About me

I am a life long trade unionist from a union family and have been a musician since first picking up a trumpet aged 11 and guitar aged 14. I’m a songwriter and have performed most of my adult life having toured the UK, Europe and North America. My own band operated a co-operative model, and this forms the basis of my philosophical approach to everything. I have performed at many events dedicated to social justice, equality, environmentalism, and for anti-racist causes.

Stephen at studio recording session

No one person has all the answers, so by working together we can be stronger and more powerful than the sum of our parts. Our members, activists, and staff, never fail to amaze me with their creativity, ingenuity, experience and knowledge when it comes to problem-solving. We can harness these combined talents for our common good to achieve amazing things.

Like many of you, I adopted a portfolio approach to my career and did a number of things to sustain my music career. I fundamentally understand that for our music we put everything on the line at times for it. Like you, I know it can be hard, but the rewards are fantastic. I’ve enjoyed many highlights in consequence and am grateful to Birmingham Music Service for giving me the grounding to do this – something the current generation of kids are missing out on thanks to Government cuts. But I also understand that musicians best understand fellow musicians and what drives us. We are a union of musicians and it is important to me that the General Secretary should be a musician.

My Union Career

Stephen Brown – Musicians Union Midlands TUC AGM

I first got elected to trade union office at the age of 19 becoming a union Branch Secretary, an unpaid activist role I held for 13 years in what is now CWU. I then got headhunted to move on to developing anti-poverty community based projects in the Midlands for 5 years in a part time paid capacity, and becoming the national treasurer for the organisation representing credit union workers. After a few years concentrating on my music and being a tour manager for a signed band, I joined UNISON part time as a paid officer for 8 years where I was also a UNITE steward for the staff there. In 2013, I came to work full time at the MU as Midlands Regional Organiser.

As a trade union activist I have experienced the ups and downs of undertaking such a role. This is an important understanding to have when working with stewards and other activists. In fact, I got quite a few roastings and many threats from employers and managers over the years for standing up for my members and what I believe in. In my view, this experience is essential grounding for the position of General Secretary – not only to stay connected to our members, but to never forget what and why I do what I do.

Over the years I have successfully represented thousands of members individually and collectively in all kinds of cases as an activist and in a paid capacity; as well as representing unions to external organisations.

I have successfully negotiated:

  • agreements on pay, terms and conditions (orchestral, theatre, live, recording, education, general – for employed and freelancers)
  • with councils, public bodies, statutory, and charitable organisations
  • with politicians

I have successfully represented and assisted members in:

  • unpaid gig, teaching, royalty, and other fees
  • contract, legal advice, and legal disputes
  • performer and copyright issues
  • unpaid wages claims, redundancies, TUPE 
  • grievance, disciplinary, bullying and harassment cases
  • whistleblowing, equality, and discrimination issues 
  • ground breaking equal pay cases

I have successfully:

  • tutored for the TUC and Workers Education Association
  • sat on TUC Regional Executive 
  • chaired TUC Regional cultural committee
  • sat on local, regional, national, and other union committees
  • drafted industry reports and policy documents on members’ issues  
  • sat on a variety of industry events, panels, investigative workshops
  • been a union representative at numerous trades councils and conferences

I have always championed members issues and gone the extra mile to defend them.

My Campaigning and Organising experience

I’ve organised grassroots campaigns to save jobs and services, organised industrial action, and overseen all aspects of trade union organisation, activism and training. I have spoken at mass rallies to thousands of people on important issues of the day, always being prepared to make the case for members livelihoods, for equality, for justice, and for wider societal fairness.

Stephen, second from right, at a rally he organised to protect local disability services

In my own time and since 2006 I have been the volunteer chair of a respected Birmingham based employment rights’ charity which I co-founded. It provides free advice and representation to the most vulnerable workers. They are usually unable to afford to join a trade union and work in the most exploited jobs imaginable, being largely BAME and migrant workers, many who face actual physical threats from their employers. We recover well over half a million pounds a year in pay and compensation for such workers.

Stephen organised food supplies for his local food bank

I am a long-term environmental activist, as well as campaigner in my local community, working with others to save venues, public services, the NHS, and to improve the lives of the people in the community where I live. I have spent a good few years touring the UK and Europe performing at festivals and events, not just in a contemporary way, but those also dedicated to worker’ rights and protecting our natural environment. I can tell you many stories about this and would love to share them with you face to face at some point when we meet.

Stephen helped organise the Trade Union block for the COP26 demos in Birmingham

Get in Touch

If you’d like to know more about my campaign, my plans for the Union, want to get involved, or if you have some thoughts about what you think our Union should be doing you can reach me at: