Breaking News

I have been unsuccessful in my bid to become General Secretary of the Musicians Union. 

Obviously, I am disappointed at the result but proud of my campaign and the bold and ambitious plans I set out. Not least because I still honestly believe my organising approach to trade unionism will outlive my campaign. It is the only viable future for our movement if we are to take on the horrors of a Tory Government and the attacks they are making on our rights. Not to mention the challenges we face over pay and conditions, Brexit, regional inequality, music education structural inequality, and building back post-Covid. 

Nevertheless, I want to congratulate Naomi Pohl on her success and who has been elected as the MU’s new General Secretary.

However, more so, I want to thank everyone who supported my campaign, helped me in my campaign, shared my vision, voted for me and in doing so wanted to realise a different future for our Union, an organising future.

There is no doubt my ideas had resonance with members, and it is clear that a huge number of you want to see something different too. The votes amply reflect this reality.

The job now for Naomi is to bring our Union together and I wish her well in this endeavour.

This will probably be it from me now on these pages, so go well, stay safe, and I hope to meet you soon, through work or at a gig.

Solidarity ✊ I’m proud I DARED FOR BETTER


Accept no imitations

If you’ve followed my campaign from the start you’ll know I have been consistent in my message for change and stating my key commitments from day 1.

I have not wavered.

I have however been emailed by members who tell me that another candidate seems to like my ideas so much that they are now claiming them for their own, despite these ideas never having been on their radar or in their election materials. I’ll leave you to check whether this is so. 

It seems my message is seeping through.


If you want to know what my key messaging has been:

  • Organising Agenda 
  • Organising Team
  • Stronger focused campaigns
  • Fighting Fund
  • Improving pay & conditions
  • A vision for music education
  • Fairer funding for ALL regions
  • Re-democratising our union
  • Empowering members
  • Self-Organised Groups
  • Greater relevance to musicians 

Is any of this radical?


Anyone who has been an activist in our movement will understand that this approach gets results. You have to live it to understand it. I do – as both a musician and trade unionist.

So – accept no imitations!
#Vote #StephenBrown4GS


Getting Results For Members

I have been looking at some of the things I’ve done over the last few years as MU Regional Organiser.

I believe, as a committed trade unionist, that collaboration with our sister unions gets results. Consequently, I’ve been at the heart of plenty of firsts for the Musicians’ Union. 

For instance, in my role sitting on the Midlands TUC Executive and Chair of the Creative & Leisure Industry Committee (CLIC) I’ve negotiated groundbreaking agreements for MU, Equity, and BECTU members under the TUC banner.

I have negotiated deals with both Coventry City Of Culture and Birmingham Commonwealth Games to ensure the creative workforce, including musicians, of course, get paid good industry rates so your work in these events is properly rewarded and your intellectual property rights are respected.

This arose out of my work helping to draft the TUC Cultural Manifesto which sets out the principles upon which public monies should be used in the cultural sector – so employers and engagers respect the value of our work, pay proper fees, and deliver on equality, diversity, and inclusion. These principles formed the bedrock of these deals.

Current CLIC projects I am involved in are about attracting inward investment into Birmingham to campaign to build a TV & Film studio to give the region the jobs and cultural recognition it deserves, and fighting for fairer BBC funding for our region.

All of this is rooted in my core principles of fairness, democracy, and equality. 

This is why my campaign slogans of “your issues are my issues and “dare for better” are resonating with so many members. I represent the change the MU needs in order to go forward. As a musician myself I understand why all of this stuff is so important, and why the union needs to be more relevant to more musicians. The Musicians’ Union is supposed to do what it says on the tin. This hasn’t always been true of late and it’s why I am on a mission to put musicians back into the union, and the union back into musicians.


What a day!

I’m so chuffed to have secured the endorsement of the Midlands’ region, let alone by such a big margin, as their choice for MU General Secretary.

