I am delighted to confirm that I am standing as a candidate in the forthcoming election for General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union.
I welcome the support of all MU members and anyone wishing to learn more of my plans is encouraged to contact me.
The official call for nominations was distributed to MU members in mid-December, in advance of the six Regional meetings in January where local members will select their preferred candidate.
My career in brief:
I have worked full-time for the Musicians’ Union since January 1999 and have gained considerable knowledge of the music industry and the trade union movement thanks to career-defining roles for the organisation, including Branch Secretary, Regional Officer, Communications Official, and in my current position as the Union’s PR & Marketing Official.
Throughout the 1990s, I was an MU activist, Committee member and Conference delegate, which gave me a UK wide understanding and appreciation of the Union’s work in fighting for the rights and interest of working musicians in the live arena, recording and broadcasting, in songwriting and composing, education and the orchestral sector.
During the 1980s, I worked as a full-time vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, whilst at the beginning of that decade and later in the 1990s, I also gained valuable business experience managing teams and negotiating within the financial services industry.
I am a passionate believer in the MU and was brought up in a family where my elder brothers were both professional musicians, and whose membership of the Union began in the 1960s.
Please visit the About page for more information.
My speech at the aforementioned meetings will be as follows:
“The MU is the leading organisation for musicians in the UK.
It has been fighting for the rights and interests of its members since it was founded in 1893 in Manchester by JB Williams, who called for:
‘A union to protect us from unscrupulous employers, amateurs and ourselves.’
We should take great pride in our achievements.
However, there are challenges for our future:
• The core membership is shrinking
• The subscriptions are too high
• Engagement in the Union’s democracy is at an all-time low.
The Union is dependent on less than two hundred activists to maintain its key committees. This equates to less than 1% of the membership.
Some members simply want the Union to be on call should they get into difficulties. While many members see the Union as a financial service via public liability cover.
However, the health of the MU relies on a flow of musicians being actively engaged.
We must increase engagement at grassroots level.
Let’s now consider the role of the General Secretary:
Rule VIII states:
“The General Secretary shall be responsible for the administration of the MU’s affairs and will carry out duties as directed by the EC and the rules of the MU.”
It is a role for a musician with experience of working through the ranks as an official. Who has the Union at heart, throughout their working life.
What about our future?
The status and strength of the MU relies upon its size, reputation and influence. To both negotiate effectively and to provide benefits and services for its freelance members.
To tackle issues, including:
• Touring the EU post-Brexit
• The paltry returns for musicians from streaming
• Fees, salaries and royalties failing to keep up with the cost of living
• Government-led cuts in music education
• Musicians, especially female artists, being left in the hands of manipulative power brokers
• Unequal opportunities for musicians from disadvantaged backgrounds
• Little understanding by engagers of the investment and commitment needed to be a musician
• Plus traditional sources of income are waning, such as licensing payments from broadcasters.
I now wish to focus on the issue of our core membership:
In 2012, 90% of the members were paying the full rate of £177.
By 2020, only 79% of members were paying the full rate of £227.
(Other members benefit from discounts, for example ‘join for £1.’)
Our subs for 2022 are £237.50. Placing our support, I believe, out of the reach of many.
To make a comparison with Equity:
To join Equity it costs £148 a year for those earning the national average salary of £26,500. Equity’s membership has risen in the last decade from 37,000 to 47,000.
I believe a lesson lies for us there.
The Musicians’ Union must aim to grow.
Growing the Union will enable the subscriptions to be reviewed, at both an economic level for more musicians, and for the delivery of our services in the long term.
We should dedicate specific resources to recruitment, retention and profile
Too many musicians are unaware of the role the Union plays in maintaining standards.
Plus extend our profile by engaging ambassadors for communities.
Musicians of any background and culture should see themselves represented in the MU.
Now a little on my background:
I come from a musical family, with both elder brothers having joined the MU in the 1960s.
Last year I completed the recording of an album for vinyl and online distribution.
I first became an activist in 1988 and a full-time employee in 1998.
Firstly, as a branch secretary in London, where membership increased by 10% in my first 3 years.
My current role includes being editor of The Musician magazine and I have just completed my 70th edition as editor. (The MU has won 19 awards for productions for which I have been editor).
Amongst many other duties, I am also responsible for our national media profile and artist liaison.
I have considerable experience in:
Finance, management, negotiation, representation and strategy.
In the 1990s, I was an area sales manager for Schroders, managing a team of five.
Achieving a target of £18m of new business in 1998, at an average return of 11%.
I am qualified to establish and lead a team reflecting the contemporary industry.
I believe evolution not revolution is the way forward.
Please visit keithames.uk to find out more.
Thank you for listening.”