Music Industry Trade Associations: An Introduction
Trade associations are to be found in almost every industry today, but the UK music industry can perhaps boast more than most.
This is the first in a series of ICMP blogs on the subject of music industry trade associations, taking a brief look around at the main ones that you probably need to know about if you want to make a career in the music industry – whether as a performer or otherwise. In subsequent writings, we’ll dig deeper and focus on the individual organisations themselves and talk directly to some of their key executives.
So, what is a trade association?
A trade association is an organisation founded and funded by its members who operate in a specific industry. These are typically non-profit organisations, providing supportive communities, who actively educate their members on the pressing issues affecting the wider industry. Trade Associations also actively lobby and represent the interests of their specific industry and their members.
Why should I get involved?
Crucial to your life as a music industry professional will be your network and ongoing professional development. Trade associations play a pivotal role by providing forums for you (as a member) to network, share ideas and develop new ways to improve yourself and further your involvement with the wider industry.
Trade associations run training and education schemes, along with conferences and events, that offer members further practical and useful advice. Often these are designed to help you navigate some of the tricky issues that you may confront in your working life.
Let's dig deeper...
A trade association is there to represent its members interests; both within the business, to the wider public and government and official bodies that are tasked with regulating the business environment. For example, the BPI as a representative of the UK’s record labels, were the main industry voice combating the widespread piracy and copyright infringement of the 90s & 00s, but today are in the more positive vanguard of promoting streaming and other digital platforms for the release of music. Trade associations are also there to publicise and profile their industry. The BRITS TV show, The Mercury Prize and National Album Day are flagship events in the BPI calendar. AIM’s annual Independent Music Awards shines the spotlight on music coming from independent labels. The Entertainment Retailers Association (working with the BPI and AIM), organise the popular ‘Record-Store Day’ promoting independent record shops and The Music Venue Trust, campaigning for the preservation of grassroots music venues throughout the UK, runs ‘Independent Venue Week’, in which shows at specific venues are highlighted and promoted.
Association of Independent Festivals
The AIF is a national not for profit trade association created to represent and empower organisers of UK independent festivals. Business support, training, campaigns, lobbying and advocacy are on offer to the membership, as is participation at the AIF’s annual flagship event – The Festival Congress.
Association of Independent Music
AIM represents independent record labels and currently has over 800 members including independent record labels, self-releasing artists and distributors. AIM was founded in 1998 to promote the independent sector, which today boasts a market share of 30+%. In recent years, AIM has been instrumental in ensuring that ‘indies’ had a seat at the table with streaming services and digital service providers (DSPs) etc.
Learn more about AIM with our Introducing AIM article
British Phonographic Industry
BPI is the largest and longest-established record label trade association and a powerful voice within the music business. Organises the BRIT Awards and Mercury Music Prize, but also has a stand-alone Anti-Piracy Unit for members and runs a much-praised programme of international trade missions.
Learn more about the BPI with our Introducing the BPI article
Training and education schemes
Another important role performed by trade bodies across the board is education and training. You go to college and get that music qualification, but that is just the beginning. Whilst being incredibly competitive, in my experience the music industry is at the same time one of the most welcoming and supportive communities you can enter into. Almost every one of the organisations mentioned run training and education schemes, designed to give their members practical and useful advice. They all organise conferences, events and business events to help their members navigate some of the tricky issues that they confront in their working lives. However, in my opinion, it is not just the formal messaging arising out of education and training that is of use, it is the opportunity to meet one’s peers and establish professional relationships that is the real take-away gain.
Entertainment Retailers Association
The ERA is the UK trade association formed to lobby for the retail and wholesale sectors of the music, video and video-games industries. A difficult area today given the demise of the High Street and the rise of internet shopping, but ERA now includes amongst its membership the main digital retailers (Amazon, Spotify, Google, Deezer, 7digital) as well as independent record stores and the big supermarkets. ERA runs the popular Record Store Day event.
Featured Artists Coalition
The FAC is the voice of the artist community providing a strictly musician’s perspective. Now 10 years in existence and today offers a lot of useful help and advice for its members The FAC works closely with the Music Managers Forum (MMF) with whom it also presents The Artist and Managers Awards. Its membership includes many name musicians, so it tends to receive a good deal of media attention.
Learn more about the Featured Artist Coalition in our recent article.
International Live Music Conference
Started in 1989, the ILMC provides a forum for leading figures and music professionals involved in the world's concert and live industry. Its annual conference meeting provides for the membership a discussion forum that often leads tangible change and evolution within the concert industry. Also owns IQ magazine, which reports on the live music industry.
Supportive communities, mentoring and advice
The music industry, whilst being an incredibly supportive community, can also be a very lonely place if you are starting out yourself and the coming together with others sharing a collection of common interests is one of the great advantages of joining trade associations. Whatever stage you think you are at, there’s always something to learn from the experience of others and this social and ‘networking’ function (whilst initially not an easy thing for everyone) has to be one of the most important areas covered by any trade body for its membership. Mentoring and advice are valuable services that sometimes members only can access through belonging to a trade association. Apart from hearing how maybe someone else has dealt with an issue or problem that you might be currently confronting; it is somehow empowering to know that other people have gone through a similar experience and lived to tell the tale. Their story could be your salvation!
