2001 –


The new decade started with the Union in crisis: General Secretary, Derek Kay, was suspended and engaging the Union in a divisive and costly legal battle, while the first two years of the decade saw it running up £3 million of losses.

The election of John Smith at the end of 2002 gave the Union stability and allowed it to embark on major internal changes, reforming its structure to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Simultaneously, the Union became more involved with other music industries’ organisations, playing an important part in both the Live Music Forum and UK Music.


Copyright and licensing were top of the Union’s agenda throughout the decade. The drawn out implications of the European Copyright Directive continued to create difficulties, with PAMRA and AURA finally merging with PPL in 2007. The Union joined with other industry organisations to lobby on both the Licensing Act (2003) and the Live Music Act (2012) with regards their impact on opportunities for musicians to earn from live performances. With regards the recording industry, the Union joined the BPI, AIM and others in their support for copyright term extension on a pan-European basis, the outcome being an extension of copyright term on sound recordings to seventy years.

Key Dates


Kay’s appeal is heard by a Disciplinary Committee which reduces the five year ban to two and upholds one of his other grounds for appeal. Kay also begins legal proceedings against the Union.

An out of court settlement is reached with Freddie Staff. Limited details are released other than to indicate that Staff “will be given the information that will tell him what happened to the many millions of pounds held by the Union.”

There remains something of a power vacuum in the Union with Deputy General Secretaries – John Smith, Andy Knight and Bob Wearn – penning the editorial in the Musician in Kay’s continued absence. Subsequently, Knight is appointed Deputy General Secretary to fill the gap until the General Secretary issue is resolved.

In the midst of this, the Biennial Delegate Conference is held without a General Secretary. At this John Patrick, the Chairman of the Executive Committee announces that he will not be standing for another term having spent forty years as a member and 32 years as chair of the EC.

An EC meeting decided to ballot members on the removal of Kay from office

The Northern Ireland Musicians’ Association (which acted as de facto Union for Northern Irish musicians) is disbanded and the MU makes efforts to recruit its former members.


Electoral Reform Services are appointed as Independent Scrutineer for the forthcoming General Secretary election and the Union publishes a job spec for the General Secretary position in the March edition of the Musician. It describes the Union as having “a membership of about 31000, a financial turnover of around £4 million and a Balance Sheet value of around £10 million.”

A report by the Trade Union Certification Officer rules the Union’s election rules “invalid,” forcing the EC to hold an emergency meeting and delay the planned election of a new General Secretary. This results in the Union reverting to the previous rules, and also invalidated the election of the Chair (Richard Watson) and Vice-Chairs of the EC. The Union reverts to its former rules and promises a timetable for the election of a new General Secretary with a Rule Change Ballot in the Autumn.

The Union’s accounts for the previous year (2001) show a defecit of £1.8 million. Knight attribute this to a mixture of ratio of subscription income to expenditure and “stock market trading” resulting in a loss on some of the Union’s investments.

The Trade Union Certification Officer rules that “there are no circumstances to suggest that the affairs of the Union in relation to its Special Account No.3 (The PPL funds) have or are being conducted for a fraudulent or unlawful purpose.” This is seen as a vindication of the Union’s actions in the light of the actions by Freddie Staff and other disgruntled session musicians.

An election for General Secretary is finally held in November 2002, with four candidates: John Smith, Derek Kay, Chris Hodgkins and Bob Wearn. No candidate achieves 50% of the vote, leaving Smith and Hodgkins to take part in a head to head ballot in December. Around 22% of Union members vote.

John Smith is elected General Secretary, defeating Chris Hodgkins by 4606 votes to 3335 in the head-to-head second ballot on 13th December. He immediately pledges to review all the Union’s operations and draw up a new Rule Book for discussion at the 2003 conference and subsequent ballot. In doing so, he pledges to modernise the Union.

John Smith is allowed to attend PPL board meetings (though without voting rights) – the first time performers have been represented at such meetings.

The aftermath of the European Directive on Copyright is still being played out with problems surrounding the distribution of funds to performers. Music Week reports of a “crisis” with PAMRA, which is backed by AURA and the MU.


The financial problems of recent years show no signs of improvement with a loss of £1.2 million announced for the previous year.

