Does organizational membership matter?

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by Kristin Thomson in What We're Learning. 1 Comment


Does membership matter? The qualitative and quantitative data above suggests that there are positive relationships between membership in specific organizations and higher music-related income, but that the value of membership varies greatly by the type of musician and the roles that he or she plays.

Nearly every interviewee that we spoke to who composed or wrote songs was a member of a PRO, and a healthy number of interviewees were members of SoundExchange, but only those who did consistent session work, or whose salary was dependent on collective bargaining agreements, were members of a union. Beyond that, interviewees said that membership in key professional organizations only occurred when it became relevant to a particular musician’s career trajectory.

Almost 80% of survey respondents were members of at least one PRO or one musician-focused organization. Those who reported being members of PROs or core organizations had higher estimated gross music incomes, and allocated a larger share of their income to the revenue buckets that were closely related to their primary role. Joiners also reported greater participation in “other” revenue streams, and had slightly different perceptions about their revenue trends.  The data suggests that membership does have an impact on the earning capacity of some musicians, but just how much it matters is highly dependent on musicians’ roles, the genres they work in, and their career trajectories.

Our goal of this report was to look at the relationship between membership and earning capacity. But membership also has a value beyond dollars and cents. Sometimes it indicates professionalism or a commitment to the craft, which is important in an industry that otherwise lacks standards or certifications. Sometimes it provides tangible benefits, like health insurance or pensions. Sometimes it offers access to networks and resources. In other cases, it builds a sense of community, or provides musicians with opportunities for collaboration. Even if it’s not reflected in their bottom line, musicians often find an intrinsic value in being part of one of these groups.

Membership organizations play one more important role, and that’s serving as source of leverage and power. Musicians and songwriters are often spoken about during negotiations or in policymaking settings, but do not have a direct seat at the table. The unions, PROs, guilds and associations serve as messengers and advocates, not only representing their own constituencies but also serving as a way for musicians – whether they are members or not – to have a voice in the ongoing debates, especially about if, how, and how much creators will be paid for current and future uses of their work. In this case, membership matters less to the individual musician, but more to the organization at the bargaining table. The greater the number of members, the more power organizations and unions have in policymaking, something that can benefit all musicians’ earning capacity in the future.

One response to “Does organizational membership matter?”

  1. […] Does organisational membership matter? This material was first presented at Music: Parts and Labor conference at New York University in April 2012 and examines the relationship between organisational membership and income. […]