“Pay To Play? OK”, Says The Musicians’ Union

The Musicians’ Union (MU) is launching its new position on ‘pay to play’ at its opening panel at the In the City conference in Manchester on Wednesday 13 October.

The MU has always been against pay to play, objecting to bands having to pay to get a gig. However, since the formation of the MU’s new Gig Section, which has gathered together artists and local promoters, the union has accepted that some pay to play deals can be beneficial to musicians and promoters.

This will be the main issue discussed at the panel.

The panel will be chaired by Horace Trubridge, MU Assistant General Secretary, and will feature Guy Garvey (Elbow), Helienne Lindvall (Guardian journalist), Chris Long (BBC Introducing, Manchester) and Jay Taylor (promoter, Ruby Lounge, Manchester).

Horace Trubridge, MU Assistant General Secretary, says: “The MU recognises that it’s really tough out there. Unless you are an established artist, you’re going to need to do deals in order to get the gigs to build up your fan base and launch your career. The MU will still oppose deals which leave musicians out of pocket, but we are now advising members to have a look at what is being offered – some pay to play gigs result in the artist making a decent sum of money.”

In The City panel update – The MU’s stance on what constitutes a bad deal is An arrangement whereby artists agree to play a part in the promotion or financing of a gig, but aren’t appropriately or proportionately rewarded for their efforts.

Some key points from the discussion on Weds 13th October:

Guy Garvey regrets the pay to play gigs that Elbow did in the earlier stages of their career, stating that “the feeling of being ripped off or lied to can’t be overlooked or forgiven – it’s so so cruel.”

It was acknowledged that some promoters may have started operating on a pay to play basis as a result of bands lying about their pulling power, and thus leaving promoters heavily out of pocket.

Jay Taylor feels that promoters should work with musicians to create bespoke deals that work for all involved. Furthermore, Jay believes that it’s possible for a gig to be a positive experience for all involved – promoter, artist and punter.

Chris Long talked of the BBC Introducing gigs that he promotes whereby musicians do not receive fees, but benefit through the high-profile promotion that the BBC provide.

After a discussion in relation to directing artists to fair deals, Guy suggested that “crediting good venues is the wrong way round. It should be the norm not to get ripped off”.



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