The Musicians’ Union has called on artists and musicians across the UK to turn down any offers to play for free as part of this summer’s Olympics festivities.
It follows a number of reports from musicians around the country that they have been approached by people involved in Olympic ventures who have asked that they play live, or licence their recordings for sync, for free, or next to nothing, because an involvement in Britain’s big sporty debacle will be “good promotion”. PPL Chairman Fran Nevrkla mentioned reports of such approaches at the collecting society’s AGM earlier this month, calling the offers “shameful and deeply offensive”. Meanwhile the MU says such offers go against previous commitments made by LOCOG, the body running the London Games, which said any musicians involved would be paid.
One artist told the Corporate Watch website: “They [Olympic organisers] said they were really keen for us to play on major stages at different events. We replied quoting our normal fees. After months of meetings they offered us a raft of gigs but said it was LOCOG’s policy not to pay any musicians for performing. They should stop trying to capitalise on the image of the Olympics and pay a fair rate for our services”.
Meanwhile The Quietus, which has been following this story closely, has heard from a musician approached about a sync arrangement (quite why artists would be approached directly for such deals isn’t clear, as most acts would be in contract with a label and publisher who would control such arrangements, but there you go).
The Quietus writes: “His group had been approached regarding the use of one of their songs to accompany footage to be shown on screens in the various venues in the Olympic Park. The fee [for usage for] the rest of the year… a princely £250 to the artist. The Quietus learns that £250 per master usage and publishing is the standard rate being offered [for] music syncs at the Olympic site, with the you-can’t-bank-it carrot of exposure being used as the reason for the low fees. Our source described the offer as ‘beyond insulting’ and, needless to say, his band’s music will not be featured at the Olympics”.
Responding to the various reports of Olympic events asking for freebies from musicians, the MU said yesterday: “This is completely unacceptable and the MU is urging any musician who is approached to call their MU Regional Office and report it. We are chasing every single example with LOCOG, and we are also going public where appropriate. We are also in touch with the TUC, as LOCOG signed a Principles Of Cooperation with them which specifically states that professional workers will be paid for their services and are distinct from the unpaid volunteer workforce”.
Meanwhile the Union’s Assistant General Secretary Horace Trubridge told CMU: “LOCOG have repeatedly told us that all professional musicians will be paid, and yet we’ve seen example after example of them breaking their word. If they want musicians to entertain thousands of people then they should pay for it. It is difficult enough to earn a decent living as a professional musician these days – where does this idea come from that musicians should be happy to work for free? Who else would be?”
He added: “We need as many musicians as possible to come forward about this so that we can put as much pressure on LOCOG as possible. We will also be bringing it to the attention of the general public so that they can decide whether they think it’s fair that musicians are not being paid whilst most of the other professionals involved are”.
Rising concerns about the treatment of musicians by LOCOG came as the Olympics body announced that a Muse track, called ‘Survival’, would be the official song of the games. Possibly a tribute to all those hard-working musicians who somehow survive despite having to play the London games, with its multi-billion pound budget and vast family of big business sponsors, for free.