. His reply revolved around the truism that the war was fought to defend our Culture. What would be the point in cutting it’s funding?

"The future of music making in the future will have to come from our youth. It’s funding too. We must invest in that talent."

Sarah Williams on music education:

"Friends, we in the UK are being governed by a prime minister devoid of moral compass, a despot of Trumpian proportions, governing for personal gain and not for the good of our country or its citizens.

“Boris Johnson is a philistine of epic proportion. Our education minister has called for music and other arts subjects at universities and conservatoires to have their funding cut by a half. Music and the arts are not among our governments funding priorities.

“Friends, for children and young people music is essential. Music ignites all areas of child development and skills, including intellectual, social-emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. It helps the body and the mind work together.

“Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words the benefits of music for children is widely documented. Also children are the musicians of the future, our workforce of the future.

“We all know the joy that music brings to life, and to our society. Music also brings £5.8 billion to the UK economy. To cut provision is wrong headed, makes no sense. Congress we must do all we can to promote music in our countries, to provide free music tuition and instruments to our children."

FIM can provide important leverage to assist the Kenya Musicians’ Union

Rachael Parvin in support of the Kenyan Musicians' Union's fight to achieve recognition:

"I’ve visited Kenya and would dearly want for our Keynan colleagues to have their professional musicians’ organising body to have the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

“These are fundamental democratic principles and the professional musicians in Kenya deserve this vitally important recognition. It is not good enough that the delaying tactics of the Kenyan authorities have prevented this for ten years and clearly FIM can provide important leverage to assist the Kenya Musicians' Union."

Vital ways to increase diversity in our orchestras

Alex Gascoine on diversity in orchestras:

"As a violinist in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, I witness every day the mountain we have to climb in making our orchestras more diverse and more representative of our societies. However, what I also see are the efforts our orchestras are now beginning to make in increasing the awareness of managements and musicians.

“There is a real commitment in British orchestras to make sure our ensembles are more inclusive. But this won’t be a quick process...

“We need to do more to prove that a career in music is accessible, achievable and sustainable. Making our orchestras more visible in our communities, having access to free tuition in our schools, initiatives like Sistema and continuing to lobby unsympathetic governments are all vital if we are to increase the diversity in our orchestras."

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