I’m now on the ballot paper so can present my bold and ambitious plans to our entire membership. 

I want to change our union for the better and put you, our members, front and centre of everything we do. I want to see improvements in your pay and conditions, in fees, more regional ‘levelling up’ (to coin a phrase), to make being a musician financially sustainable and more environmentally friendly, so you can work more rewardingly and regionally without the necessity for too many long journeys just to pay the bills. Not to mention seeing our industry prosper on a national level – where our campaigns can really matter. 

And matter they must if we are to challenge the damage that political populism and austerity has inflicted on us all. One of the first campaigns must be about music education and a value awareness campaign of our profession for society. We MUST try and start to restore the incredibly important role music education plays in children’s development, in getting the musicians of the future, explaining how it enhances our cultural lives, and improves our nation’s well-being. The cultural vandals running things in Westminster need to offer us more than warm words with a promise in one hand, whilst holding a knife of cuts in the other.

But let me assure you that I won’t be ignoring the massively damaging issues of Brexit or Covid either. We need solutions, to start campaigning harder, and to work together to win in order to change our future working lives for the better! As part of this we also need to reach out to musicians we have historically failed to attract into membership so that we better reflect the incredible diversity of our industry.

All musicians deserve to be better rewarded and better regarded. That’s my key message today.

So, I just want to say a big big thank you to all of you who came to the nomination meeting, took part, asked questions, and those of you who voted for me.

I did say in my acceptance speech that I think all of the candidates have merit and I stand by that so it’s a pity we don’t have a better process that could have seen all of us on the ballot paper. If elected I will want to improve this process too because it feels somewhat exclusive as a process in many ways. I’d also intend to do my utmost to unify the clearly differing groups within our membership that have been evident in the process to date. We can only succeed if we are united.

Anyway, I’m deeply humbled that you have put your trust in me and I can promise you that I won’t let you down if I’m elected General Secretary.

Please continue to have conversations with musicians and colleagues you know about the type of union you want to see and let me know by email or by DM on my social media. And do spread my message of hope and wanting us to ‘dare for better’ if you can – so that members can share in the optimism I feel for changing things for the better. Let’s create a movement for positive change that involves us all. 

All the best and I’ll see you soon hopefully – I won’t be an invisible General Secretary!


Who dares wins – let’s dare for better!

Stephen Brown speaking at a TUC conference – photograph courtesy of Pete Jenkins Photography

It is my absolute and passionate belief that the next General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union must be:

  • a musician
  • must have a track record as an experienced committed trade union activist
  • must be a trade union official who gets results having learned how to do this from their experience of being an activist

This is the way you get the fully rounded, experienced, and principled individual required to do the best job for you the member, and our union.

Only someone who ticks these 3 boxes will totally understand:

  • What makes us musicians tick
  • What activism in the trade union movement is all about and why we put everything on the line for our principles and values
  • Why we put the level of commitment and energy into our careers and making music that we do

These principles and values cannot be bought and sold, and cannot be gained merely from paid employment in our movement as a remunerated advocate. This is about lived experiences and core beliefs – about speaking out and standing up for those beliefs when others would tear you down. This is about who this individual is as a person, a musician, and trade unionist. It’s about character.

So, this is not about spin, good PR, a job description, whom we might know, or career advancement. Ultimately, it’s about what we’ll do based on our substance and character.

As a candidate in the MU General Secretary election, I honestly believe that I have this substance and character – and yet more to offer you, in ticking these essential boxes. I don’t say this to dismiss the other candidates, each has good qualities. I say it to stress the vital context of this important election and it being about what is best for our union. And what is best for our union should be the deciding factor in placing your vote.

I’ve been a gigging musician and active trade unionist for over 40 years and have championed musician, worker, and trade union rights throughout this time. I have also dedicated a significant part of my life to community campaigning for positive change, fighting austerity, fighting for justice, and ensuring workers’ rights are protected. I co-founded an employment legal rights’ charity in Birmingham which wins hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in compensation for some of the Midlands’ most exploited vulnerable workers.

