Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo bosses slammed for not paying musicians

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
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HARD-UP musicians have slammed Tattoo bosses for expecting them to play 25 shows for free.

The showcase military event advertised “an exciting opportunity for musicians to perform in a stage band” in exchange for accommodation and meals only.

Now the Musicians Union (MU) has labelled it “shocking” while event bosses claimed to be expanding opportunities to play.

“Our members rely on live performance as a vital source of income and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are sending out a dangerous message that this highly-skilled work is worth little to nothing – even as part of such a significant cultural event,” said Scottish MU organiser Caroline Sewell.

Exploitation of low-paid workers during the capital’s festivals has become a growing concern for unions and campaigners.

The Fair Fringe campaign was formed in July 2017 aiming to highlight the “unfair and unsafe” conditions expected of many fringe workers.

Now in its 69th year, the Tattoo attracts an average audience of more than 200,000 over its run on the Castle’s esplanade every year.

Yet despite announcing a new six-figure sponsorship deal with Edinburgh Airport earlier this month, it emerged last week that in February the Tattoo placed an advert for unpaid roles.

The advert stated it was “opening up” the event from the traditional military musicians and invited groups to everyone over the age of 18.

Although “non-professionals” were encouraged to apply, the ad stipulated musicians must able to perform to an “excellent standard.”

Applicants were told performing in a showband, pit orchestra or musical theatre band was “preferable” despite the lack of remuneration.

Though allowed to take on other paid work, applicants were instructed to prioritise the Tattoo by making themselves available for a week of intense rehearsals as well as the 
shows.

All volunteer musicians would be responsible for travel costs to Edinburgh, the advert added, though food and accommodation would be provided for those who live outside the city. Ms Sewell said it was of “grave concern” to the MU and urged a rethink from Tattoo bosses.

She added: “This is nothing short of exploitation and we would encourage our members and all musicians not to accept this kind of work.”

The MU campaigns against free work for professionals through its Work Not Play campaign.

A spokesperson for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo said: “The Tattoo celebrates the best military and cultural traditions, welcoming performers from across the world in an exchange of skill, art and heritage.

“This year, in a move to widen the opportunities available to participate in the Tattoo, a not-for-profit organisation, individual musicians were invited to be part of this unique community on a voluntary basis.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com