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Back to Chapter 19



Gentlemen and Players

(From rogue and vagabond to Professional Musician)

Music not accepted as a profession in the 19th century. Seeking professional identity – various associations – the London Orchestral Association, Archer Street, the ISM and MU. The effect of broadcasting and recording. Pirate, commercial and local radio. BBC radio since 1922

By the middle of the 19th century it was generally accepted that a professional was someone who had a vocation and followed an occupation as his or her means of livelihood that required advanced learning and the passing of a test or examination whereby a qualification was achieved. If one was a professional it was assumed that one had the ability to choose whom one provided services to, rather than being employed.

The problem for performers was then, and continues to be, that though it requires long and hard study to acquire the necessary skill and understanding in the first place, and continual study and application thereafter, the judgement of whether a performance is ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘not good enough’ remains subjective. It is possible to test the level of technical proficiency a player has achieved and whether they can play in time and with good intonation, but no one has ever been engaged to play in an orchestra or group of any kind on the strength of having received an ARCM, LRAM, or any other examination from a college of music or exam board. Teachers of music or any other subject can become qualified by passing the required examination. The performer never can.

All performers have had this problem: traditionally musicians, actors and dancers were never considered members of a profession. By the middle of the nineteenth century musicians had not yet established an association or union to distinguish themselves from amateurs. Indeed they were more often than not referred to as ‘rogues and vagabonds’. Ladies and Gentlemen played music for pleasure, they were amateurs: musicians played for money. It was also the case that a number of Ladies and Gentlemen were better players and more musical than many of those earning their living as musicians. Only the outstanding touring international instrumentalists were held in awe, though even they were not often accorded equality of status by those they played to. On one occasion the great violinist Fritz Kreisler had been invited to play for the guests of a very wealthy music lover at a rather grand soiree. When Kreisler arrived the butler directed him to a side room where he could change and prepare himself. ‘You will not be required to dine with the guests’, the butler told him, ‘your meal will be served to you here.’ ‘That is fortunate’, Kreisler replied, ‘otherwise my fee would have been much higher.’

Naturally the best musicians desired more than anything else to be considered members of a profession and attain the respectability and status then accorded to teachers, though many teachers were, in fact, very indifferent performers. In chapter 15 I recounted how a colleague still had a problem in 1947 when trying to convince his prospective father-in-law that as the principal trumpet in the Royal Opera House Orchestra (then a full-time well paid engagement) he did not require a ‘day-time’ job. The lack of any full-time engagements for even the very finest musicians in Britain during the second half of the 19th century and well into the 20th played a decisive role in musicians playing in orchestras of any kind being granted only a humble position in the social pecking order. In this respect the situation for British musicians was much less satisfactory than in many other countries where there had been opera houses employing musicians all the year round, in some cases from the middle of the 19th century. It was this more than anything that led to the ‘deputy system’ that played the major part in making the creation of a first class symphony orchestra such a difficult task for Sir Henry Wood and others until the BBC Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1930.

Seeking Professional Identity

The attempts musicians made from about 1880 to attain respectability and a secure financial position increased and led to the formation of several associations and unions. It is interesting that by then composers, writers and painters had overcome the problem of respectability and, if they were successful had attained some financial stability. It seems that if one could produce an artefact, something that could be bought and sold and for which a price could be agreed, one was likely to be held in higher esteem than even the greatest degree of skill and artistry could achieve.

Whenever I have written about the ‘music profession’ and the ‘professional musician’ I have used the terms that are normal today to describe the profession and those who earn their living as instrumental performers. However, in the 19th century it was only those who taught music or were organists who were considered professional musicians. In 1880, in his book The Musical Profession, Dr Henry Fisher makes it quite clear that when he writes about ‘professional musicians’ he is referring to music teachers.

In 1882 the Society of Professional Musicians was formed, which in 1892 became the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). The ISM claimed to be ‘the only body of composing, teaching and performing musicians’, though from the start its members were mainly teachers and have continued to be so until now. Only a few performing musicians, singers and instrumental soloists, very often those for whom teaching is their principal activity, joined this organisation. The source of the ISM membership has remained pretty much the same throughout the years and its aim has consistently been to obtain the best fees for their members. Respectability and opposition to the ideas of trade unionism were and have remained extremely important.