The Union holds a series of regional events to explain and discuss two proposals to restructure the Union’s organisation with a view to a ballot planned for early 2004. John Smith wrote in the Musician when setting out the proposals that “the EC’s intention is to relaunch the Union as an organisation that is equipped and ready to face the challenges of the 21st century music industry; to do that we have to leave behind our 19th Century structure. This is one of the most important issues that the Union has faced in its 110 year history.”

Licensing Act is passed – making it a requirement that all venues (no matter how small) require a licence to put on live music.

Conference votes to retain the Union’s affiliation to the Labour Party. Smith explains in The Musician (September 2004) that around 39% of the Political Fund’s expenditure goes to the Labour Party.


Live Music Forum is founded, with the support of the Union, to examine the impact of the new licensing laws on live music. The Union called this the “biggest commitment made by any government to live music.”

Members vote by 5784 to 1991 to retain the Political Fund

92% of members (on a turnout of just 22%) vote for the rule changes and restructuring of the Union. This meant that the new structure would be in place by the start of 2005, ending the previous branch structure which had been in place since the formation of the AMU in 1893. These are to be replaced by six new regions each with a full-time professional organiser as opposed to the “willing amateurs” who had run the branches. Plans are announced to simultaneously revamp the Musician and the Union’s website.


The new regional offices (Scotland and Northern Ireland; North of England; Midlands; Wales and SW England; East and South East and London) become operational at the start of the year.
A survey conducted by the Union finds that the average annual income of an orchestral musician in one of the UK’s top orchestras is £28 579, with around £3000 of that being from secondary work outside of the orchestra.


The Union (as well as the FIM) comes out strongly in support of the campaign to extend the copyright terms on sound recordings. Smith describes the Union’s support as “a no-brainer.”


After receiving clearance in 2006 from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, both PAMRA and AURA are merged into PPL, meaning that performers’ royalties are now paid directly by PPL in an effort to simplify (and make more efficient) the distribution of performer income.

Union membership grows in the two years since reorganisation from 30382 (2005) to 32641 (2007).


UK Music – an umbrella organisation of British music industries’ bodies is formed. The Union is joined in the coalition by AIM (Association of Independent Music), BACS (British Academy of Composers and Songwriters), BPI, PRS for Music, Music Managers Forum (MMF), Music Publishers Association (MPA), PPL and subsequently, the Concert Promoters Association.

The Union supports attempts by EU Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy’s attempts to extend copyright term on sound recordings to 95 years (from 50).


The Union launches the “Music Supported Here” campaign to encourage consumers to pay for recorded music.

Delegate Conference in Peterborough is addressed by MPs John Whittingdale and John McDonnell as well as Feargal Sharkey of UK Music and the General Secretary of FIM, Benoit Machuel.


The Union rebrands with a new logo as part of the Communications Strategy approved in 2008.

MU aligns with the Music Mangers’ Forum and the Featured Artists’ Coalition to represent artists’ interest and lobby against the pre-release of records to radio. The group plans to write to the BBC’s Director-General, Mark Thompson, “claiming that by playing music ahead of a release date the BBC is encouraging piracy.” (Music Week, 10 April 2010). The group intends to meet monthly and get more involved with “political stuff.”


A new agreement is reached with the BPI over fees for recording session, with the basic rate being increased from £113.40 for a 3 hour session to £120.

Copyright term on sound recordings is finally extended after a lengthy period of lobbying by the Union and other industries’ organisations to 70 years.

The Union is represented at a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing into the Licensing Act, where John Smith and Horace Trubridge tell MPs that the Act has failed to increase the number of live performances and may have resulted in some smaller venues stopping putting on live music altogether.

The Union is one of several Unions involved in the Lost Arts Campaign, which is primarily based around a website to illustrate the effect of the government’s spending cuts on the arts sector.


After substantial lobbying by the Union and others, the Live Music Act comes into force on the 1st October, It then sets out to make small venues (capacity of 200 or less) aware of the licensing exemption for them in the bill by producing a Live Music Kit.

John Smith is re-elected unopposed as General Secretary.


The Union celebrates its 120th birthday with a biennial conference in the place of its birth, Manchester.