How do we build a more inclusive trade union and music industry? That’s the question members of the Musicians’ Union explored at Members’ Conference 2022 in Leeds during October. Across keynotes, panels and breakout sessions, we discussed ways to acknowledge the diversity of our industry and ensure there’s space for everybody in it.
It was a really good and relevant conference, where we looked in depth at important issues for musicians. While it might seem obvious to say that people come in all shapes and forms, and we naturally acknowledge that we are all different in different ways, the truth is that we are prone to standardization. Sometimes, that makes our differences become barriers in our jobs and lives. Adding to that factors like prejudice and misconceptions, we realise that there are many things that we can and shall do to change the industry and make it accessible.
We talked, for example, about how to facilitate the communication of accommodation needs within the industry. We discussed a document called ‘access rider’, which allows musicians to tell venues and producers about specific requirements to perform to the best of their ability: tables to locate our equipment, dressing rooms to get ready after a long ride to the venue, parking space near or in front of the venue with the possibility to offload, ramp access, etc.
We also discussed mental health, looking at performance anxiety and the economic, social or cultural factors that can cause it. In the context of the pandemic and the mental toll it took on us, we agreed on the importance of dropping the taboos and embarrassment around mental health issues to be able to address them appropriately. After all, musicians normally operate on their own, without the support of an HR department, and that increased stress can lead to severe issues like addiction. I was glad to see how Sony stepped up as the first record label that truly looks at this kind of issues and offers support to the artists they sign.
As for my own contribution, I lead a roundtable on the subject of menopausal musicians. We talked about how menopause affects music and relationships. There were people among the attendants who’ll never go through menopause, but listened to the experiences of those who have gone and will go through it. It was positive because they thought about the impact of this natural process of the first time and committed to keep it into account for their colleagues, acquaintances and loved ones. We created list of ten positive things that can be done by the MU regarding supporting menopausal musicians, which is now in the hands of the union for consideration.
While it was my first time doing something like this for the MU, it flowed very naturally due to the proactive attitude of everyone involved, including a trade union representative who talked about her advocacy at different unions and her own experience. We also had a note taker, which was very practical because we didn’t have to worry about keeping record and could instead get deeply involved in conversation. It was an enriching experience for which I’m very thankful.
In the future, it’d be ideal not to have separate conversations about themes like inclusion, because difference, and not standard or expectation, should be the base from which all efforts of organisation start. However, while we get there, I hope there are more events like this conference. In that way, we’ll be able to take the necessary steps to give everybody their rightful space in the music industry.
Read my article on menopausal musicians: The Journey Of a Menopausal Musician
Read more about the conference: MU Members’ Conference 2022: Building an Inclusive Trade Union and Music Industry