By the middle of the 19th century the growth of the manufacturing industries led more and more of the population to leave the countryside for the towns and cities, with the consequence that the need for popular public entertainment grew enormously. The increasing number of music halls and theatres in particular and the greater number of dances and other forms of entertainment required many more musicians. In the same way that the coming of the silent cinema in the early years of the following century was to bring a great influx of musicians, a good many of modest accomplishment, from the 1850s onwards the need for musicians provided a similar number of relatively unskilled musicians with employment. The general standard of performance that was tolerated at that time was extremely low. It was not hard to find musicians who would accept the indifferent working conditions and poor rates of pay that prevailed in the music halls. Employment for the highly skilled musicians who played in the orchestras for concerts, operas and oratorios was always unpredictable. They were paid much better than their colleagues in the music halls, but the concert season only lasted from September until April. With the coming of the railways and much easier and quicker transport seaside resorts began to prosper. The need for entertainment led to additional employment for these musicians in the summer months on bandstands, on the sea front and in parks.

How were musicians of such a diverse standard, ranging from outstanding artists, highly skilled musicians and many of quite a poor standard, as well as some who were only part-time musicians, to become a profession? They were engaged to play so many different kinds of music in such dissimilar venues – in music halls providing the music needed by clowns, acrobats, singers and every type of entertainer one can imagine; on bandstands playing everything and anything from music hall songs to concert overtures; in theatres where they might be called on to play musical comedies, operetta, grand opera or only incidental music; and in the concert halls playing marches, polkas, to accompany cornet and bassoon solos as well as symphonies and concertos.

In 1893, a year after the Society of Musicians had become the ISM, two groups of musicians each formed an organisation with similar intentions to each other but with a very different orientation: the London Orchestral Association (LOA), and the Amalgamated Musicians Union (AMU).

The LOA, like the ISM was strongly anti-union. It sought gentility and status and was keen to establish that its members were in a profession, not a trade. Its headquarters was in Archer Street in the west-end of London and was generally referred to as ‘the Club’, because this is where musicians would go between a matinee and an evening performance in the many theatres nearby, or to find a deputy, or just to meet friends and colleagues. In the main meeting room there was a bar where tea, coffee and snacks could be bought. It also had a licence to sell alcohol which attracted a good deal more custom in the first decades of the 20th century when many musicians, particularly woodwind, brass and percussion players, were quite heavy drinkers. Downstairs there were washing facilities and changing rooms. On the walls there were racks where members requiring a deputy could leave a request, perhaps, ‘Joe Bloggs needs 2nd clarinet for evening performance, Tuesday 23rd, 7.30 Her Majesties (Bb and A)’.

From the beginning of the 20th century and well into the 1920s and 30s most musicians who worked in the London theatres, restaurants and the orchestras had been members of the LOA but by the time I joined in 1942 it had become rather seedy. In the ordinary way, if my father had not suggested that I should, a young musician like myself would no longer have joined the LOA – it was just before I joined the LPO and I was by then already a member of the MU, as were all other musicians (including members of the LOA). In 1942 it was virtually only ‘theatre musicians’ who still went to the LOA. Very few of them ever played in either the symphony orchestras or the many small orchestras and ensembles that broadcast. Nor did they get the opportunity to play on recording and film sessions, which were the best-paid engagements. On the few occasions I went there I sensed a general atmosphere of envy and an undercurrent of discontent. The following year I did not renew my membership.

When the new ‘jazz’ music began to arrive from America, from about 1910 onwards, those musicians in London who started to play this music tried to join the LOA. Their applications were rejected because they were regarded as upstarts, not ‘proper’ musicians and were held in contempt by the members who felt that they would tarnish their own ‘professional’ aspirations, historically so important to them. Even in 1920 when everyone was dancing to the new dance music and Dance Bands were everywhere they continued to refuse membership to them. Undeterred by rejection the new jazz and dance musicians decided to meet outside in Archer Street itself. If you went to Archer Street on any day, especially on a Monday afternoon until the mid-1950s, you would find the whole street full of musicians. But then another group of ‘upstarts’ appeared on the scene – this time it was the pop groups.

I remember that in the 1940s whenever I had occasion to go to an instrument repair shop that was in Archer Street it would always be full of saxophone/clarinet, trumpet, trombone and double bass players, guitarists and drummers. There were also some string players, mainly violinists. They had taken up the saxophone and found lucrative employment in the restaurants and night clubs. When, the patrons were having supper there would be quiet music, played by a quintet in which they would play the violin and then, when the dancing started, they would join the band, probably as second alto sax. Archer Street is where anyone would go if they wanted to book musicians for a ‘gig’, or to play on the big liners, which all employed musicians to play at meal times and for dancing, or for the summer seasons in the Holiday Camps. It was also where musicians would congregate to exchange gossip and find out what was going on.

