Players' work time

A history of the British Musicians' Union, 1893-2013

By John Williamson and Martin Cloonan

Players' work time


  • Hardcover
  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0829-6
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: September 2016
  • BIC Category: Politics & government, Music, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, MUSIC / General, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, The arts / Music, Society & social sciences / Popular culture, Sociology, Popular culture


This is about musicians' working lives in Britain from the late Victorian era to the present day. Using the Musicians' Union as a prism through which to explore those lives, the book illuminates the key factors which shape musicians' working lives including such things as changes in technology, law and the music industries, while also considering matters of nationality, gender and genre. Anyone interested in music and the people who make it will be interested in this history.


'Their tale is a major contribution to the sociological and political history of British music. Here is the first book to document and analyse the role of the MU in promoting the interests of the nation's professional musicians. It is about musicians as workers, skilled individuals often employed by competing, competitive markets. The book trawls public and private archives to capture a wealth of information about the working conditions of countless musicians whose collective contributions to Britain's cultural life carry major historical significance.'
Andrew Stewart, The Musician: Journal of the Musicians' Union Winter 2016

'On eof the significant achievements of Players' WorkTime is its scope. In this admirable history,its authors demonstrate the complex of influences - social and political, economic and cultural- that govern the employment of those seeking to make their livings as musicalworkers.'
DavidC.H. Wright , Journal ofPopular Music Studies

'Anyone interested in British musicians and theirenduring union should read this book. It identifies the most significant changesin music industries since the early twentieth century, and helps tocontextualize the problems and challenges facing musicians today.'
James P. Kraft, Journal of Popular Music Studies,June 2017


1. Musicians' organisations before 1893
2. Early days: the Amalgamated Musicians' Union, 1893-1918
3. Boom and bust: 1919-33
4. The politics of dancing: 1934-45
5. Worlds of possibilities: 1946-55
6. The beat generation: 1956-70
7. The John Morton years: 1971-90
8. Disharmony: 1991-2002
9. Beginning again: the MU in the twenty-first century


Martin Cloonan is Professor of Popular Music Politics at the University of Glasgow

John Williamson is Research Associate in Music at the University of Glasgow

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