Andy Burnham's speech to the UK Music Creator's Conference, London
11 December 2008
Good morning everyone.
It’s that time of year when newspapers are reviewing the year so I thought I’d start by giving you a review of my music highlights this year.
I’ve played Teenage Kicks on the guitar with Fergal Sharkey on a boat on the Thames.
I’ve said that Top of the Pops should be for life, not just for Christmas.
And, on the floor of the House of Commons, I spoke up for my talented constituent Laura White, to my knowledge the first person to play a musical instrument on X Factor, being unfairly voted off.
So it must be reassuring for you all to have an intellectual heavyweight intervening in the big music issues of the day at the heart of government.
But, the truth is, government intervention in the music business does not have a glorious history. To paraphrase one of our greats, mixing pop and politics is not a straightforward business and, indeed, can be a bit embarrassing for all concerned.
The British music business has been a major success story with government at arm’s length, or further¬ – in something of a state of mutual distrust.
Over the second half of the last century the industry grew into one of real economic and cultural significance – and its output for many defined us internationally - yet without significant government intervention or political help.
But I’m going to make the case this morning that necessity means that the old order of things needs to change.
The time has clearly arrived when pop needs a bit of political help, when we are all having more meetings and conversations than we’ve had in the past.
Music has been hit hard over the last ten years, and if we don’t do something there is a real danger that parts of the music industry will be washed away.
Developments in communications have changed the music world and I think we are now at a time that calls for partnership between Government and the music business as a whole: one with rewards for both of us; one with rewards for society as a whole.
Music has been a life’s passion for me. When I came into this job earlier this year, I made it a personal priority to focus on the music business – and, hopefully, identify solutions and new models to sustain this cultural strength throughout this century as it was in the second half of the last.
So, the Government signalled this change of gear in February with the publication of our Creative Britain strategy – the first proper programme of structural support from government for the creative industries: moving from the margins of government thinking to the mainstream. We said clearly that legislation would be brought forward to tackle illegal downloading if acceptable voluntary solutions did not emerge - and that remains our unequivocal position.
It’s more important than ever at this particular time when there’s pressure in the economy that we acknowledge and encourage the catalytic role that the creative industries can have in this country. Our traditional creative strength is an enormous competitive advantage in a changing and highly connected world.
International solutions are needed and that’s why one of the things that came out of the strategy was a commitment to establishing a new network to bring together internationally renowned talent from the creative industries – the Creativity and Business International Network. The aim, in time, is for this forum - c&binet - to become an annual event in Britain that’s seen as the equivalent of “Davos” for the creative industries.
But it’s not just on the government side that there has been a change of gear. The industry has clearly been getting its act together off the stage.
The formation of UK Music is a welcome step, as is the Featured Artists Coalition. I don’t think we could ever expect the music industry to speak with one voice – so two isn’t bad – but it does bring a lot more coherence and makes my job easier when representing you to the rest of Government. I recognise the progress made and welcome it.
This is needed now more than ever as it has been a tough few years for the music industry – and a particularly tough few weeks. This year particularly has seen a real acceleration in the breakdown of the traditional systems that fund creativity – the systems that have been in place for decades, particularly in TV and music.
The worldwide economic downturn is adding to the pressure. But it also creates the conditions to allow fresh thinking and help it to take root. Fresh thinking is needed to rework the old models where people handed over their money in the record shop and it found its way into various pockets throughout the industry.
The music industry did very well out of my generation, both the talent and the paying punters. Buying an album was a serious long-term strategic investment of pocket money after weeks of studying the NME and the indie music charts. It was such a commitment, even when you got it home and realised it wasn’t quite as good as you hoped, you had to defend it vigorously.
The online revolution has changed all the rules and ever since we’ve been struggling to catch up. For creative talent like you, it’s a genuinely double-edged sword – liberating and democratising on the one side, allowing people to bypass the traditional gatekeepers to the creative system.
But on the other side, what the online revolution has done is promote a prevailing sense with the online generation that creativity is free to enjoy.
We enjoy a whole lot more choice and opportunity – which is good. And a lot of people enjoy all that for free – which is good for them but not for everyone –and not good for the long term prospects for new music and new ideas, and fresh talent coming through.
So music has been hampered by a real sense of ambivalence towards the internet from the off. But some of its early ideology, in my view, was detrimental to its interests.
There was a powerful undercurrent at the start of the internet that was expressed in the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace written by John Perry Barlow in 1996.
‘Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement and context do not apply to us.’
But the legal concept of copyright has underpinned our creative industries for decades, and is essential to rewarding talent and creativity.
We are now having to confront these notions – but we need to respond in a way that doesn’t criminalise a whole generation that has come to enjoy and explore creativity in a different way.
We need new rules and new norms and they have to be agreed on an international basis because that’s the way the online world operates.
My job – Government’s job – is to preserve the value in the system. Your challenge as an industry is to devise a system that is fair to the paying public and to the performer. Making it stick might mean industry and performers agreeing new rules and new models. But any long-term solution will have a greater chance of sticking in the long term if bodies like the FAC can recommend them unequivocally to their fan base.
