A couple of months ago we wrote two blog pieces about the decline, and the potential escalation of the decline of the London music scene,
which had a really strong response from lots of people. The crux of the blogs was that if music venues and rehearsal studios keep on closing at the rate that they currently are, pretty soon London is going to be a music-free zone. We also went into detail about the unnecessary challenges that we personally ran into when trying to set up our long term rehearsal studios complex, a complex that would have employed people, generated tax revenue and added to the creative spark within the capital.
In our view the problem was clear: the short term profits that are made from luxury property (in London particularly) , and the prohibitive laws that strangle any sense of creative enterprise is eroding the creative scene within London that most cities would be immensely proud of. Meanwhile, the people who have a strong influence in the city of London seem to take this fine heritage for granted, and are seemingly oblivious to the consequences of their actions. The same applies, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in the UK.
Mill Hill Music Complex had already been running their own campaign on the same subject, and they did their own blog post
and by now we were being contacted by other people saying that they too felt that something needed to be done to stop the destruction of such a vital part of our culture, economy and heritage.
But what to do? Well, with an election coming up, we though we would contact the only people who have the power to protect the businesses within the music industry – i.e. politicians: for only they can actually change the law to give the music industry the protection that it deserves – to ask them whether they agreed with our concerns, and if so, what they planned to do to clarify the law and bring about some much needed stability. Our argument was clear: not only do the creative arts make London a fantastic place to live with a creative scene that is the envy of the world, but also that it makes good sense economically and socially to support the arts.
We wrote one letter to send out to all of the major political parties, and we then appealed to as many other studios as possible to see if they wanted to put their name behind the letter too. This is the letter we wrote.
We felt that the more businesses there were that supported it, the more chance there was of it being taken seriously. We sent it out, and the following people put their support behind it.
Mill Hill Music Complex Studios
Downs SoundsSoup Studios
The Secret Warehouse Of Sound
The Engine Rooms
The Premises Studios
The Rehearsal Rooms
Tweeters Rehearsal Studios
Lucky Stone Studio
Neon Sound Studios
ALTERNATOR – Recording Studio & Rehearsal Rooms
Nepenthe Recording Studios
The Pit Recording Studio & Rehearsal Rooms
Rocket Park Studios
Meet and Jam
Music Venue Trust
Music Producers Guild
Alt Mu Magazine (ALT-MU)
Mill Hill Music Complex had already made excellent progress with their #SaveLondonMusic campaign that had a lot of momentum behind it, so we put our efforts behind this hashtag.
Here’s how it has been going.
Part 1: Getting support.
– please note, that the above businesses put their support behind the initial letter that we sent out, and that from here onwards our feedback is solely a response to our personal experiences. –
We contacted many studios to see if they wanted to support the campaign, and have personally spoken online to at least 80 of them. Whilst there was an almost complete agreement about wanting to help and the need for action to be taken, there was a marked difference in their responses.
There were many studios that are well established that have been trading for many years. They would have either recouped their initial investment, or were established enough to have a sizeable and loyal customer base, and so would not have had the same financial constraints as newer businesses. These studios were more financially stable, had a bit of a financial buffer and were strapping themselves in for the long term, and the majority of them joined the campaign with passion. All of these more established studios – the ones that we most hoped would sign up – expressed their support quickly, and added their name to the cause without hesitation.
Then there are others that were less established who have been forced to take a much shorter term view of their studios development. From talking to them they agreed that they are left vulnerable by the lack of clarity in the law, but they also accepted that they knew that this was the situation when they set up the studios. Many of them have admitted to us that they didn’t expect to last too long anyway: not through a lack of business or not wanting to, but simply as they realised that there was a strong chance that they would be forced to shut down due to either rent rises or noise complaints. When setting up they had taken this into account and calculated how much money to invest in their business accordingly, looking to break even very quickly, which meant that they invested less into their business than they otherwise would have to keep the risk of losing money low.
