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From: The Socialist issue 1123, 3 March 2021: Not a budget for the working class!

Search site for keywords: Music - Union - Socialist - Minimum wage - Arts

Union fight to save musicians' livelihoods

Streaming companies like Spotify make huge profits at the expense of musicians, photo Gavin Whitner/CC

Streaming companies like Spotify make huge profits at the expense of musicians, photo Gavin Whitner/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Henry Hoare-Exley, Brighton Socialist Party

The Covid-19 crisis has forced society to shut down, and music venues, which have not opened at all since last March, are no exception. A musician's main sources of income are typically touring and gigging but, due to venue closures, many musicians are struggling financially, relying solely on income from streaming.

To earn the hourly minimum wage an artist's music must be streamed 3,114 times. In context, the minimum wage working 40 hours a week 46.4 weeks of the year would require 5,779,584 streams. Still, this is only enough to support one person, for bands and groups a lot more streams are needed. Poverty has never been a stranger to most musicians, and now many face having to abandon the industry or take up multiple jobs.

Over time, more and more artists come from privileged backgrounds, usually privately educated, because they don't need to worry about income. Gentrification means artists can no longer live in city centres, leaving areas previously rich in culture drained.

Some think this makes sense, that musicians are not productive members of society and that music is a hobby. Art is the heart of all humanity; without the capabilities of creative expression there is no humanity and we become no more than products of labour here to serve the capitalist machine.

On 15 March UMAW (Union of Musicians and Allied Workers) will be protesting outside Spotify offices globally, asking that the union's demands are met. This includes a pay increase to 1p per stream. The Socialist Party supports the union taking action. We demand democratic public ownership of the streaming industry, as well as demanding that the arts should be funded and subsidised by the government as a social good. Action must be taken now if we are to prevent the loss of music, drama, dance and creativity.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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