Olympic Organizers Ask Professional Musicians to Perform without Pay at London 2012

While listening to the CBC show Q on Tuesday night, I heard a story about British musicians who claim that the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has asked professional performers to play for free during the upcoming festivities. As a member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), this struck a nerve with me, so I decided to investigate further.

According to an article on the Telegraph website, LOCOG has insisted that it has conformed with its agreement to the British Musicians Union to pay professional musicians and offer unpaid gigs only to amateurs. However, numerous examples provide evidence to the contrary.

Steve Haynes, leader of the professional group Barbican Brass, says that LOCOG invited his brass band to play at the Olympics but told him “this is an UNPAID event but chance [sic] to showcase the groups [sic] talents to the world’s [sic] press. It would be great if you wanted to take part. It’s a chance to be involved in the Olympics.” 

An article on the BBC website includes a claim from music agent JC Caddy, who says that LOCOG will not offer any travel expenses to musicians. According to Caddy, he received an e-mail which said, “They will be fed and watered while on site but I have a feeling we will struggle to get expenses together unfortunately.”

Horace Trubridge from the British Musicians Union said, “They [LOCOG] have tried all different ways of getting musicians for free which we have to keep pulling them up on, and their latest one is infuriating. They’re basically calling on 80 unsigned bands – bands that don’t have record deals – to come and play in the park for hundreds of thousands of people over the course of the Games, and they’ve no intention of paying them. This isn’t a well-paid profession. Unless you are a headline act you’re not earning a lot of money.”

I’m sure LOCOG didn’t ask the workers constructing stadiums, preparing food, or providing cleaning services to work for free. What makes LOCOG think it is okay to ask professional musicians to work at no cost?

There is a petition on Change.org started by Cory Mwamba directed to LOCOG asking them to ensure that professional musicians should be paid for their services. If you are as incensed as I am by LOCOG’s actions, then please consider signing the petition. The petition currently has 4264 signatures, with the goal of reaching 5000. If you’re using Internet Explorer, then click here. Firefox/Chrome users can sign the petition by clicking the widget below.


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