British Musicians’ Union Charges Artists are “Emotionally Blackmailed” into Unpaid Charity Gigs

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August 4, 2011; Source: BBC | The British Musicians’ Union says that it will present a motion to the annual Trade Union Congress next month to address the fact that musicians are being browbeaten into participating as artists in charity concerts.

The motion states, “It is wrong that many performing artists are expected to work for nothing when they are engaged for charitable and fundraising events…It is extremely unfair to put professional musicians into a situation where they are emotionally blackmailed into working for no fee and are asked to give their services to a good cause…This is particularly unjust when others associated with the event, such as venue staff, lawyers and caterers are being paid.”

The Union further asserts that the problem extends to unpaid interns. The motion asserts: “It is unfair for interns, who are often employed full-time, not to be paid the ‘going’ rate for the work they do, just as it is wrong that many performing artists are expected to work for nothing when they are engaged for charitable and fundraising events.” – Ruth McCambridge

  • James Charles

    Actually, lawyers are also asked and/or expected to provide pro-bono services in most states in the US, so I guess we need a union to help us too…

  • Jean

    James, it isn’t quite the same. Most musicians don’t make much to begin with, and are constantly bombarded by requests to play at so-and-so’s bday, party, whatever… It’s a hard-scrabble life for most musicians. Being guilted into playing for free at charity events just continues to dilute their product.

  • Joyce K

    And the pro bono requirement doesn’t come from nonprofits – it comes from the legal profession itself – the Bar Association etc.

  • Cakey

    I saw a blog encouraging all visual artists to boycott giving to all fundraising events because it “devalues” their work. The blog was very insulting to fundraising professionals. I encourage my visual artist friends to pick a charity of choice to give one piece a year and kindly decline all others. If you don’t want to give at all, just say so. I don’t know any FR proessionals who will brow-beat an artist. I also think FR events can provide great exposure for newer artists to get their work in front of people.

  • Nadine

    I don’t dispute that guilting artists into giving services for free is a bad practice. But how is it any different from any fundraising effort that is based in guilt? Any use of browbeating/emotional blackmail to solicit donations of any kind (money or in-kind products and services) is wrong, and we should feel no compunction about turning them down flat, no matter how good the cause supposedly is. The ends do not justify such damaging means.