It's bloody hard surviving as a musician. First of all, a lot of people think that you should do what you do for no payment because you enjoy it so much. This is something that the MU has been fighting against for some time through our Work Not Play campaign.
Then there are the many, many people who still think it's OK to use file sharing and pirate sites to download music for free with the justification that the record labels have been ripping us off for years. This "justification" conveniently side-steps the fact that if the record company doesn't get paid then neither does the artist. Also, a good deal of artists now sell their own recordings on the web and so pirating them is not "sticking it to the man" it's just ripping off the musicians.
Most professional or part-time professional musicians are earning less than £20,000 a year from their career, this, after many years of training and investment in their craft. So, it follows that any additional source of income, no matter how small, can mean the difference between staying in the profession and selling your instrument. When performers were granted the right to receive equitable remuneration for the public performance and broadcast of their performances - a right that is administered through the collecting society PPL (Public Performance Limited) - a vital new source of income was established that helps musicians get by, not just during their active careers but also when they retire.
For the vast majority of musicians, this doesn't amount to much more than a few hundred pounds a year but, as already stated, this can make the difference between survival and the end of what might have been a flourishing career.
This is the case for musicians not just here in the UK but across Europe where the right for performers to receive equitable remuneration for public performance and broadcast also exists. However, in almost all other European countries the performers also enjoy another source of income that is denied UK performers. That is a share of the money collected from the big tech companies like Apple, Samsung and Nokia for the right to allow the copying of music on to digital devices. This right is called the private copying exception and European law states that it has to be accompanied by fair compensation to rights-holders which include performers. It generates about a couple of hundred euros a year for a jobbing musician in France for instance, and the tech companies do not pass the cost of the fair compensation on to consumers so everyone is happy.
However, not only did the UK not adopt the private copying exception at the time that the other European countries did, they are now proposing to introduce the exception with no fair compensation. In other words, the rights-holders (performers) get nothing and the tech companies pay nothing. Yes, that's right, the uber- rich non-UK, tech companies are handed a windfall and the struggling UK musicians get jack: Robin Hood in reverse. This would make the UK the only country in Europe where the exception exists but musicians see no payment for it.
This is a government that has decimated the arts and culture landscape in this country with the worst cuts to arts funding we have ever experienced. Not content with denying the performer community a multitude of work opportunities that have been lost as a result of these cuts, they now want to make us the poor relations of our counterparts in the rest of Europe. I don't give a monkey's chuff about the poor old bankers who we are told will flee the country as a result of their bonuses being cut but I care deeply about the talent lost to the UK if it gets much harder to survive as a musician.
Follow Horace Trubridge on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WeAreTheMU