Last week the WGA strike officially came to an end. Given the different issues that have popped up around musicians — from Bandcamp being bought by Songtradr to a large discussion of the harm of merch cuts — music fans are wondering if there are unions for songwriters.
There is a union for musicians, called the United Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) is the union for musicians. However, the inclusion of songwriters is tricky, and even in some cases illegal. “It’s something we need to work toward,” said musician Joey La Neve DeFrancesco. According to LA Times, a National Labor Relations Board-recognized union would need to exist to bargain for songwriters, otherwise they are treated as independent contractors licensing their work. DeFrancesco continued, “But unlike the WGA, musicians for a variety of reasons are simply not in the same level of organization right now. That’s the fundamental barrier.”
In response to the merch cut discussion, Live Nation ended fees for selling merchandise at their club-sized venues, as well as “investing in developing artists by providing $1,500 in gas and travel cash per show to all headliners and support acts, on top of nightly performance compensation.” As the company explained in a statement, “By helping with these core expenses, we aim to make it easier for artists on the road so they can keep performing to their fans in more cities across the country.”