By all means, they WANTED to invest money, but seeing as they felt they could be shut down at any time, they decided it was too big a risk to take. So they started trading knowing that they would probably get complaints and that they would have to close within 12 months, but hopefully they could make enough money in that time to make it worthwhile. It really surprised us to hear that many of them were actually using the ambiguity of the law to their advantage. They reasoned that while strict limits and guidelines on noise pollution would help protect music venues and rehearsal spaces that were able to meet them in the long term, they could also be used as a stick to punish the businesses that did not.
We would reply that if there were concrete regulations in place they would only need to invest money to meet them, and that from then onwards they would never have to worry about noise complaints, which would make their trading much more predictable. Yes, it would take a bigger initial investment and more work, but surely it was worth it for the long term certainty? They agreed with this, but this then brought up a new problem: about 90% of the 30 businesses had the response of “what if I put all of the money into soundproofing the studios to meet these standards, and then the landlord puts the rent up or asks me to move out? What do I do then?”
This was exactly the point that we made on our Meet & Jam blog post.
At present businesses within the music industry can get closed down at such short notice that it makes any investment that they make very risky. If laws were brought in to bring about stability and predictability then businesses could invest with confidence. However, in that case there would need to be TOTAL stability and confidence. Getting an industry 90% predictable and stable serves no purpose since the final 10% of the industry that is ambiguous could undo all other progress, and while we have a situation where people do not know what their rent is going to be next year or whether they will even be able to trade next month, there is no way for them to know how much they can earn back on their investment, and therefore how much to spend on investments such as soundproofing.
Studios and live music venues get shut down due to noise complaints, and the way to solve those noise complaints is to soundproof their premises, but business owners cannot do that in case they get kicked out of their current location before they have a chance to recoup the cost of that investment. As a result of the rental market being so unprotected for businesses, and with the cost of property in London especially being too high to rule out buying their premises, these studios reacted to the short term nature of renting property by also focusing on the short term.
However, these businesses also felt that there was a relatively easy fix: all that they would need is a guarantee that if they invested in soundproofing and committed the money that this needed, that in return they would be able to operate without fear of being unfairly closed down. By upholding their side of the bargain they could be sure that, so long as they stayed within the terms of their lease, they would be able to stay at their current location long enough to re-coup that investment, whilst paying a rent that allowed them to be able to make a profit good enough to justify that investment. They understood that rent rises may be needed, they just wanted to know what they would be. They wanted to know what they needed to do, how much to spend, how long they have to earn that money back, and what their costs will be in the future so that they could make plans around known facts – all pretty sensible requests.
Sadly, whilst agreeing with the sentiments of the campaign, the vast majority of these businesses did not want to put their name behind it for fear of drawing attention to themselves. They said that if they openly declared how easy it would be for the rent to be increased, while stating that they would have little choice other than to pay it, that it could increase the chance of it happening. The phrase “I don’t want to give my landlord any ideas” was mentioned a lot. Ironically enough, they are also the people who needed the clarity that we were asking for the most.
Most of their whole approach, they told us, has been about trying to stay under the radar as much as possible, running on as low a budget as possible and being able to eek out a small profit on a small customer base. The phrases, “stick our head above the parapet” and “don’t want to make any enemies” were also mentioned many times. 27 different studios honestly told us that they had this approach. Many of them had the customer base needed to expand, yet were still unable to take the risk of doing so. In their mind, as their whole plan of running their business up until that point had been based around the fact that they could be closed down at any time, a campaign such as this would actually be a leap into the unknown. If it could be achieved, great, but if not then they may have made things worse.
To us, this contrasting attitude between the studios with short and long term focus shows that the unsigned music industry is becoming strongly polarized. The studios with more financial backing are able to invest, can improve their standards and can grow stronger with a longer term plan, while the ones that are living hand-to-mouth and day-to-day have to get by without the same solid foundation, which puts them at an even bigger disadvantage since they will find it hard to progress and improve. As a result, it is harder for new studios to flourish, which is not only bad for bands and the music industry in that it limits the availability of rehearsal studios, but it is surely bad for the whole idea of any kind of social mobility. If the only people who are able to set up a new studios are people who are able to take a risk on losing a lot of money, or people who have the money to own their own building and not have to worry about being evicted or rent rises, then the music industry will soon become one that is only open to investment from the wealthy, or one that has a small set of established companies with a growing influence.