New business opportunities
Alongside the networking and social advantages that come from participation, is the simple big plus that trade associations are great places to find new business opportunities and build new and lasting relationships, that could develop into real and tangible commercial gains. The BPI run international trade missions, specifically designed for small independent members to come together under the BPI banner and in a structured engagement programme, travel to an international music market to meet key companies and executives that they can possibly do business with. The annual BPI Los Angeles Sync-Licensing Trade Mission is one such example and has delivered incredible results for artists and small companies, in placing their music with US film and TV studios.
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors
BASCA, now known as Ivors Academy, is one of the largest professional associations for music writers in Europe and exists to support, protect and campaign for the interests of songwriters, lyricists and composers. Stages the prestigious Ivor Novello Awards.
MCPS, PRS, PPL
Phonographic Performance Limited & Performing Rights Society are the music industry’s main collecting trade bodies - MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society) and PRS have recently merged under the PRS for Music banner. PRS for Music is today the UK's leading collection society, undertaking rights management for musical works on behalf of its 140,000 members. Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) represents over 100,000 performers and artists and licenses recorded music when it is broadcast on radio, tv and online and programming in shops, gyms, in-flight, pub and club jukeboxes…indeed anywhere ‘public’. PPL collects and distributes money on behalf of performers and record companies for the use of their recorded music and PRS for Music collects and distributes money on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers, for the use of their musical compositions and lyrics.
Learn more about PRS Foundation with our recent article.
Affiliated to the Labour Party, the MU has been representing the country’s musicians since 1891 and today has over 30,000 working members from all sectors of the performance community. Ensuring a minimum level of benefits and wages, the MU continues to occupy a cornerstone space in the music industry and has a full regional set up that serves its membership throughout the UK.
Legal advice and protection
Protection is also a key attribute in trade organisation membership. The Musicians Union have a very strong tradition of providing legal advice to their members and registration with the collecting societies PPLK & PRS, is a way of ringfencing the ownership of your copyrights. The BPI has its own Anti-Piracy unit for members. The Music Managers Forum which represents artists management, helps its membership in things like the deciphering of complicated legal contracts, which inevitably seem to accompany the signing artists to record labels and the like.
Music Managers Forum
Claims to be the largest representative body of music management in the world, with over 600 members in the UK (and connections to several thousand internationally). The MMF works to educate, inform and represent artist managers alongside a network through which managers can share experiences, opportunities and information.
Music Producers Guild
The MPG membership comes from the recording studio and its membership is made up of producers, mixers, recording engineers, re-mixers and programmers amongst others involved in the recording process. Mostly concerned with providing a forum for discussion about issues affecting the sector, but also heavily involved in the Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES) system, a consortium of music, entertainment and media industry education specialists.
Music Publishers Association
Probably the oldest of the associations in that it was founded in 1881, the MPA today represents over 200 publishing companies, ranging from the UK’s largest and most established music publishers such as Universal Music Publishing, Sony/ATV to independents and start-ups. As with most trade bodies, the MPA exists to promote its members interests and is an important voice as the industry moves into the digital/streaming world, with all its attendant discussion as to how the rights and revenue cake is divided up.
Music Venue Trust
The MVT is a UK Registered Charity formed to protect, secure and where possible, improve UK Grassroots Music Venues for the benefit of the venues themselves, communities and upcoming artists. The MVT alliance is a free-to-join informal association of venues, organisations and concerned individuals who support the aims of the organisation. Sponsor of Independent Venue Week, a week of gigs across the country at small venues, which seeks to highlight their concerns.
UK Music formed in 2008 is an industry-funded body representing the collective interests of the recorded, published and live sectors of the British music industry to speak to the government with one voice. UK Music promotes the interests of record labels and music publishers (major and independent), songwriters, composers, lyricists, musicians, managers, producers, promoters, venues and collection societies.Incorporated Society of Musicians
Since 1882, ISM has worked to protect the music and rights of those working as music industry professionals. With almost 9,500 members, the organisation provides legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services include advice around finance and contracts. Alongside working musicians, ISM's membership is made up of recent music graduates, part-time and full-time music students and retired musicians.
There’s plenty more to go through, but as mentioned at the outset, in subsequent articles we’ll take a closer look at the inner workings of some of these organisations in more detail. In the meantime, although it’s not the world’s sexiest subject to trawl through, if you’re going to build a career in music, trade associations are something that you should seriously consider engaging in and pretty early on.
The music industry really is a place where you need to connect with others to get on and membership of a trade association is a pretty good place to start…plenty more to come.
Author: Julian Wall
Julian has worked at a range of record labels and industry organisations, in a career spanning several decades in the music industry. He was Director Independent Labels Membership at the BPI 2007-2012, VP International Marketing at The Sanctuary Group (Iron Maiden’s long-time management company) and held a variety of marketing, sales and promotion roles at Sony Records (RCA & Arista labels) and Universal Music (MCA & Phonogram Records). More recently, he was Head of Industry Relations, Press and PR at PledgeMusic, but left that company in 2018 pursuing a range of consultancy roles and freelance projects in music-related areas.