Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Can't Pay? Won't Play!

There has been a certain amount of controversy over whether musicians performing at the Olympics should be expected to give their services free or whether they should expect to be paid.

Personally I think they should all be offered payment: any who wish to forego the fee can surely have it donated to a charity of their choice. Musical performance is how these guys make their living, and while I may be happy to play for nothing, I would take a dim view if someone offered me a contract to do IT work for the Olympics unpaid.

I have to smile wryly though at the Musicians' Union getting high and mighty about performers working unpaid. I remember taking part in a performance of The Desert Song in Stirling, many years ago, put on by a local light opera company. Every year, the musicians were fixed by a trumpeter (whose name I have thankfully forgotten but which should have been Dave Spart, as in Private Eye's spoof leftist) who was something senior in the local MU branch. Naturally enough, he ensured that all the MU members in the band received union rates: but he insisted that no musician who was not a member of the MU could receive any payment except basic expenses. From the lofty height of several decades of my own union activism, I can declare his attitude to have been both stupid and calculated to bring the union into disrepute (I know most of the MU members in the band thought it was disgraceful that I was putting in the same hours as them for £5 a night or whatever).

Clearly the guy never got this memo. As this article points out (I found it when Googling "Dave Spart") the champions of leftist orthodoxy of thirty years ago have had their place taken by the equally humourless and unrealistic champions of the free market. The results, at least for musicians, seem pretty similar.

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