In contrast to the LOA the Amalgamated Musicians Union’s attitude was similar to other trade unions. Its primary objective was to obtain the best possible working conditions and pay for whatever employment its members undertook wherever that might be. When necessary it would use the same tactics and methods of persuasion as other trade unions: strikes, picketing and protest marches. The LOA did attempt to improve working conditions and rates of pay for its members but was unwilling to consider that they were ‘workers’. As a result they never squared up to their employers forcefully enough to be really effective.

The AMU sought to set minimum rates for musicians playing in symphony orchestras, in theatres and music halls and when playing for dances. Later it negotiated with employers to include every area in which musicians were engaged. It accepted anyone without regard to their ability as long as they agreed not to work with non-AMU members and never to accept an engagement below the AMU minimum rate. It made no distinction between professional and amateur on the basis that anyone receiving payment for their employment as a musician was by definition a professional in contrast to amateurs who played for their own pleasure.

In 1894 and 1907 the AMU initiated negotiations with the LOA in an attempt to join forces but without success. By 1921 the AMU’s membership had outgrown that of the LOA (which for a time assumed the title National Orchestral Union of Professional Musicians) to such an extent that at last the LOA agreed to join forces with the AMU, thereby creating the Musicians’ Union (MU), the organisation that thereafter all professional musicians were obliged to join until Mrs Thatcher’s government made the ‘closed shop’, which had been the union’s power base, illegal.

When the LOA was absorbed into the MU it retained its premises in Archer Street for another 40 years. At first a good many of its members who were working in the west-end theatres remained members, finding its club facilities very convenient. Gradually the LOA membership began to decline, though it continued to be very self-protective and exerted considerable influence within the London Branch of the Musicians Union where they dominated the Branch Committee well into the 1950s.

When I was taken to the MU offices in 1942 I was completely unaware of the Union’s existence and at no time while I was in the Wessex Orchestra did anyone ask me if I was a member. In fact the fees that the orchestra were paid, I was to learn later, were all well below the MU minimum. During the following 38 years I can only recall having been asked to show my MU card once. If you were playing in any of the symphony orchestras or the many light orchestras that broadcast it was taken for granted that you were a union member and it was the same in the west-end theatres and for those playing for recording, films or TV, whether for the BBC or for one of the commercial stations. None of these musicians would have considered playing for under the MU minimum rate. However, there were other areas of employment where musicians who were finding it difficult to make a living would at times be prepared to do so. As might be expected, some unscrupulous employers took advantage of this to save money.

On one occasion in the 1960s I was asked to be an expert witness when the MU had taken one of these employers to Court for the way he had treated one of their members. This case concerned a drummer who had been contracted for six weeks by a suburban theatre, a former music hall in one of the less up-market areas of London, to play for a Christmas pantomime. As was quite normal at that time it was an exclusive contract, which meant that one could not be absent from any performance: no deputies were allowed. In addition he was required to agree that in the period preceding the first performance he would be available for rehearsal at any time.

Because six weeks’ continuous work at that time of year was much sought after some employers would save money by insisting that during the week or so of rehearsals preceding the first performance the musicians must make themselves available at any time throughout the day.

Normally there would only be a limited number of three-hour rehearsals during a week, usually eight, for which the appropriate fees would be paid. Unfortunately at that time those engaged on stage still ‘sailed before the mast’ and unlimited rehearsals, sometimes going on for perhaps four or five hours, were not unusual. For many years, for musicians, a three-hour rehearsal meant three hours. This was understood and adhered to by all respectable managements.

When this particular musician accepted the pantomime season he told his employers that on one of the rehearsal days he had already taken an engagement starting at seven o’clock in the evening and would be unable to be available after six o’clock. They told him they were sure there would be no problem. But when the day came and they were half way through the afternoon rehearsal it became clear to him that it was likely to continue beyond six o’clock. In a break in the rehearsal he phoned several other drummers to see if he could find someone to cover for him after six. No one was free or could get there in time, so at six o’clock, making his apologies he left. The next morning when he arrived for rehearsal he found that his drum kit had been put out on the street, outside the stage door, and that someone else had been engaged in his place.

