Is it worth it to join the Union?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jive1, Jul 30, 2004.

  1. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I've been contemplating using the money from my next few gigs to join the local musician's union. I've been gigging for years without ever being in the union, but I'm wondering if it will help to get better gigs, or at least better contacts.

    So for you guys who are union/non-union, is it worth it to join the union? What are some benefits? Any liabilities?
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The real people to ask are union guys where YOU live. Have you ever had to pass on a gig because you were not in the union?
  3. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    Depends on the location. Some places, its a joke; other places-no card, no work.
  4. Is VA right to work state? If so, then just skip it.

    I haven't dealt with music unions, but in my short stint as an actor, I found that being a union member in a right to work state (texas is one) it was far more of a curse than a blessing. I wasn't a member myself, but a person I knew was and often had to skip jobs because the union wouldn't let him.
  5. Ha, ha what a hoot. Our 'union' in Australia is absolute poo. I refuse on priciple to give them the $2 bucks a week so the fat cats can have $1000 lunches on Darling harbour (Sydney).
    I needed them for a very sticky predicament once, and man, they dropped the ball BIG time. In my 15 years of playing professionally, I have never seen or heard of a union rep, visit any pub or club I have ever played in, checking up on stuff. It might be different over in the states, but the unions don't do jack for us players in Australia.
  6. leanne


    May 29, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    AFM members get a 15% discount on sending flowers. How could you pass on that??

    Seriously, it definitely depends where you're working, and what kind of work you're doing.
  7. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I've been playing over 30 years. Never joined the musicians union. Never had to pass on a gig due to not being in the union. If you are a fulltime musician, then it may make sense to join for the benefits and such. Weekend warriors? Nah!
  8. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I asked this same question here a couple years ago, and the gist of the responses I got was this.

    Joining the union will not help you get any more gigs than before. I don't know specifically what types of gigs would refuse to hire non-union musos, but it's a good bet that if you're playing bars and clubs it will never be an issue. My best guesses for union-mandatory gigs (perhaps someone with more experience in the matter can prove or disprove this) would be gigs such as orchestras, musicals, theater, and perhaps some studio work, especially the more well-known ones.

    The benefits are a pension (which you may not need if music isn't your full-time career), and a standard contract for any gig you play... thus giving you a leg to stand on if the venue decides to try and screw you over. However, you'll have to pay the union dues ($200 CDN or so per year plus a portion of gig monies up here, as I recall).