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We Need Musicians’ Loading Zones to Keep Music Live

New research shows parking restrictions are putting live music in towns and cities at risk. That’s why the Musicians’ Union (MU) is calling for Musicians’ Loading Zones to keep music live.

Musicians need instruments and equipment to perform. It sounds obvious, but parking restrictions implemented by local authorities often make it difficult for musicians to get their instruments and equipment into venues without facing heavy penalties - something that could put live music, especially in our towns and cities, at risk.

The issue

Musicians carrying heavy or bulky equipment must, by necessity, be allowed to unload their gear to perform at a venue and then load it back up after the gig is over. If you’re performing in the evening, this means trying to find a space to park at times during which parking is restricted. Moreover, in cities like London, you could be performing in venues outside which there is no parking at all.

This puts musicians in an impossible position - risk an average fine of £65 to play the gig, or don’t risk it and lose work.

It’s all very well if you’ve slung a guitar on your back for an acoustic set. But chances are even a singer-songwriter is carrying more than one guitar. Imagine those with electric guitars, drums, double basses, even harps, who have to transport their expensive, sometimes fragile and often irreplaceable instruments as well as all the equipment they need to put on a professional performance that punters have forked out cold hard cash to see.

You might think it’s easy - just dash in and out of the venue with a few mates and hope the parking warden doesn’t turn up for those two minutes. But it just doesn’t work like that.

It’s reasonable for musicians to have to make several trips and spend a little bit of time making sure that they load and unload safely, and that their instruments and equipment are safely located at the venue. And it is wholly unreasonable to expect musicians to leave the tools of their trade on the street while finding a place to park. It is not safe, and it is not secure.

The ultimate cost to the musician could be more than money. Parking restrictions put musicians’ ability to work both that gig and the few weeks after at risk. For freelancers, that is a real and present danger.

That’s why we at the Musicians’ Union (MU) surveyed our members who work in London. We wanted to know how parking restrictions affect them.

Musicians’ experiences

Shockingly, 42% of members surveyed have received parking fines for working in London. More than half told us they have received a parking fine more than once.

Fines start at £30, and the most common fine issued is £65.

Some musicians told us that the fines cancelled out the fee they received for doing the gig, and sometimes the fine was even higher.

How to fix it

The MU believes that parking fines given to musicians while loading and unloading their instruments and equipment is an unfair tax on a group of workers who often have no other choice than to park illegally to ensure their safety, and the security of their instruments. Our members are forced to park illegally in order to do their jobs. It is not something they would otherwise decide to do.

We absolutely recognise that parking restrictions keep traffic flowing and ensure that people parking for leisure reasons do not block important routes or endanger safety. But parking restrictions often take into account people loading and unloading for business. All we want is for our members, working musicians, to be afforded the same right to work.

That’s why we are calling for musicians and DJs to be given exemption from parking restrictions whilst loading and unloading for work purposes.

We want Musicians’ Loading Zones outside venues, just like the ones you see outside high street shops and retailers.

Alternatively, vehicles loading and unloading outside venues could display a native or permit from the venue and authorised by the local authority that shows that the car is parked for that specific purpose.

None of this is new. Popular examples include parking schemes in Seattle and Nashville in the U.S.A. and Yarra City Council's easing of parking restrictions for musicians in Victoria, Australia.

Music is a huge part of the British identity both here and abroad. It is vital that our musicians and our live music venues survive and thrive. It’s shocking that something as simple as parking is enough to derail that. But there is an easy fix.

We’re starting our work persuading local authorities to take our solutions up in London. And we hope that our solution can be transported to towns and cities across the UK to support the entire music ecosystem, to keep music live.

Play Your Part

If you would like to support our parking campaign, please share this post with your local councillors via Write to Them and ask them to ease parking restrictions for musicians.

Facts and Figures

In October 2016, we asked Musicians’ Union (MU) members about their experiences of parking in London. The survey received 675 responses. Here are some of the key facts and figures: 

  • 74% of MU members surveyed work regularly in London.
  • 42% have received a parking fine.
  • 46% have received a parking fine once.
  • 54% have received a parking fine more than once.
  • The top 3 London boroughs for issuing parking fines, according to the experiences of our members, are Westminster, Camden and the City of London.
  • Other boroughs of note include Hackney, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Islington.
  • Of the different parking restrictions, members received the most fines for parking on single yellow lines pre-cut off time.
  • Other areas members are forced to park include double yellow lines, restricted parking bays, red routes, loading bays, bus stops, on the curb and in residents’ bays.
  • Fines given to our members range start from £30. One member reported having to pay £200. 
  • The most common fine issued is £65.

Find out more

For more information about this, or any other issues performing musicians face, get in touch with the MU’s Live Performance Department via live@theMU.org

Published: 24/11/2016

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