In Court the employer’s solicitor argued that it was normal practice in the theatre for rehearsals to go on as long as necessary and that this musician had accepted the job knowing what the conditions were and had broken his contract and let his employers down. When I was called I explained to the magistrate that I had been in the profession for over twenty years and that this had never been the case for musicians. Wherever a musician was engaged for a rehearsal in any kind of orchestra it was understood that it was for three hours. If more time was required it was the employer’s obligation to ask the orchestra if they could continue beyond the three hours, and if they all agreed to pay for the extra time. However, what was even more important was the principle that no one was obliged to remain. There were agreements in every area of musical employment between employers and the Musicians’ Union. They all stated that the fee was for a certain length of time – whether for recording and film sessions, broadcasts, theatrical performances and dances. I suggested that this employer had broken this agreement and had taken advantage of musicians so in need of work that they too had been willing to break the agreement and betray their colleagues. It was judged that the employer had to pay the aggrieved drummer for the whole six weeks and pay the MU’s costs.

In the past it was commonplace for all sorts of malpractice to take place in the employment of musicians and over the years when I was elected to various committees I was involved on numerous occasions in pursuing cases where musicians had been defrauded of moneys to which they were entitled. Quite frequently it was musicians, themselves members of the union, who were the worst offenders. Very often free-lance musicians – only those in the contract orchestras – the BBC orchestras, the Regional orchestras and opera house orchestras were not – are engaged by ‘fixers’, themselves musicians. Now, in these politically correct times they are called contractors – though still within the profession referred to by their traditional name. Because they understand their colleagues better than those who are not musicians themselves they know what they are more likely to get away with; non-payment of repeat fees (the additional fee paid when a radio or TV programme is broadcast again), payment for ‘doubling’ (when more than one instrument is played, clarinet and saxophone or flute and piccolo, for example), and numerous other arcane additional payments.

The MU when it was first established was seen by members of the ISM and the LOA as an organisation concerned with ‘workers’ and because it was a trade union they were wholly opposed to it. However, by outlawing many of the practices that had contributed to their lowly status, in time the MU enabled musicians to achieve the conditions that led to them gaining professional status.

The Effect of Broadcasting and Recording

Before broadcasting and recording whenever there was a greater need for music, for example when there was an increase in the number of music halls and dances and later with the arrival of the ‘silent’ films, more musicians would be required. During my lifetime the opposite has been the case. As more people have listened to music the number of musicians has declined. The loss of employment for musicians has come from the increased use of records wherever employers have found it cheaper: mainly in broadcasting but also in restaurants, at dances and, whenever possible, to accompany theatrical entertainment. The invention of the tape recorder and subsequent developments have made it even easier for everyone to record ‘off-air’, from commercial tapes and CDs. More recently downloading music from the Internet in various ways is again reducing the need for ‘live’ musicians.

The use of electronic instruments has been another method of reducing the number of musicians required. The Lyons chain of cafes which in 1939 was employing 500 full-time musicians when the BBC was still only employing 400 (though to be accurate they were employing many more for occasional broadcasts), was one of the first to make use of the electric organ to replace the orchestras in one of their Corner Houses. When I interviewed Ena Baga, a very famous organist for more than fifty years, she told me how she had been invited by one of the directors of Lyons to replace the orchestra at their Tottenham Court Road Corner House restaurant by playing the Hammond Organ. This was an electronic organ that could simulate the sound of most of the instruments of the orchestra. She told me how she had been an MU member all her life but had no problem in accepting the job. Each time she arrived at the stage door she had to run the gauntlet of the members of the displaced orchestras (also MU members) but suffered nothing worse than some fairly friendly banter. Later, and much more effectively, the synthesiser has replaced musicians in every field of music.

The use of recorded music in broadcasting began the erosion of employment opportunities for musicians that continued throughout the second half of the 20th century. From the 1960s the BBC was
Click for larger picture
constantly seeking to increase ‘needle-time’ and reduce the number of musicians they were required to employ. The use of the phrase ‘needle-time’ shows how long ago this agreement was made and was in operation (until 1967 the Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL) only allowed the BBC to play commercial gramophone records on air for 5 hours a day). This old fashioned term refers to the days, now almost forgotten, when we played ‘78’ gramophone records and were forever changing the little steel needles that ran in the grooves of the record. The ‘needle-time’ agreement the BBC had come to with PPL, and as a result the MU, limited the number of hours during which records could be broadcast and guaranteed that an agreed number of musicians would be employed full-time in the BBC orchestras. It also guaranteed that a declared number of free-lance musicians would be employed each year, those musicians employed in the numerous free-lance groups to broadcast , and for solo and chamber music engagements.

