Conor McGinn MP: Music is the jewel in our cultural crown

Posted On: 
3rd November 2017

Labour MP Conor McGinn writes ahead of his adjournment debate this afternoon on the contribution of music to the UK economy which employs 140,000 people directly in the UK and which contributed £4.4 billion to the economy last year.

Caro performing live on stage at the Paganini Ballroom on day 2 of the 2017 Great Escape Festival, a music industry showcase for new talent held in Brighton
Credit: 
PA

Music is the jewel in the UK’s cultural crown and brings enjoyment to millions every day.
 
The UK music industry contributed £4.4 billion to the economy last year – up 6 per cent on 2015.
 
And, the number of people employed across the industry grew last year by 19% to more 140,000.
 
When it comes to live music, more people than ever are going to concerts and festivals with almost 31 million people attending live events in 2016.
 
Despite the uncertainty over Brexit, the music business generated export revenues of £2.5 billion in 2016.
 
With the strategic approach and determined support from industry bodies like UK Music, our music industry is going from strength to strength.
 
But it does face very real challenges to make sure that growth is not put at risk and the music business continues to be a great British success story.
 
Although the big stars earn significant sums, many musicians, artists, composers, lyricists and creators earn well below the average wage.
 
The Musicians’ Union battles to get a fair deal for the thousands who play in orchestras, bands or as solo artists and bring us so much pleasure.
 
Today, however, more and more people are listening to music via streaming services and digital downloads.  Often, the creators and investors behind that music do not get much in the way of financial return.
 
The Government must do far more to help close that ‘value gap’ to ensure tech giants like YouTube and Facebook fairly reward those whose music brings millions of people to their platforms.
 
The Government needs to support the music industry in debates in Europe to help close that gap and address the transfer of value online.
 
The music industry also faces a very real threat to venues across the UK due to redevelopment, licensing changes and soaring rent and rate bills.
 
Even the biggest stars like Adele and Ed Sheeran started in grassroots venues.  These venues are a vital part of the music business ecosystem.  Without them, the stars of tomorrow will have nowhere to play and find it even harder to grow an audience.
 
To help stem the closures, the Government should introduce a statutory ‘agent of change’ principle to planning law.   This would mean developers would have to take account of any pre-existing businesses – such as music venues – when planning new schemes. 
 
That could mean, for example, developers contributing to the cost of soundproofing at a music venue to minimise the risk of noise complaints from new neighbours.
 
As with every other sector, Brexit is likely to affect the music industry. In its Brexit negotiations, the Government should stop any restrictions being imposed on the freedom of movement of those in the music business, and consider supporting an EU-touring passport to ensure that musicians and crews can continue to travel freely outside Britain.
 
Music is in our cultural DNA and is the soundtrack to the lives of millions of people.  We must do all we can to help the artists, venues and the entire industry continue to prosper and enrich all of our lives.
 
Conor McGinn is MP for St Helens North and Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music