“Dear Musicians’ Union
I am writing to let you know about a recent incident concerning Air France when travelling out of London Heathrow Terminal 4 to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
I thought perhaps you might be interested to have further evidence of the continuing untenable circumstances faced by musicians who have international careers and thus need to travel on a frequent basis.
I play the gothic bray harp. This is a very small harp measuring 106 x 46 x 22 cm. It looks a bit like an acoustic guitar. This year alone I have played in 10 European countries taking over 30 one way flights in order to play and teach.
I had already flown with Air France on 4 separate occasions in 2013 alone without incident. However, on Saturday 23rd November, I arrived at London Heathrow for the return portion of a Paris to London to Paris flight. I had flown to England with my harp as hand luggage on the outward bound already (on Thursday 14th November). At check in, the check in clerk proceeded to label my baggage and then called over a supervisor when he saw my instrument. I explained that it fits no problem in the overhead locker and that I had flown to London with it as hand luggage. Also, I had no other hand luggage. The Air France representative said that I would have to buy an extra seat, that it would take up 3 people’s luggage space in the overhead bins and that the Air France policy is clear; if it is outwith the normal dimensions for hand luggage (55 x 35 x 25 cm) it cannot be taken on as hand baggage. He insisted on repeating that by buying a ticket I had accepted these conditions.
At least clear application of rules would mean I know what to expect instead of always being at the whim of whoever happens to be working at the airport on any particular day
I spoke to the Air France duty manager at the Terminal and put forward the point that the inconsistency is what makes it so hard to travel. If there was a clear policy of ALWAYS charging for an extra seat for everything outside the hand baggage gauge (which would include trumpets, violins, saxophones etc), then the people I work for would recognise I have to have an extra seat (I realise that this is in fact discriminatory, but at least clear application of rules would mean I know what to expect instead of always being at the whim of whoever happens to be working at the airport on any particular day). She apologised for the lack of consistency but of course, this didn’t make any difference at the time.
I was forced to buy a Eurostar ticket for travel later that day at much inconvenience and not inconsiderable extra cost.
Clearly, I believe their musical instrument policy is discriminatory as well because it means ringing to buy a ticket at extra cost in comparison with buying online and the added fear that an overbooked flight will anyway force you to either put the instrument overhead (ridiculous considering how much you’ve been forced to pay for the extra seat) or in the hold (at which point I would have to disembark and not travel for fear of what would happen to it in the tender hands of baggage handlers). However, in the mean time, I am writing to complain to their CEO about inconsistency of application of the rules.
It seems to me that conditions are worsening, having travelled on a regular basis as a medieval harpist for the past 13 years. This I believe is due to changing ways in which people travel (now far more only carry hand baggage) and the growing numbers of passengers putting more pressure on the overhead lockers. What frustrates me is that a suitcase would only rarely have contents worth £3500 (the value of my instrument) and are unlikely to break and become unuseable if transported in the hold whereas my harp would be at serious danger of irreparable damage. I cannot hire an instrument on arrival and if it did break, I would be out of action until it could be repaired or a new one could be made – months of not working.
I know that as representatives of musicians you must have heard lots of similar, if not worse, stories but I hope that this adds to your evidence collection in a useful way.
All the very best,
PS I would like to say that Easyjet continue to be my favourite and most trusted airline; their instrument policy is clear and their staff are always welcoming and understanding. With speedy boarding I never have a problem finding a space for my instrument and I am never questioned about it even when the staff are having difficulty finding room for all the other passengers’ bags. Long may this continue”.
Rumbling discontent is on the rise with professional musicians whose recordings are exploited online. Swedish union SMF is preparing legal action. [Photograph: Per M Herrey - SMF lawyer]
Is the Spotify streaming service really the business model for the future? While the number of the Swedish company’s subscribers is growing at a sustained pace, along with the amount of its income, musicians are more than ever excluded from this market.
Even if, for part of the public, “artist” is synonymous with glitter and press people, the reality is quite different for the immense majority of professional musicians who are struggling to live from their trade. The question is now clearly on the table: are the Spotify, Pandora or Deezer business models deliberately devised to deviate performers from the profits they generate?
For FIM and its member unions, the answer is clear. While online operating costs have nothing in common with those of the “material” market, contractual practices are still modelled on the bygone era of vinyl, cassettes and CDs. In financial terms, the result is that artists’ income is 10 times less than that of producers where streaming-broadcast recordings are concerned – without mentioning the portion for majors who are service shareholders.
Technically speaking, streaming is for the 21st century what radio was for the 20th. It is clear that the interactivity of service constitutes a determining factor, but, for the record industry, interactivity has become an excuse for organised despoilment of artists. It is the level of interactivity which makes it possible to qualify the legal nature of the act and deviate “equitable remuneration”, a mechanism introduced in 1961 at international level which allows a 50/50 share between artists and producers of income received from over-the-air broadcasting.
In addition to this, there is the question of the total lack of transparency engendered by non-disclosure clauses in contracts between the industry and services such as Youtube or Grooveshark, which keeps artists totally on the sidelines of agreements and makes impossible any form of control over any payments granted.
While Swedish union SMF is stepping up the pressure by announcing legal action against producers, the European Commission has just taken an initiative which aims to “provide an assessment of different national approaches and mechanisms to ensure remuneration for authors and performers for the exploitation of their works and performances and to determine whether, and to what extent, the differences that exist among the Member States affect levels of remuneration and the functioning of the internal market.”
Beginning at the end of the 90s, the online music revolution is not over and must now provide a global balance from which performers are not excluded. FIM is working actively along these lines.
The global Music Against Child Labour Initiative was launched in 2013. It links the ILO and its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) with musicians, conductors and musicians’ organizations.
The Initiative’s Manifesto calls on orchestras, choirs and musicians of all genres worldwide to dedicate one concert between October 2013 and December 2014 to the struggle against child labour. The first concert in the main series was performed in October 2013 during the III Global Conference on Child Labour in Brasilia.
Join the Music Initiative
• Sign up to the Manifesto and pledge to dedicate a concert to the struggle against child labour by completing and returning the Music Initiative Form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Put a link on your website: http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Campaignandadvocacy/MusicInitiative
• Tell your story: send press clippings, photos and video footage of the concert to: IPEC, International Labour Office, 4 Route des Morillons, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland or email@example.com.
Use the Campaign Resources
• Learn about child labour around the world
• Show the video of the launch of the appeal
• Play the songs about child labour or compose your own!
• Download and print the Red Card to Child Labour and ask the concert audience and musicians to show the Red Card at the opening or close of the concert
This Initiative is supported by the following founders: Claudio Abbado; José-Antonio Abreu; Alessio Allegrini, Founder, Musicians for Human Rights; Daniel Barenboim; Pilar Jurado; Benoît Machuel, General Secretary of the International Federation of Musicians; Diego Matheuz; Rodolfo Mederos; Eduardo Mendez, Executive Director of the Simon Bolivar Music Foundation “El Sistema”; Antonio Mosca, Director of the Suzuki Orchestra, Turin; Guy Ryder, Director General, ILO; and Blasko Smilevski, General Secretary of Jeunesses Musicales International.