There are now many more radio stations broadcasting music in Britain than there were in 1960, but virtually always from commercial recordings. The exception is Radio 3, which, though it too plays many commercial recordings, does broadcast studio recordings of its own orchestras and relays of their public performances and those of other orchestras

Pirate, Commercial and Local Radio

The use of radio, or telephones as they were called in the very earliest days goes back much further than is generally known. In 1881 a Telephone Listening Room was set up at the Paris Electrical Exhibition. By holding a telephone receiver to each ear one could here a performance from the Paris Opera. There were a number of listening points and listeners were only allowed a few minutes each before making way for those queuing up for an opportunity to hear what was going on at the opera. The microphones had been set up right across the stage in the footlights and linked in pairs. Because each listener held a receiver to each ear it was possible at a very early date for the listeners to hear the music in stereo.

In America in 1890 the concern was already that music would become available ‘on tap’ and that before long it would ‘make incipient deafness bliss’. From 1900 onwards more and more enthusiasts, amateur and professional were experimenting with broadcasting in Britain and America. It was not too long before the commercial possibilities became apparent and though at first this was at a local level, the explosion of commercial radio stations in the USA, which began in 1922, depended on the stations being supported by the major advertisers and the use of the old 78 rpm black shellac gramophone records. Broadcasting in the USA has remained essentially commercial ever since.

In Britain broadcasting took a different route. In 1922 the British Broadcasting Company was formed by a group of wireless manufacturers including Marconi, with John Reith as general manager. The government decided in 1927 to establish the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a broadcasting monopoly to be operated by a board of governors with John Reith (later Sir John) as the Director General. The BBC was funded by a licence fee to be paid by all owners of radio sets, the amount to be decided by Parliament. In this way the BBC became the first public-service broadcasting organisation. In contrast to the USA advertising on radio was forbidden. Reith set himself a mission – to educate and improve the public through the programmes the BBC transmitted. His influence on broadcasting in Britain was to be profound and remained long after he left the BBC in 1938. Indeed until the present his dictum to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ remains a part of the BBC’s brief.

His influence was to have a considerable effect on how the BBC responded to the sounds of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll in the mid and late 1950s. It continued to broadcast programmes that ignored this new music, the music most young people wanted the chance to hear. In 1958 responding to this need, in Britain and on mainland Europe, pirate stations broadcasting recordings of this new music were set up on ships moored off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden. In 1960 a station off the Dutch coast claimed 5 million listeners. These stations catered for the new ‘beat’ generation that the national radio stations continued to ignore. The opportunity for most young people to hear the music they really enjoyed was on Jukeboxes and Radio Luxembourg.

For some time there had been demands that commercial radio, stations similar to those that had been in America for more than 30 years, should be allowed in Britain. By 1960 the pressure on the government to issue licences for commercial radio increased. The main recording companies –

Decca, EMI and Philips and others – were paying a large amount to Radio Luxembourg for broadcasting short extracts from the recordings they were issuing.

A number of small off-shore pirate radio stations had already been set up when in March 1964 Radio Caroline started broadcasting from a ship moored 5 miles off Harwich. Three weeks later they claimed an audience of over 7 million. They were followed by Radio Atlanta, Noorzec Invicta and Radio London, which was largely financed by a consortium of Texan oil moguls. These stations were all financed by extensive advertising.

One of the biggest advertisers on Radio London was Recketts one of whose products was Beechams Powders. The Beecham Company was continuing its enthusiasm for advertising of every kind started by Sir Thomas’s grandfather. I have one of the series of 12 Beecham’s Music Portfolios published at least a hundred years ago. It is beautifully bound in red leatherette with gold lettering on the cover and contains 120 well known songs and piano pieces, including Rubinstein’s Melody in F, The Dead March in Saul by Handel as well as Little Brown Jug, Peggy Malloy and Down Among the Dead Men. Scattered amongst the works of Chopin, Haydn, Johann Strauss, Beethoven, Mozart are pithy statements such as ‘Health is wealth and BEECHAM’S PILLS are the Key to it!’ ‘CHEER UP! BEECHAM’S PILLS are still worth a Guinea a Box and make life worth living!’, ‘Guard Yourself, and save the constitution by taking BEECHAM’S PILLS – The National Medicine.’ My favourites are when an extra verse has been added as in Where are you going my Pretty Maid?’

