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The Live Music Forum

 
Submission to The Live Music Inquiry 2018

The Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport Committee have just carried out an inquiry into live music. This our submission to the inquiry which took the form of a list of questions.

What are the economic benefits of music festivals and concerts?

Live music employs a number of people in different occupations in supporting industries. From catering and transport to equipment supply and insurance, a plethora of industries derive income generated from live music.
Britain has been one of the world's leading creators of popular music since the 1960's and has contributed an increasing amount to our national income. The vast majority of successful recording singers and musicians have served some kind of apprenticeship on the small gig live music scene, if not having learned their craft there.
While major festivals like Glastonbury attract large numbers of people and correspondingly generate employment in a number of occupations, there are an awful lot of small festivals that are not as well known but cater for significant numbers and also generate employment in various industries, especially at a local level.
Perhaps more could be done to make it easier to put on small festivals under 5,000 people.
Live music festivals bring together larger numbers of people for a longer period of time allowing them to bond and forge new friendships which aid a healthy cohesion in our communities. This can be seen especially at smaller more intimate festivals.
Festivals provide excellent opportunities for musicians to network and make new contacts, leading to new work or an exchange of ideas.

What can we do to solve the disparity of spending in cities and regions?

Gig Awareness - If something could be done  about ‘gig awareness’ on a national level, it would improve the attendance at live music events in all areas and encourage tourists, for instance, to try out live music in regional areas.
My experience of people not being at events boils down to them not knowing about or being sure of the time and place of the events more than for any other reason. Although it varies between individuals, some people need to have multiple exposures to information about an event before they make a conscious decision to attend.
When the Live Music Forum launched Music Files (a free live music gig guide) in Hastings in 1993 there was an immediate increase of people turning up to most events, simply because they knew they were on. Music Files became so popular it was being read by many more people than the 2000 copies that were circulated and within a couple of years there would be four more entertainment magazines in the town.
Variety and Choice - Imagine that, if, instead of one genre dominating the preference of the youth all over the British Isles for a year or two, you had many urban and provincial areas specialising in styles that lasted in popularity, which they could even claim for their own with pride, for example Merseybeat or the Two Tone sound that emanated from the Midlands. Most of our British genres were never allowed the opportunity to evolve and grow as they were too quickly cast aside in favour of the next craze.
People would be attracted to visit areas outside of the main cities to hear the sound of a particular style of music in its original environment. Much in the same way as tourists visit New Orleans in the USA or Dublin in Ireland to hear a particular type of music performed by hereditary exponents.
Genres of music and sounds/styles that are uniquely our own should be celebrated and never just cast into the retro bargain bin because the industry is waiting for the next new thing.
As far as funding goes, the needs of rural and urban areas differ considerably and if those differences are not understood then it is easy to see how money could be wasted.
The timescales associated with funding applications and receipt of funds are too long for smaller organisations to conceive, plan and execute programmes with any spontaneity.
Localised funding seems to have almost disappeared with the financial pressure that councils have been put under. It is as if there were a belief that only well established groups or individuals with staff and a large budget are capable of presenting new and original music, where, in fact, the opposite is more likely true.

How can we sustain music tourism especially audiences coming from the EU and overseas?

By encouraging diversity and availability of a wide range of genres of music and celebrating their geographical uniqueness as described above.
By maintaining a quality of excellence including a higher technical standard of playing from young and aspiring musicians. In order to achieve this, music education must be made more available to a greater number of people. As a result of  ‘Austerity’, music education has been slashed and we will hear this reflected in reduced technical ability leading to a handicap in making new and original music, over the forthcoming years unless drastic action is taken, now.
By encouraging young musicians to embrace and perform more than one style of music so as to advance their musicality, originality and technical ability.
By doing something to encourage greater provision of accurate and up to date information on live music events through locally administered gig guides.
An International Live Music Passport for music fans, possibly offering discounted admission – maybe in exchange for sharing of information (publicity) about event/venue.
 
How has the live music sector been affected from the closures of small music venues across the country?