Even though we (Bally) have been at the same location since 1989 and have a solid foundation which means that we would be one of the studios who would stand to actually benefit from these obstacles (as they would hurt our competition more than us), it still makes us sick to think that such obstacles could exist in 2015 for people who want to start or build up their own business. All businesses that work in the music industry in London should be passionate about making the London music scene as strong as possible. Even if it means that it helps more people enter the industry and makes for fiercer competition, it still benefits everyone. The whole reason we are able to generate the trade we need is because there is such a strong demand for music in the capital, but if the means to supply that music dries up, so too will the ability to deliver it. As people become exposed to less great music, the demand will quickly start to drop off. Soon, everyone will lose.
In Nashville competition in country music is fierce; in Los Angeles it is as competitive a market for rap music as you could imagine, and there comes a time in the Reggae industry when you need to focus on areas such as Kingston, Jamaica. In all of these cases, the areas with the most competition are also the areas that it is best to be located in and the most lucrative, and in all cases, the increased competition draws people to the area, which then benefits everyone within the area including the businesses. This is what London is in danger of losing.
We felt that this confirmed our feelings about the music industry – that the lack of clear guidelines makes it very susceptible to being unstable. A competitive music industry with strong foundations is one that benefits everyone. A customer can get a better standard of service and the businesses within it are kept on their toes from the increase of competition, while the industry also has a stream of passionate new people who are joining it with new ideas. If the odd session is lost here and there it would not matter as much as businesses would be able to make up those sessions over the long term.
However instead, with the lack of any clear guidelines in the law that we currently have, many people are forced to focus on the short term, trading on vague guidelines, which hurts not only them, and not only the music industry, but the UK economy too. Even though it was the less established businesses that were most at risk from this, that is also not to say that the more established studios have it easy either: the phrases “only a matter of time….” “what can you do…..” and “make hay while the sun shines” were mentioned many times as well.
Despite these problems that limited the amount of names we could collect, we still had a good roster of names behind the letter.
2) Putting the letters to political parties.
Now we needed to get the letter to the people who could deliver the changes that we asked for – the political parties. The parties that we contacted were the ones who either had a chance of being voted into power by a majority, ones that had a chance of being asked to join a coalition, or that had a chance of getting publicity for a cause that they supported or opposed. These parties were Conservatives, The Labour PartyLiberal Democrats Green Party of England and Wales and UK Independence Party (UKIP) We will now go into our experience that we had in getting answers from these people, but, to be clear, the conclusions that we have drawn from this experience are ours alone, and may or may not be shared by the other studios that put their name to the letter.
Despite having lots of businesses behind the scheme and a very clear letter, we had no response at all when the letters and e mails first were sent out. We contacted them again to confirm that they had been received, and still nothing: we were just told, politely, in all cases to refer to their printed manifesto. We then started contacting people within these organisations lower down the chain and started to get feedback.
In all cases we were given stock answers along the lines of ‘please refer to our manifesto, all of our policies are in there,’ or they simply read from their manifesto. Naturally, candidates were unable to give their opinion on the matter if the party itself had no official position. When we mentioned to many of the parties that their manifestos had no specific details about protecting music venues in particular, or any policies regarding music at all, we were directed to their policies towards culture and the arts, and in all cases it gave them an opportunity to deliver neatly packaged soundbites.
When we pressed – and believe me, this was a task that was about as frustratingly slow as you could imagine – we were told that none of these parties has any official policy on specifically bringing in the guidelines that we have suggested (which is to be expected), but also that four out of the five parties had no specific policies with regards to helping the music industry, music venues, and the businesses that operate within the music industry. The Green Party were the only party that had this policy, or that even mentions live music venues in their manifesto. (Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP’s manifestos do not mention the word “Music” in it at all. The Conservative mentions it twice, once in relation to banning certain music videos to under 18s, and once in terms of being proud of the UK’s musical heritage. Apart from that, there are no other mentions of music from all of these parties.)
The parties all have policies on the arts in general, and on community development, and they said that they would all support the council if the needed to enforce noise complaints, but apart from the Green Party, none on them had any policies on live music specifically. Here is what each of them said are their official policies on matters closest to our cause.