‘Then take BEECHAM’S PILLS, my pretty maid,
Then take BEECHAM’S PILLS, my pretty maid,’
‘I take them already, sir,’ she said,
‘I take them already, sir,’ she said.

and in Oft, in the Stilly Night with the addition,

‘Oft in the Stilly Night’
I awake, and take some BEECHAM’S PILLS

Even rarer and a treasured possession is a single sheet of toilet paper, in pristine condition, with the legend:


Although in 1965 the Council of Europe had banned broadcasting from the pirate stations as well as any supplies to them of materials and equipment, in 1966 a National Opinion poll showed that Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline were each attracting audiences of nearly 9 million and Radio London over 8 million. Several others had audiences of more than 2 million each. All the stations played commercial recordings, which itself was illegal, supplied by all the major record companies, and were funded by the considerable revenue from the advertisers. Apart from any questions of legality the beaming of broadcasts to the mainland was interfering with the legitimate signalling of marine traffic. In the same year the UK government made it illegal to broadcast from ships or marine structures. Contravening the law could lead to two years imprisonment, a fine or both. The pirates responded by asking their listeners to write to their MPs demanding that they be allowed to hear the music the BBC were not broadcasting. In the discussions I later took part in as a representative of the MU ,with the Postmaster General and some of his colleagues in the Conservative government, I learned that this was the largest post-bag MPs had ever received on any issue.

It was decided that the MU should meet the representatives of the BBC to see if it could be agreed that the air-time during which the BBC would be allowed to broadcast commercial recordings could be substantially increased. The meeting we had with the Board of the BBC went on for a very long time during which we were wined and dined. I was amused by the fact that now, as someone involved in demanding something in return for allowing the BBC to comply with the government’s wishes, I was being treated to a first-class meal accompanied by excellent wines. I was also being treated with a civility I had never experienced in their canteen at Maida Vale whenever over many years I had played in their studios (and as I was still doing), whether in an orchestra, a chamber music ensemble or as a soloist. In return for agreeing increased air-time for a new channel, Radio 1, which would play commercial recordings similar to those broadcast by the pirates, the BBC agreed to guarantee additional employment for the musicians they employed other than in their contract orchestras. They also agreed to establish the BBC Training Orchestra, an orchestra for those who had finished their course at music college or university and wished to become orchestral musicians. Unknown to me at the time, the Training Orchestra was to be the precursor of something that would be very important for me some years later.

In December 1966 the BBC announced its new plans and the following September the Home Service became Radio 4, the Third Programme, established in 1946, became Radio 3 and the Light Programme was renamed Radio 2. The new programme Radio 1 was to be devoted to the music for which there was such a demand. Of the 33 disc jockeys employed by the BBC more than half were ex-pirates. I remember meeting Pete Murray, one of the ‘big 4’ DJs at the time. We had been at St. Paul’s School together many years previously and he had been to concerts and seen me. Being a ‘square’ who never listened to Radio 1 I was quite unaware of the fact that he was a well-known figure and asked him innocently ‘And what are you doing now?’ With extreme modesty he said that the was doing a bit of broadcasting’. My young daughter who was with me later shamed me. ‘Oh. Dear! You are old. Don’t you know that was the famous Pete Murray who broadcasts all the time?’

As well as Radio 1 the BBC set up several low powered local radio stations and in 1969 the government licensed a further 12 local radio stations. In 1973 the government finally allowed a replacement of the service the pirates had provided and what those who for so long had wanted –

commercial radio in Britain. Now, what the pirate stations had been doing had become legal. To some extent this is what the pirate stations had really been all about. They provided the means by which the advertisers and record companies who long before the new music had arrived wanted: to establish commercial radio in Britain. They had achieved their objective and could from then on benefit from the enormous financial advantage commercial broadcasting secured.

The battle against commercial TV had been lost in 1954 when the Independent Television Authority had been set up and a year later the ITV service began. By 1965 when regional franchises had been granted the whole country could receive commercial TV. When, in 1973 the government allowed commercial radio, as well as TV, the BBC was faced with competition that has had a significant effect on public service broadcasting. The gain, for a small number of musicians, was the very well paid work involved in recording the ‘jingles’, the music especially written to accompany the advertisements.

Was the long and hard-fought battle against commercial radio that the MU and its members waged, in part by their support of the BBC and public service broadcasting, worthwhile? There can be no doubt that for musicians such as myself it put off the evil day for a good many years. Since 1973 the amount of work for musicians in broadcasting on radio and TV has substantially reduced. I regret that musicians could earn very much more by providing the music for an advert for washing powder, for either radio or TV, than by playing Beethoven or Boulez in the Royal Festival Hall.

Chapter 21


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