Do you belong to a Musicians Union/Association?


Just wondering if these organizations are still relevant for todays musicians?

Here is a couple of points about the past.

1-When I first joined the union there were separate
‘Black’ and ‘White’ unions and you had to sight-read to join.
There was a test in front of a panel.

2- My new Echoplex was banned by the union for on stage work.
The reasoning was: ‘If you want an echo, hire another musician’.

Times have changed. Or have they? Tell me.


You must be an older musician if you remember segregated unions. When I joined the union, it seemed they were never present to monitor actual paid value of contracts, however, they’d send a letter demanding their 10% of the face value of the contract. I was in the union for about a year before I stopped paying dues and withdrew my membership and affiliation. To me, it was like a scam. They carried no weight for the ‘little guy.’

Sounds different to European unions which are more like the Guilds they built the mould on. Outside of the old USA I have never heard of segregated unions. Outside of the USA and old South Afrika they were never needed elsewhere. They’re good here for advice, contacts, information and built - in public liability insurance.
Take a look at the British MU site. I think you’ll find it’s very different although an agreement point is that they are not terrifically useful to the “bread and butter” musicians feeding from the bottom.
As you go up they do seem to be more effective especially for orchestral and session players.

I joined my local 35 years ago but at some point I quit paying dues… I’m not even sure they’re active here anymore. Since I perform fairly regularly, I should find out. The Chicago union used to extend its influence/control downstate here, but it’s been at least a decade since I’ve heard them even mentioned