Conservatives: We will keep our major national museums and galleries free to enter and enable our cultural institutions to benefit from greater financial autonomy to use their budgets as they see fit. We will support a Great Exhibition in the North; back plans for a new theatre, The Factory, Manchester; and help the Manchester Museum, in partnership with the British Museum, to establish a new India Gallery. We are also supporting plans to develop a modern world class concert hall for London
http://issuu.com/conservativeparty/docs/ge_manifesto_low_res_bdecb3a47a0faf?e=16696947%2F12362115#search (page 43)
Labour: We will increase the number of apprenticeships in the creative industries. We will create a Prime Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, with a membership drawn from all sectors and regions. The Committee will bring issues of concern direct to the attention of the Prime Minister.
http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/BritainCanBeBetter-TheLabourPartyManifesto2015.pdf (page 54)
Liberal Democrats: Support growth in the creative industries, including video gaming, by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council, promoting creative skills, supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules, and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses.
https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/libdems/pages/8907/attachments/original/1429028133/Liberal_Democrat_General_Election_Manifesto_2015.pdf?1429028133 (page 37)
The Green Party: Increase government arts funding by £500 million a year to restore the cuts made since 2010 and reinstate proper levels of funding for local authorities, helping to keep local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open. Reduce VAT to 5% for live performances. Work to support fair pay productions in the arts. Give local authorities powers to encourage local live performance in the arts by moving funding from the regional to the local level and modifying regulations so that small-scale live performance in pubs and similar venues is not stifled.
https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf (page 61)
UKIP: We will abolish government departments when their essential powers and functions can be merged into other departments. Such departments will include the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Department for International Development, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
http://issuu.com/ukip/docs/theukipmanifesto2015/1?e=16718137%2F12380620 (page 9)
Now, to be clear, we do not wish to enter into a political debate about which parties we think you should vote for, nor will we try to influence anyone either way. We simply wanted to find out what their position on these matters were, all of the parties told us to quote them from their manifesto, which is what we have done, and all of them said that they would not give any specific statement on what we asked for. Naturally the people who work at Bally have their own thoughts and feelings on which parties they will vote for, but as a company we have little desire to stand on a political soap box. However, we wanted to share our feedback of the correspondence that we had with each party, as well as the parties in general.
UKIP told us that they want to get rid of the department of culture, media and sport, with no plans to replace it, but they said that they felt that this would be an improvement as, in their view, the current system did not work, but they did not propose a new system that would be better. The Greens were the only ones to actually give definite figures to aim for and the only ones to commit to reducing ticket prices for venues. They were also the only party to actually declare plans for small music venues specifically, saying that they planned to modify regulations to promote small music venues which is what we wanted, but they did not actually go so far as to say what those modifications would be. They also said that they would lower VAT on ticket prices to allow music venues to be more competitive. The main three parties (Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour) stated that they recognised and planned to improve the creative industries, but stopped short of giving any definite targets, and no targets at all on music.
However, overall the whole tone of the correspondence was quite distant and laboured from everyone. It was hard to speak to anyone that was not a junior volunteer, and getting a response from anyone even remotely up the ladder was incredibly difficult. If we contacted a local MP we were told that we could only contract an MP from our particular constituency, which in our case would be Labour MP David Lammy, from the constituency of Tottenham, who did not respond to our request. (He also ignored our request in 2012 when we asked about his views on Northumberland Park train station’s redevelopment)
This did not surprise us much: Tottenham has 80,000 people in it, yet there is also only one music venue within it, which is T.Chances. Other venues based in the area such as The Where?house, Black Grape and The Fountain have all closed in recent years. “Can You Dig It”, a night for live music at Mannions pub in Tottenham has not had any live music shows listed on over a year on their Facebook page, not to mention the nearby Walthamstow Standard, which closed many years ago. Despite having huge amounts of students in it, Tottenham is a musical wasteland.
Despite the closure of so many venues, and the harmful effect that they would have had on both the local economy and the community, there is no urgency to address the matter at all, and so one can only assume that it is not a matter of great importance to the local council. We were also told that the other people who backed the campaign could contact their local MP’s, but that we could not contact MP’s on their behalf, which is understandable.