All this experience, along with my core principles and values, feeds into my election campaign and what I want to see for our union going forward. Yes, the MU has a fantastic record servicing our members’ day-to-day needs and in representing you in any direct workplace issues. Much of this is down to the hard work and dedication of our officials who do a terrific job. Where we have fallen short, and it actually pains me to say this, is in our democratic structures and organising abilities to campaign effectively. We have failed to properly empower our members by taking too much of a paternalistic centralised approach, and so failing to capitalise on our collective strength to bring about the outcomes we need on the big issues that affect us. This has also meant we have allowed our voice to be watered down by following others, rather than being the instigator of campaigns that directly affect our members. There can be merit in a partnership but not at the expense of our own identity.

This approach has to change if we are to face the very serious and real challenges that threaten our industry, that threaten our incomes, that threaten our working conditions. I have long advocated for a change in our approach to one of an organising model on these important matters. Those who know me will testify to this.

Unfortunately, the voice of an official like me in the MU is seldom listened to by those above, and too many of the decisions we have made as a union have baffled me. I will change this if elected. The voices of both our members and our experienced officials will be heard. I will seek to re-democratise our union and empower members.

In this election, we face a key choice about the type of person we want leading our great union, and about the type of union we want to be.

Whomever you vote for I’d ask that you should examine their trade union record very carefully and see whether they are part of the solution or part of the status quo. It is my view that the status quo is not an option if we are to build on what we do and build our union’s strength to effectively act, campaign, and win those campaigns. Actions have always spoken louder than words.

The other inconvenient truth in this, is that most politicians are quite happy to have polite but meaningless dialogue with us, just to make it look like things are happening when they aren’t. And we have gone along with that. Westminster will provide us with little solace. It has largely become a farce, a place for self-serving agendas, remote from the reality of the working lives of musicians and workers generally. Our approach to politics therefore also has to change. My focus will be on our workplace issues, your issues which are my issues too, and building our core strength to win the argument. Politicians should answer to us, not the other way round. No employer, engager, politician or indeed the media, can ignore a strong organising campaigning union where the voice of the membership is key, is loud, and is as one. This is how other unions are now framing the battle to win improvements for their members – and so should we. This is how and why we should “dare for better” by changing what we do and how we do it.

I won’t pretend that any of this will be easy, it won’t be. There will have to be some very tough, very open, very honest, and very big conversations about all of it. We may well lose some battles but if we carry on as we are, we will lose the war, and that is worse. I can assure you however, we will be up for the fight. And if we fight, we stand a better chance of winning. If we don’t fight, we will definitely lose.

I hope you can lend me your vote to become the next MU General Secretary. In the meantime, please check out my ambitious plans for the MU here on my website.


Dare for Better

I’ve produced a video on equality, diversity and inclusion, which you’ll find on my campaign video page.

This is a defining issue for all trade unions, including the MU, especially if we are to improve things not just for musicians but in wider society too. 

In the video I talk about how we should be organised and structured as a union if we are serious about ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion for all.

Giving the power and responsibility to members to self organise and set up committees representing their specific issues is absolutely key – be it Women’s, Black Members’, Disabled Members’, LGBTQ+, young members, or other such committees.

Frankly, to do this, and be future-fit, we will need to change our rules, change how we operate, and change our approach to education and training. It will require us to think differently too, about the issues we all face. This is what the most progressive unions have done and so should we.

Our rules were drafted in a different era where things were much different, and so currently all the real power in this area rests with the Union’s Executive Committee and with officials. It can mean we say the right things but fail to take the appropriate action, meaning any real progress stalls, and we can end up going round in circles. The most successful unions operate the kind of rules and structures that I advocate, and have fully embraced them, making significant gains on equality issues. 