With less places to play, fewer musicians get to perform, gain experience, improve and go on to greater things.
With fewer small venues available for people to experiment in, less original music is created and some genres which cannot find a home end up facing extinction.
Although large venues and festivals like the O2 and Glastonbury attract attendances totalling hundreds of thousands or millions, when combined, the Live Music Forum believes that there are even more people attending local gigs at small venues 52 weeks a year. The village pub featuring a band or the dedicated small live music venue has historically been discounted in favour of large theatres or big name events when expressing the relevance of the live music industry.
But, if you add up all the audiences in the tens of thousands of small pub/club events that take place up and down the country every week, it eclipses the total audience going to see name acts at large venues.
These small venues form the live music circuit where most musicians learn their skills and thousands of musicians get to be really good players. and it remains overlooked, underfunded and taken for granted.
Live music brings people together to share a common experience and it serves as a conduit or pressure valve for people's emotions. Other interactions are going on too, especially where live music and dancing are combined. For example, in the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's, dancing to live music was one of the most popular leisure activities and evidence for this is in the popularity of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.
People were making all kinds of connections through rhythms like Samba, Rumba and Mambo starting crazes which swept around the world in the 50’s and 60’s.
A lot of our small clubs and venues were the places which still allowed dancing after the big dance halls were turned into Bingo halls in the 1970's, about the time mobile discotheques became prevalent. Now many of the clubs are closing too. Especially in cities where redevelopments are taking place.
We ought to be ensuring that traditions such as dancing to live music, which have, for hundreds of thousands of years served as an important function in gluing our society together, are supported and kept alive so that they can continue to evolve.
Much of the damage has been done over a long period of time and perhaps the public would benefit from some information about the pleasures and benefits of enjoying cultural pursuits. The age of 'home entertainment' has caused the most damage to live music. If people went out and met other people and had a good time more often, it would make them happier and create a better environment than them staying indoors at home.
Small music venues need to be protected and the Agent Of Change Principle is an important step in the right direction. But, over the last twenty years a lot of iconic venues in towns and cities up and down the country have closed, or, have been re-developed, making future recovery impossible. That makes the preservation of all remaining iconic and historic venues even more vital.
And, if you want to get people dancing again, even more places will be needed for them to do it.
It ought to be possible to offer some relief to businesses which dedicate themselves to providing arts and entertainment, contributing to the general wellbeing of the community, either through grants or tax breaks.

 

Should small music venues be classified as cultural venues?

Of course, small live music venues are cultural venues. The smaller the club the more likely it is to have a wider range of music on, from Latin music and Jazz to Heavy Metal and Hip Hop. Therefore the venue is celebrating the most modern interpretations of art and also respecting and preserving the oldest of human traditions as preserved in the distinct rhythms of Latin and Jazz music.
It is hard to argue that there is a more cultural type of venue than a small club hosting a wide range of musical styles.
Music improves people's moods leading to happier and more productive lives. This is one reason why, historically, music on the radio is played in so many factories and workplaces.

What initiatives can be put in place to help grassroots artists and bands?

Please refer to the earlier answer, headed Gig Awareness.
Facebook is not enough for a band/artist to cover all the bases when promoting a local gig. (I said this at a Westminster Media Forum in 2012). You need to get people to make visual and emotional/mental connections with an event in a different/supplementary way.
You need to put your gig information where people can see it from buses, trains and cars.
Imagine if in every main rail station there was an electric display showing information on the live music in the town. Or on buses.
Give grants for local Live Music Gig Guides printing 2000 copies or more for a medium sized town of 60,000. Include responsibility of compiling a gig guide for the local area., which is the objective.
Encourage rights organisations to distribute to a greater number of small artists whose music does not chart but still forms part of a town's local music consumption through tracks played in venues and on local radio.
Encourage councils to offer greater access to independent promoters and venues in Council publications, posters etc. Most council publications are weighted heavily in favour of supporting their own businesses, offering little space to perceived 'competition'.

What impact will Brexit have on British artists and international artists intending to tour in the UK? How can these effects be mitigated? What should the UK seek in the transitional arrangements in regards to live music?

Brexit could have a serious effect on bands and musicians from the UK and musicians from Europe.
The logistics of moving equipment and people across the English Channel are sufficiently burdensome and expensive on their own. Added red tape and paperwork such as the dreaded Carnet of years gone by would have a crippling effect on bands wanting to tour under their own steam. Combined with delays and losses resulting from misunderstandings and human error; it all begins to make the proposition of playing in neighbouring countries too unattractive or difficult to participate.
Here in Hastings there are a number of cross-channel collaborations which are popular and result in more work for everybody involved. They are organised by enterprising musicians and venues. Not management and record companies with staff and resources. The musicians are not wealthy;they are struggling to pay the mortgage or rent like most people. This cross-channel work is one of the ways they survive. To make it make it too difficult to continue, as it was in the old 'Carnet' days, will have a disastrous effect on their livelihoods.
So, somehow it needs to be made even easier for a band with a vanful of equipment to cross the Channel and proceed to their destination.
Perhaps some kind of passport or pre-agreed license could be employed to transport themselves, vehicle and equipment across the Channel and on to participating countries.
Clarification on the function of The Copyright Hub within Europe after Brexit is needed.

Phil Little (7th March 2018)

Chairman

The Live Music Forum

Emal: editor@livemusicforum.co.uk