Despite lots of effort, we were given sound-bites and extracts from already published manifestos. There was no effort to engage with us, simply to be seen to be appeasing us. There was no information that we got that was not already available to the general public via the party manifestos.
Here are our views on this whole experience. (Once again, they are our personal experiences, and may or may not be shared by the companies that backed the letter) When speaking to political representatives, many of them, nearly all of them in fact, said that although issues like this may be important to some, many voters do not see them as being as important as matters such as the economy, healthcare and education, and so in an effort to address the important matters, they had less of a focus on them.
Yet from our point of view this is incredibly flawed. Our argument was never made from the point of view of it being just about the music: instead it was about maintaining a thriving part of the UK economy that provides tax revenue, employment and attracts people to visit the UK. Stress is known to be one of the biggest causes of ill health in the country and any form of relaxation could help prevent this, and music is well known to be one of the best stress relievers there is. Music therefore plays it’s part in keeping the country healthy and productive. A community that is more integrated is less likely to commit crimes against each other, and music venues help to bring people together. Music also brings numerous people to the country, from Japanese tourists who fly into John Lennon airport to go on the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool, to Russians who come to visit our Opera House and Royal Albert Hall. All of them come with a wallet full of cash, and music is a huge part of why they come. Music is more rewarding to the UK economy than many people realise. Yet none of these factors were taken into account to the extent that they should have been. There was little recognition for the great benefits of having music venues.
There was also a failure to comprehend that while the unsigned music venues and small rehearsal studios in the music industry may not generate huge revenues in themselves, they act as a breeding ground for the bands to learn their craft who will later go on to generate that tax revenue. These smaller rehearsal studios and music venues are the feeder system to the bigger venues. Take them away and in 20 years time there will be a gaping hole in the new music industry. Anyone with any kind of involvement in the music industry knows this.
And herein maybe lies the problem. Here is a document of the past jobs of our current MP’s www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN01528.pdf Nearly 14% are former barristers and solicitors. There are lots of former teachers, doctors, journalists and even lots of former farmers. Yet no musicians. None. It is therefore maybe understandable that they don’t have strong feelings on the music industry, since there is a disconnect between the music industry and the people who make the decisions that affect the music industry. In our personal opinion, this is creating much of the problems that we have.
In the US when Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected as Governer of California, he brought in the Film and Television Tax Credit. “As part of a targeted economic stimulus package to increase film and television production in California, the Governor enacted a tax credit program in 2009 authorizing the California Film Commission to allocate $100 million in tax credits each fiscal year (or up to $200 million in its first year of operation to eligible productions through fiscal year 2013–2014)”.
Being an actor he knew how rewarding the acting industry was, and so he invested in it.
When Ronald Reagan, another former actor, became US President he also brought substantial tax breaks to the US film industry.
Tony Blair is, so far, the only Prime Minister to have formerly been in a band, (albeit a purely social one, Ugly Rumours, from his university days) and he was also the only Prime Minister to bring in specific legislation aimed at musicians, in “New Deal For Musicians”, a piece of legislation that actually enabled us to start Bally Studios. It’s natural that politicians will favour causes that are close to their heart – after all, we would do the same; if I became a politician I would strive to protect the things that I loved too.
Therefore, maybe the only way for the music industry to become more protected and to get the attention it needs is to get “one of their own” in the House of Commons? In the grand scheme of things, the legislation that the music industry needs is small compared to other reforms, with minimal funding compared to other schemes, and it would be quite easy for a politician who wanted to represent the music industry to threaten to drag their feet on a vote, and to make life difficult in order to secure legislation for their chosen cause. Compared to the £200 Million invested into the North Middlesex hospital just up the road from the studios and the £800 Billion invested in the banking sector, the music industry needs very little invested into it. A £30,000 investment would have a massive improvement on the soundproofing of a single venue, and the rewards could be huge.
