Share experiences of being asked to work for free

Share experiences of being asked to work for free

Musicians are being encouraged to use social media to report their experiences of being asked to play for little or no fee as part of the Union’s influential Work Not Play campaign. Artists’ testimonies, shared online via the hashtag #WorkNotPlayMU, are set to become a vital contribution to the campaign as the MU aims to end the expectation that professional musicians should play live for free.

The campaign is the result of the MU’s growing concern about the trend of professional musicians not being paid for their work. In this era of illegal downloading, live revenue is increasingly important and musicians rely on it to survive. Most musicians are not well paid and therefore musicians, and fans, are being encouraged to join an MU campaign to ensure that music continues to be a viable profession.
Horace Trubridge, MU Assistant General Secretary – Industry, says:

‘The Union launched to make sure that the musician’s voice in the great “free or not free” debate would be heard. We maintain that if musicians want to give their recordings away for no payment, then that is fine. But those who want to be paid should be paid – exactly the same principle should apply for live performance.

‘How many times have we all heard the following, in an effort to get us to play for free?  “It’s for a good cause, it’ll be great exposure, it’ll lead to more work”, or quite simply, “there’s no money in the budget?” Ploys designed to put the musician in a difficult situation.  Not one of those excuses is viable. If it’s for a good cause, which your performance is helping to make a success, shouldn’t you be the one who decides how much you donate? Perhaps from the payment you receive from playing?  Plus, is it really a showcase event that will increase your exposure? It is highly unlikely there will be industry names in the audience to make that happen. The same can be said of the claim that “It will lead to more work”. If you play for nothing that is what people will think you are worth.’

Horace continues, ‘An overly familiar line from promoters states: “There’s no money in the gig budget to pay musicians”. But is everyone else from the bar staff, the sound and lighting guys through to the caterers working for free?  If they’re getting paid, why are you expected to work for free?  We want the principle of always paying full-time and part-time professionals to seep into the public consciousness, so that not paying them seems unthinkable. We’re asking all MU members to report instances where they been asked or pressured to play for free.  We will publicise these in press releases. We should certainly have no qualms about naming and shaming offenders.’

The website at is also available for members to post their experiences and the use of the hashtag #WorkNotPlayMU provides a tool for participating in the campaign. In addition a digital badge allows musicians to pledge support on their own websites and direct other musicians to the campaign site.

Posted: March 22, 2013