Welcome to The International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland Branch

Working in Music: The Musicians’ Union, musical labour and musical employment

Posted: March 10th, 2015 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Mitchell Library, Glasgow, 14 and 15 January 2016.

This conference marks the conclusion of The Musicians Union: A Social History a four year research project which is based at the University of Glasgow (www.muhistory.com) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The UK’s Musicians’ Union traces it origins back to 1893 and the project has used the Union as a prism through which to examine, over a 120 year period, both the working lives of musicians and the industries in which they work. It has concentrated on musicians as workers, musicians’ representative organisations and employment in the music industries. These considerations form the backdrop to the conference. We therefore invite proposals for papers which address one or more of the following themes:

  • Musicians’ working lives
  • Employment practices and working conditions within the music industries
  • Musicians’ representative organisations
  • The effect of gender, race, ethnicity, disability and/or sexuality on musical labour and employment
  • Musical labour and employment in different genres of music
  • Musical labour and technology (including musical labour in the digital age)
  • Musicians’ working lives in orchestras, bands and other ensembles
  • Labour and creativity
  • Music and the labour movement


Paper proposals are invited on these topics – and on any other issue relevant to musicians’ representative organisations, musical labour and musical employment. Proposals will be welcomed from any perspective, using any methodology and addressing any kind of music.

Please note that papers should last for 20 minutes and the conference organisers will be asking chairs to keep to this limit.

Submitting Proposals

Proposals should include the name and contact details (email) of the proposer, the title of the proposal and an abstract of no more than 150 words. We also invite proposals for panels. Please send proposals to [email protected]. The deadline for proposals is 31 May 2015.

We hope to inform applicants of decisions by 30 June 2015.

Keynote Speakers

We are delighted to announce the following keynote speakers:

Catherine Tackley, Open University, UK, author of Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert (OUP 2012)

Matt Stahl, University of Western Ontario, Canada, author of Unfree Masters: Popular Music and the politics of work (Duke University Press 2012).

John Smith, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, will join the conference as our special guest.


The conference will be held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow (www.glasgowlife.org.uk/libraries/the-mitchell-library/pages/home.aspx), a prestigious Edwardian building which is a landmark conference venue.

This location is within walking distance of a range of excellent restaurants, bars, pubs and music venues.


An exhibition on the history of the Musicians’ Union will be staged to coincide with the conference.

Concert and social events

A concert celebrating the history of the Union and of the role of music in the labour movement more broadly will be held during the conference. Acclaimed singer songwriter, and MU activist, Rab Noakes will lead this celebration. The conference will also feature a number of social events. Further details to follow.

Other information

Glasgow has one of the most vibrant music scenes in the UK, having in the recent past produced artists such as Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand and Emeli Sande. It has a great range of venues including The Barrowland Ballroom, King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, the Academy, the ABC, the Garage, Stereo, the Royal Concert Hall and the SSE Hydro. It also boasts a highly diverse music scene with significant dance, country and western, folk and jazz scenes. For more information see:



The conference website will be updated regularly. It can be found at:

Conference fee

The conference fee has yet to be set but is expected to be in the region of £100 for waged delegates and £50 for unwaged, inclusive of admission, tea and coffee, concert and social event.

We look forward to welcoming you to Glasgow

Martin Cloonan and John Williamson, MU History Project.

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