Under my proposed model we will be able to achieve better success at driving change. Our members and activists who feel the impact of inequality will feel empowered and confident enough about tackling these issues. They know they’ll get the full support of the MU and protection to do that under the rules. Our equality activists are therefore best placed to create the strategies and lead on them in order to tackle the structural inequalities in our industry.

Simply allowing the status quo and current power structures in our union to remain as they are is the opposite of ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion. If we don’t make this structural change within the MU to show we’re serious about change, it will also send out the wrong message to our industry.

So my agenda is about making these necessary changes to take our great union forward to empower you, to help us to help you make a difference. And in doing so, be the true champions we should be in our union and in our industry for equality, diversity and inclusion. 

This will ensure we  are relevant and representative of and for ALL musicians. 

You can join me in our journey together to achieve this by voting Stephen Brown for General Secretary. Let’s “Dare For Better”.


Getting Stuck In

It’s been a busy week or so in the spare time that I have, doing more preparation for my bid to be elected to MU General Secretary. My website and social media accounts are now all up and running and I’ve even had some leaflets printed which have gone out to a number of union activists.

Along with the other GS hopefuls I was also asked to write an election address for MU activist blog-site “MU Members For Change” (MUM4C).

You can find my article in the link to their blog-site at the bottom of this post. The keen-eyed amongst you will also spot that a question has already been asked in that blog, at the foot of my election address, about my views on the MU attending Conservative Party conference. Those of you who know me, my solid trade union roots and politics, won’t be surprised with my answer to that question.

I understand that MUM4C plan a hustings event at some point with all the candidates. I’m really looking forward to that because I believe that hustings events are a great way to assess the candidates qualities side by side and see what we’re made of. It’s important that all candidates are subject to proper electoral scrutiny as this is a very critical role for the union.

You can visit the MU members for change blog page and just need to click on their story links to find my election address and any comments in response to it.


Bowled over by members’ response

It’s fair to say that the last few weeks have been something of a whirlwind since I decided to stand for the position of MU General Secretary. It wasn’t a decision I came to lightly and I could never have imagined all those years ago, when picking up an instrument for the first time and getting involved with trade unions, that my journey would bring me to this point. Thanks dad.

So far, apart from formulating my commitments to members for my campaign, which in part at least has been a coalescing of numerous thoughts I’ve had for some years about how the MU can improve things; there’s been the MU day job to do, helping members and negotiating with employers, and I’ve been keeping up my music activities with rehearsals and gigs. In all of this, family time is important too so it’s been a bit of a juggling act. Fortunately, my partner is very supportive of my decision and encouraged me to stand, and her skills have come in handy on the IT front.

What I’ve been bowled over by is the enthusiastic response from members I’ve spoken to about my decision to stand for GS. Members’ excitement has been palpable when I’ve told them of my plans. It feels like the time for change has come. The MU structures have served us well for the past few decades and I want to see our union build on that and embrace the future, dealing with the challenges positively, so that we can be fighting fit for the next 20 years embracing diversity, building our membership base, and empowering members – all of these things are absolutely inseparable if we are to succeed. They are structural reform issues we need to embrace.

Coming back to members’ enthusiasm when speaking to me, I’ve been offered their support and help in my campaign, been asked whether they can join my campaign team, had them volunteer to advocate for me in their workplaces, had offers of professional video production for my social media etc, and even members wishing to donate money to pay for the many things I’ll need to do in my campaign. Wow, just wow, I feel so blown away by all of this and I want to say a big, big thank you to everyone who’s been in touch or has offered their support. If I’m successful in getting elected it just makes me even more determined to repay all of this faith already shown in me.

That’s it for now, but if you want to know more about my campaign, what I aim to do if elected, want a chat about it, or to invite me to your workplace to speak to fellow members – then just get in touch. I’m also interested in receiving posts for my blog here on what you want to see from the MU as we move forward. Your voice being heard is very important to me. We can only successfully face the challenges ahead if we meet them together.