A £30,000 loan, which would be repaid in full with interest, to help improve a small music venue in each of the 650 constituencies in the UK, along with a protected lease for all of them would be a massive kick start to the UK Music industry, and would mean so much to the economy too. If 8 people worked at each venue, that would be 5,250 full time jobs created/saved, and all for less than £20Million. Or 0.25% the amount that was spent on the 2012 Olympics. Each unemployed person costs the government £8,000 per year. (Source http://www.bristol.ac.uk/efm/news/2009/32.html)
Protecting those 5,250 jobs would save them £42 Million in the first year alone, on a £20 Million investment. We are not talking about charity or philanthropy here, but instead an investment into businesses that could be paid back in full over a long term period, which is only possible with businesses not having to focus on keeping their head above water, worrying about being closed down at any time to make way for property developers, worrying about rent rises, or whether they will get the complaints that close them down, but instead from them being able to focus on bigger goals with the confidence that only stability can bring. That all needs assurances of security and good levels of investment, investment that can never be forthcoming at present without huge risks. If the stability and clarity was delivered, these venues and others could even source the investment elsewhere.
However, we are not saying that new music venues need to be opened. Instead we are saying that current music venues and rehearsal studios need to get the investment and the legal protection to help them stop living day to day, and to start planning for the future. The UK music industry does not need more music venues or studios, but better ones. With the law being so vague at present, the investment to make them better will never be forthcoming.
The problem with reform is not the means to do it, but the will to do it, and at present in our opinion that will is just not there. Until there is at least one MP that actually wants to create a change and that has the desire to want to stick their neck out and represent the music industry specifically, it may be difficult to get any kind of concrete change. Until that happens we will just be partaking in band-aid reforms. The feedback that we got was that other matters were seen as more important by the public, and therefore that was where the focus would go to.
Politicians, by their very nature, will be focused on trying to appease the public as much as possible, and so their focus will be on the matters that the public feels is more important, and (sadly) it cannot be denied that while this cause is very close to our hearts, it is not one that most people feel as passionate about compared to other causes. If it was, then there would be such a desperate need for there to be a campaign to bring about the action that we want. While we have politicians that are personally neutral on the matter and have no strong desire to promote the interests of the music industry, they will never be promoted since the current political system places such a low priority on the music industry.
The government currently has a Minister for Culture Media and Sport, but that one department is responsible for the following areas: “The Arts, Broadcasting, Internet and international ICT policy, Telecommunications and broadband, Creative industries, Advertising, Arts market, Design, Fashion, Film, Music industry, Publishing, Historic environment, Architecture and design, Cultural property and heritage, Alcohol and entertainment licensing, Gambling and racing, Press freedom and regulation, Libraries, Museums and galleries, National Lottery, Tourism, Sport, the Olympics.” By contrast, the following non-ministerial individual departments exist: The Ordinance Survey, The Forestry Commission, and the UK Statistics Authority. The government has specific departments for what they deem to be the important matters, whereas the rest gets bundled together. In short, the government does not value the music industry as much as some of it’s citizens does.
We either need at least one politician who understands that 95% of the public do not care about this matter as much as more dedicated people do (the only reason why so many music venues are small is because less people go to them, after all) but that they will try to bring about the change that the 5% care so passionately about, or we need all politicians to start to value music and it’s contribution to the UK economy, and start to work towards protecting it.
That means we need one of two changes: either a politician(s) that will ignore 95% of the electorate and will put the nationwide music industry ahead of their constituencies needs, or a government that appoints a specific minister for music so that the music industry, a £3.8Billion a year industry, gets the attention it deserves. The problem is that if a politician was going to bring the results that the music industry needs, they would have to press hard to get them which would mean taking their focus off of local matters, as well as having to trade votes on other matters to secure the change that the music industry needs. If they did that, they could only get their objectives by betraying the promise that they made to their constituents.
However, there is a precedent for such an approach: in 2010 George Galloway ran largely on a single issue, the Iraq war, and was elected on the back of it. In 2001 Richard Taylor ran as an independent candidate for the seat in Wyre Forest on the single issue of saving Kidderminster Hospital. Not only did he win, but he was also re-elected in 2005. If the same were to happen for music, a politician would need to be incredibly committed to the cause for that to happen, but at present there is not a candidate that fits this bill. There needs to be.
