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Extras & Deputies

The Freelance Orchestral Player

On this page you will find information about:

  • MU negotiations on behalf of self-employed musicians
  • How the MU represents your views and interests
  • Individual orchestra agreements
  • The MU Freelance Orchestral Committee (FOC)

We at the MU believe that you are the 'backbone' of the orchestral community. 

Your skills, flexibility and attitude are invaluable in every orchestral situation but occasionally these attributes are not recognised as well as they should be.

Your contributions 'oil the wheels' by enabling our contract orchestras to perform large adventurous programmes, not to mention the short notice panic call to cover sickness etc.  And of course you contribute enormously to the orchestral provision throughout the land in the many self-employed freelance orchestras and ensembles. 

You always deliver - no questions asked.  We at the Union recognise your contribution and, despite how it might sometimes feel, work wholeheartedly on your behalf especially when you sometimes feel you are forgotten.  

Other European countries have used EU rules barring price fixing to prevent unions from negotiating agreements that set minimum fees for self employed musicians.  In the UK we have always insisted that collective bargaining agreements governing wages for self-employed musicians are exempt from EU competition rules. 

We continue to argue on your behalf that setting a living wage for vulnerable self-employed workers is not the same thing as large corporations conspiring to fix high prices for commodities or services. 

Your MU negotiates agreements covering the terms of engagement for self-employed freelance orchestral players with the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) covering 39 orchestras, together with a further 18 employed contract orchestras and 14 self-employed freelance orchestras. 

We are constantly seeking to protect your livelihood by increasing the number of individual orchestra agreements covering self-employed musicians.  There are always a number of new agreements in negotiation at any one time.

The MU Freelance Orchestral Committee (FOC) exists to represent the views of the self-employed orchestral community.  Members of the FOC are nominated from the 1,500 freelance members of the MU Orchestra Section.  There are currently 19 members on the FOC which can have up to 20 maximum.  

If you want to take a more hands-on approach to the way your pay and terms are negotiated you are welcome to seek nomination to join the FOC - just contact the MU orchestra department on