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Do Musicians Get Pensions? Heck, Yes
Pop question, hot shot…
Can I Get A Pension for Being a Musician? Really?
The answer might be more positive than you think.
There are musician unions all around the world, fighting for musician’s pay and important benefits like health insurance and pensions.
Most musician unions are centered about orchestral and symphonic players.
In years past you might have found big band musicians, back when nightclubs used to regularly hire big bands and pay union scale.
Due to the way pop music has evolved, and the club scene in most cities, music unions are not on most pop musician’s radar these days, but they might be missing out on some good opportunities.
Forward thinking union officials all over the world are examining their membership and some are making efforts to include musicians of the digital era into their ranks.
Joining a union can help you get the business aspects of your career working for you.
It is worth looking in to. If you are making music, then why not use all the tools at your disposal to build a career? Violinists do, why not you?
In the UK you can join the Musicians Union, in the America’s it is the American Federation of Musicians.
In France look to the International Music Union, and in Africa consider the Musicians Union of South Africa.
Check to find the name of the musician’s union in your country.
One of the difficulties pop musicians face is that many of their gigs are not ‘union scale’ jobs filed correctly with the local music union like the orchestral gigs are. Many club owners ignore union guidelines and hire non-union musicians.
But some clubs respect the institution as well, and more often than not they are the more successful and important venues in the area.
But clubs are not the only way to make money as a musician. Most legitimate recording session work and commercial sessions can be union contracts and can help you begin to build a job record.
What you need is a stream of gigs that log your payment through the union. As you build up a list of those gigs you will be considered for benefits. You might be able to get health insurance at a discount, for example.
There are often other benefits, like a discount on shipping or car insurance that the union is able to forward on to you because of your membership and work profile.
There will be a membership cost to join, and yearly dues, but if you are working under union pay scales those fees are worth it.
Especially if they lead to benefits you probably won’t get anywhere else if you are a career musician.
The idea is to build up enough work through the union over the years that you become eligible for a pension when you reach retirement age.
Building a career in music requires you to create as many streams of income that you can.
Being a union musician might not be for you, but then again, it might put some bread on your table long after the music is over.