Face the music

Working together. That is what I believe is key to a better working world.

It is not shouting the loudest or arguing the most.

It is bringing as many members to the table as you can to state their need for fair treatment.

It is building a network of as many allies as you can find to share in your vision.

To support them in their campaigns and to ask them to support us in ours.

Trade unions were formed because the individual worker is in a weaker position than an employer, that an individual worker is always more vulnerable.

Two recent articles in the press have highlighted how very vulnerable those entering or trying to earn a living as freelances in the creative industries can find themselves.

“If you hear of bad practice in our industry tell your officials”

In August Helienne Lindvall wrote in The Guardian of the Vocalist Songwriters Alliance (VSA), set up two years ago by singer/songwriters especially working in the electronic dance music (EDM) industry.

Electronic dance music is one of the most lucrative sectors of the music industry – top DJs can demand £50,000 to £100,000 per gig.

But the mainly women vocalists, who also write the melodies and lyrics to the dance hits, claim they rarely get paid for their work.

Yet again the intellectual property rights of creative artists are being lost, a fair share of the income denied.

Antonia Lucas started a Facebook group, which evolved into the VSA, for singer-songwriters in the EDM sector.

She described her first introduction to the business when 20 years ago one session with a garage producer resulted in her working all day with a number of producers coming in with beats without music.

Lucas was required to make up melodies and lyrics on top of the beats. She reports: “12 records came out of that session – six of which were hits – and all I received was £200 and no writing credits”.

Other artists have found tracks they have made mashed with others, especially their vocals, and released by the new group/DJ. This is often by international acts: the dance scene is truly global.

Record labels will release the music without clearing copyright and ignore requests for royalties.

Again the individual finds it a lot harder to fight; artists have said they have no money to hire lawyers and fear blacklisting (where have we heard that before?) – we wish them success.

Another area where campaigning has led to some success is the decision by HM Revenue & Customs to inform 200 businesses that have advertised placements for unpaid internships that they could be publicly named and fines if they are in breach of the National Minimum Wage Act.

BECTU and others have fought to ensure that internships are not just another way to get unpaid labour, that they truly have a training component and commitment to the health and well being of the intern/worker.

If you hear of bad practice in our industry tell your officials. The more we can name and shame the bad employers, the better chance the good employers will have.

BECTU has a Script Registration Service for members. This is to help in the proving of intellectual ownership of creative ideas.

Copyright does not exist until a work is published. But if you send us your scripts for television, film and theatre, your proposals, storyboards, formats and ideas, we will return them to you by registered post in a sealed envelope with a covering letter saying when we registered them.

This registration can give evidence of authorship at a known date.

All of these issues are better resolved when we work together.

Categories: Arts, Law

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Picture of Christine Bond