Monday 20 September 2021

The £5 billion UK industry that doesn't exist

London has a huge publishing industry, many important labels, a superb technical base and some of the worlds finest musicians. Our venues are iconic and artists such as Bob Marley, The Ramones and even Tom Petty have chosen London venues for live recordings. In other countries in the EU such as Germany, hey have introduced all manner of measures to help local musicians to survive. The Germans famously put a levy on blank tapes, that was paid to local artists to help support them. UK musicians have had zero help.

As our business fully reopens after lockdown, we are seeing a huge surge in bookings. For us, some of these are hugely exciting, but it will take us at least two years to get back to where we were in 2019. Last week Nadine Dorries replaced Oliver Dowden as culture. I've written to Mr Dowden (and his predecessors in the role) on numerous occasions. All I've ever managed to receive in reply are a few stock responses from junior officials. You may ask "Why should he expect a minister to bother with what he has to say, he's a busy man?" Well the answer is quite simple, our studio is the oldest independent rehearsal studio in London, we are one of the biggest and we have a track record of success. We have contributed to the DCMS enquiry on Live music, via the Save London Music Campaign, which we joined forces with other studios to set up, our contribution is recognised in the finakl report. I also contributed to a consultation on the Millenium Dome set up.  This was before it was built. You may be interested to note that my view was the govt should partner with a company with a track record of delivery of events, such as Tussauds group, as well as having spaces for small artists, regional and diverse art, etc. Small performance spaces for up and coming artists, to showcase them as vistors went to the main exhibits would have been wonderful. Instead, we got a hugely expensive space tha only started to work when a private operator came in to run it properly. It is now the most successful venue on the planet. So many years were wasted before this was achieved. 

Many readers will be surprised that as someone who has championed public services, I am a strong proponent of private enterprise in music and the arts. This is based on the fact that my music career was launched and has been supported ever since by small independent promoters, venues, labels and management companies. The Uk has a rich history of our independent sector. My band worked with amazing grass roots promoters all over the UK (and even in Scandinavia). London clubs such as The Roxy and the Vortex and the Blitz were not brought about by government bodies or councils. It was individuals who wanted to take risks and do what they loved. Independent record labels such as Factory and Peter Gabriels Real World records are just two iconic labels that have recorded at our studios. 

Some small scale promoters etc, such as Richard Branson ended up running global empires, but most get ground down and give up. Some do it for love of a genre such as local promoter Pete Feenstra, who cut his teeth at the Torrington is a good example. Some do it to make a quick buck and soon disappear, when they realise just how much hard work is involved. At present, we sponsor events such as The London International Ska Festival and the Mill Hill Music Festival. All such events have taken a massive hit because of Covid, being cancelled completely. The government set up the "Cultural Recovery Fund" but this is very much designed for more mainstream organisations. It seems to me that most MP's have no clue about the £5 billion music industry. 

Nadine Dorries is the 6th Culture secretary since 2017, that is a new one every 8 months on average. There is no continuity and the job is clearly seen as unimportant. It is clear that no one takes the job seriously. How can an industry build a rapport with a secretary if they are gone just as they get their feet under the table. 

I have no idea whether Nadine Dorries will be a good secretary of state. I've no idea if she'll take more interest in the sector than her predecessor. I have no idea if she'll last longer. For me it is the perfect job, what could be better than trying to keep the UK music and sport industry at the top of the Worlds Premier League? 

The Culture Secretary has a standing invitation to visit our studios, meet musicians and artists and get some sort of grassroots view of what it is like being involved in music in the year 2021 in London. We need a culture secretary who cares and who understands the issues. Does the Rt Hon Member of Mid Bedfordshire? I've no idea, but if she wants to find out, I am happy to host a meeting so she can learn about our industry. I'll even buy her a pot noodle if the rules allow it! But whatever she does, it is vital she takes the job seriously and champions UK music.

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