Another way of looking at it is that the political parties will choose their focus based on where they think that the public feel strongest about, and this shows how important it is to get behind schemes such as#VoteForMusic, which wants to put music at the heart of the focus for this election. If people do not show how important the matter is to them, the parties will not address the matter sufficiently. We cannot wait for these parties to declare their position and then react to it, we need to be pro-active enough to let them know that it is vital for us that the matter is addressed. We need to let them know that it is something that will sway our vote, and that we care enough.
Also, when comparing different manifestos, not only was there a lack of detail from most of the political parties for what their plans was, there was also little demand from the UK media in terms of wanting to know what each parties policy was.
The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/manifesto-guide
The Mirror: http://www.mirror.co.uk/…/general-election-2015-guide-12-54…
The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/manifestos-2015
Notice the lack of any reference at all to the arts or creative industries in all of these election guides. The media sees that such matters are less important to many people, and so they focus on them less, which proves that people need to show how passionate they feel about the issue in order for the focus to change.
So what can we do? In our opinion, in the day before the election (TODAY!) people should
1) Support and raise awareness for the #VoteForMusic campaign, which has been created to raise awareness of music industry issues during the election campaign.
2) Support and raise awareness for the @Music Venue Trust, an organisation that is striving to protect music venues in the UK.
3) If you speak to political party members or canvassers, let them know that the matter is close to your heart.
In order for real change we need the political parties to understand how important it is to people, and this can only happen if the information is passed up the chain for each political party. Feeling strongly about the matter is not enough, we need to show how many people feel strongly about it, as the numbers of people who feel strongly will be more important to political parties than the amount of passion that each person feels.
In our opinion, this election does not have the potential to bring about the change we need, since none of the main parties have any policies in their manifesto about it. How can you get someone to act strongly about a subject that they do not even acknowledge in their plans? However, if the music loving community plan for the long term and aim for the 2016 local elections, or the 2020 general election, it is not too unrealistic to aim to have some candidates that stand purely on a platform to save the UK music industry, to demand that political parties give the support to the music industry that it desperately needs, and to gain the support that will make parties take notice.
If there was a candidate that stood in a seat that could get 1,000 votes in a 50,000-90,000 vote, it may be enough to persuade a major party that if they addressed the issue themselves they could earn a potential 1,000 more votes, enough to potentially win the seat, which would force them to take it seriously. As in all electioneering, the important factor is the numbers. The support that any campaign gets needs to be not in the 1,000s, or the 10,000’s, but, in our opinion, in at least the 100,000’s, if not the millions.
Two people who are willing to put their name behind a campaign and are willing to cast their vote with this issue in mind will be taken notice of more that one person who has 1000 times the passion on the issue, simply as the media and the political parties have made clear that they will only address the matter in line to how many people support it, not on how passionately the support is. In order to spread the word, it needs press attention, events and momentum, which will take years to build. In our opinion, 2015 will act as a good marker in the sand for the future, but it will be way too soon for any kind of realistic change. Put bluntly, the numbers of the people who have declared that they want change is not enough.
More importantly, we must never let this be “an election issue.” If that is the case. once the parties get elected it can easily be forgotten. If parties are going to be backtracking on tuition fees and NHS reform which affect millions of people, they will not think twice about doing the same for this issue which will have less attention and less consequences for breaking promises. Instead, this matter needs to be something that people see as a principle value that needs the utmost attention, and it needs to be supported in appropriate numbers.
Like the NHS, the minimum wage or austerity, it needs people to have an opinion and to passionately back that opinion. Political parties need to be backed into a corner, and to know that it is a matter that demands their attention. More than anything, it needs someone who has the power to make decisions to demand change. The demand for legislation needs to come from within the political system, not from outside it. The change needs to come from someone who is in a position of power, or from a group of people who, collectively, have the power to change policy. This change should not be asked for – it can only be demanded.
Most importantly, it needs to be done from a position where the people in power want the change too, where it is to their benefit to support it, and where it is a matter that they are passionate. In order for that to happen, a lot of work needs to be done, a lot of education and a sea change in attitude, which will take a lot of time. Let today be the start of that journey.
Thanks for your time.