The UK music industry boosts our economy and our wellbeing. We must keep it on song
More must be done to protect grassroots venues, nurture the talent pipeline and ensure British talent isn’t stifled by the impact of Brexit, writes Conor McGinn MP
Our vibrant and diverse music scene is one of the great British success stories that enriches people’s lives not only here in the UK but across the world. In many ways, the success and popularity of British music is immeasurable in terms of the role it plays in our cultural fabric and how it nourishes the soul. However, some critical elements of the UK music industry are quantifiable, particularly the valuable contribution music makes to the economy.
According to the industry’s trade association, UK Music, the UK music industry contributed £5.2bn to our economy in 2018. The live music sector made a record contribution to the economy of £1.1bn in 2018 – up 10% from £991m in 2017.
Thanks to UK Music’s latest economic report, Music By Numbers, which tracks how well the industry is doing, we know that employment in the music industry hit an all-time high of 190,935 in 2018 and the total export revenue of the music industry was £2.7bn.
The figures are encouraging and show that, as well as enriching the lives of millions, music makes a huge contribution to the economy in every town and city across the UK. Merseyside of course is synonymous with world-leading British music. In St Helens borough alone, there are a number of excellent local studios which encourage young musicians to nurture and develop their creative abilities.
“We have to reverse the decline of music in education so that children from every background have access”
There is also a rich variety of venues, as well as pubs and clubs, which host a diverse range of live music every single week. We are also home to thriving brass bands and an array of incredible choirs.
Aside from the much-needed economic boost that music brings to communities like mine, there is the critically important social value of music and the transformative benefits music can have on wellbeing and development.
Evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing shows that music therapy can reduce agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia.
Music has also been shown to have a powerful effect on young children. In a recent study, it was found that children who received structured music lessons enhanced their language-based reasoning, short-term memory and planning, which led to improved academic performance. If we are to harness the full power of music and really benefit as a nation then we need to start recognising its potential impact for society and make sure that access is for the many, not the few, irrespective of background.
There is no doubt about both the social and economic value of music to us, and that is a major factor in its continuing success. However, the music industry faces many challenges to ensure it remains vibrant and diverse, and continues to punch above its weight.
More needs to be done to protect grassroots venues. We need to see the action that the Government has promised to cut soaring business rates.
We must also nurture the talent pipeline on which the music industry relies to create the stars of the future. That means reversing the decline of music in education so that children from every background have access to music, and ensuring they are not forced to rely on the so-called bank of Mum and Dad to get their careers started.
It is also vital that creators get fair rewards for the content they make and are not exploited by the big tech firms. And we must ensure that our British talent is not stifled by the impact of Brexit, which could make touring much harder and potentially unviable for some acts.
This is a fantastic time for music and we need to develop and showcase the best of British talent right across the world.
Conor McGinn is Labour MP for St Helens North. His Westminster Hall Debate on ‘Contribution of music to the economy and society’ is scheduled for 2.30pm on 21 January