Thursday, 21 November 2019

General Election Commentary - #SaveLondonMusic Campaign - How both the Tories and Labour are failing the UK music industry

There is a General Election in less than a month. I am disturbed by the complete lack of discussion about how either the Tories or the Labour party are going to make our economy fit for purpose for the 21st century. None of the party leaders have any experience of running a business or generating wealth. My expertise is in the music industry. I have first hand experience of how the music industry can generate prosperity/

You may ask "what does a dyslexic, punk rock guitarist from Mill Hill know about such matters?".  I would answer that as I've directly created fifty jobs in Mill Hill, a little bit. You may ask "What are these mythical jobs?". The answer is quite simple in 1979 I started a music studio business, that has grown into one of Londons largest music studios. I was extremely lucky that my parents were in business and had spare workshop space. This meant that I was able to rent suitable space cheaply. By 2008, I was employing eight people directly at the studios. We realised we had to change with the times. We invested a million pounds in a new, purpose built studio block. What happened next? It transformed our business. We now employ 14 people directly. However that is nowhere near the whole story. We have a ballet school that operates from the site, which also employs 4 people. We have a violin school which employs 4 people. We also have two vocal coaches associated with the business, as well as two drum tutors, a sax tutor, two piano tutors and a guitar tutor. We also have people doing private lessons for dancers, pilates and general fitness. These are all people directly working with or through us. We also have several organisations that have set up using us as a base. They use the studios for all manner of purposes and take advantage of the free wifi we provide. In total, there are around 50 people working with the studios, this is not including the business based in the space above us.

What has this got to do with the General Election and economic policy? Well creating 50 jobs in Mill Hill is no mean achievement. It was not the result of the governments economic policy or the council having a plan to make Mill Hill a world class music hub. In fact I can honestly say that everything we've achieved has been in spite of, rather than helped by government policy. When we hear about the Conservatives saying they are the party of business, I nearly fall off my chair laughing. They have done absolutely nothing for the music industry in the UK. By definition, the sector is high risk. The percentage of artists that become millionaires is minuscule. The vast majority of working musicians live a fairly precarious existence. Money is earned at small gigs in grassroots venues. Last year I contributed to a Parliamentary enquiry into live music. Many of my suggestions were noted, but nothing at all has happened. Venues are still facing the same pressures, many being lost to 'luxury flats'. Every one of these that shuts loses the local musicians a wage. Music Week reported that the UK Music Industry had grown spectacularly in the last year
As for Labour? Well We've had a Labour Mayor for three and a half years. He has shown zero interest in the London music scene. He appointed Amy Lame as a nighttime Tsar, but she has morphed into the invisible woman. She's not even bothered to get in touch with the Save London Music campaign, to see what we can do to improve the situation. Our friends at Bally Studios wrote an excellent article for our website explaining why Ms Lame has not been effective.

It really wouldn't take much to radically transform the situation. The Save London Music Campaign has a manifesto for preserving London's venues.

1. Special protection for important London music venues from redevelopment. This should take two forms. The first should grant important venues the same protection as listed buildings. The second is that where large infrastructure projects destroy venues (such as the Astoria), the venue should be re-sited elsewhere in equivalent or better premises at zero cost to the operator.
2. Established venues should be protected from noise and disruption complaints from neighbours. Soundproofing etc should not be the responsibility of the venue, where the venue is an established music site.
3. As creative industries are a key component in the UK economy, tax breaks, planning assistance and grants should be made available to any company or individual investing in infrastructure to support creative industries.  This should be done with a view to ensuring the UK maintains its leading position as the centre of world music.
From a music perspective the following should be available.
* Capital Tax allowances for investment in venues and studios
* Free or discounted planning costs for studios,  music venues and other music related companies (such as instrument manufacturers etc).
* Rates holidays for start up businesses involved in the music and creative sector. A six month period of zero rates and a six month period of 50% rates would give businesses a great
opportunity to get off the ground and generate employment
* Offer grants to creative industries to assist with the costs etc of starting a creative business, specifically for assistance with the cost of consultants for noise control and other issues which
are specific to the music industry.
* Enact legislation to ensure that major new developments include an element of light industrial space suitable for creative industries and studio space at low rent.
* Offer mentoring and assistance to young people wishing to set up SME’s focussing on the creative sector.
We are also working to actively set up new grassroots music venues across London and support other individuals and organisations with the same aim

We've shown that in Mill Hill, music can be a key part of the local economy. When will the political parties wake up to this and start supporting the industry.


Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission

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