It may not be the first thing on Barack Obama’s mind – but it is in there as part of his cultural and creative agenda and we do have a fresh opportunity to come to a common understanding with a new administration.
Illegal file sharing comes under that banner, and I personally think we are breaking new ground in this country.
The gap between how many tracks get paid for and how many don’t is just staggering – and I think the voluntary agreements to change that are going as well as could have been expected at this moment in time.
ISPs are talking to music companies about this. Something they weren’t doing a year ago. And they are writing letters to illegal downloaders – which they weren’t a year ago.
We’ll have some idea of how effective that has been early in the new year and it’s important that the Memorandum of Understanding that we’re working on with ISPs and music rights holders doesn’t slip.
The voluntary approach is obviously the best way forward, but we’re working on how legislation could underpin the voluntary process if necessary in a way that’s fair and proportionate. Having come this far, I’m determined that we bring this issue to a conclusion that works.
Copyright underpins the music business – and all our creative industries – and the right response when it’s put under pressure is not to abandon a system as outdated, but to make it work better.
There is a moral case for performers benefiting from their work throughout their entire lifetime.
That is why I have been working with John Denham, my opposite number in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, to consider the arguments for an extension of copyright term for performers from the current 50 years. An extension to match more closely a performer’s expected lifetime, perhaps something like 70 years, for example, given that most people make their best work in their 20s and 30s.
And we must ensure that any extension delivers maximum benefit to performers and musicians. That’s the test of any model as we go forward.
It’s only right that someone who created or contributed to something of real value gets to benefit for the full course of their life.
There’s another moral argument that says you should have a right not to have something you’ve created being associated with a cause or a brand you’re not comfortable with.
From a cultural point of view, it’s right that Government should be recognising and celebrating the role that performers and creators play in the cultural life of the country.
And from an economic point of view, the music business is one of our most significant creative industries – and the creative industries as a whole are the right direction to be pushing our economy at this moment in time.
Let me be absolutely clear so there are no misconceptions about where the Government is on this. I have been working closely with John Denham, and we both share a real support for artists and musicians.
We want the industry to come back with good, workable ideas as to how a proposal on copyright extension might be framed that directly and predominantly benefits performers – both session and featured musicians.
I’d like to congratulate Charlie McCreevy for initially instigating this discussion.
I think you have heard already from Charlie on his proposals at the European level and we’ll be working with him to find the right approach through copyright that rewards creators and performers, including session musicians.
But all of this is meaningless unless we lay down the foundations in creative education for young people, helping them to feel confident in their creativity.
Support for talent goes to the heart of the Department for Culture. It starts with helping more young people discover their creativity from an early age.
And it’s also important that industry invests back into the system to benefit the next generation - as we have seen with the Premier League do in football.
Here’s an example: we’ve worked with Fergal when he was heading the Live Music Forum, developing the idea of rehearsal spaces in deprived areas around the country – places where aspiring musicians or technicians can practice and gain experience. Places that can develop into music hubs for the community, with links to the live music scene, community radio and the music industry locally and nationally. The first of these should be starting up in the New Year in Liverpool, Bristol and Manchester.
We’re putting in £500,000 and we’ve got commitments of support from across the music industry – but it needs the support of musicians and performers as well to make it work.
Another example about how industry can put back in to the system: we’ve set a goal for 5,000 new apprenticeships in the creative industries every year to give young people a clear career path into jobs in the music business, TV, film and so on. Not everyone gets an equal chance to break into the music business, for one way or another.
Apprenticeships are a way of finding and nurturing talent that might not otherwise get discovered. Government can set the ambition, but we can’t offer the jobs – that’s down to industry, and I’m delighted with the interest that EMI and Universal have shown so far to host music industry apprenticeships.
Another example: we’ve launched a programme in schools called Find Your Talent, as part of the commitment to give every young person five hours a week of high-quality culture and art.
The idea rests on getting professional creative people much more involved with local schools and with cultural activities with young people outside school. Using the power and the glamour associated with proven creative talent to inspire an interest in culture and creativity – particularly in those that either haven’t had the chances in the past.
This is, of course Department for Children, Schools and Families’ territory as well. They are putting over £300 million into funding music in schools over the next three years including the priority for free musical tuition for all primary school pupils. Already, it’s amazing to hear that the number of children learning an instrument looks set to have doubled over the last three years, from 22% in September 2005 to some 50% in September 2008.
It’s through partnerships like these that we’ll bring on the next generation of talent, and which will start to change people’s perceptions of the value of creativity.
The online world has smashed the old models apart and opened up new opportunities for us to rebuild an industry that stands the test of time.
It has cut out the middle men. But we still need to think through all the consequences of that – what the new models are and how they work.
How do we replace the essential functions that the old middle men used to perform – the promotion, contract negotiations, the protection of rights, of ownership, paying taxes?
How do we help people lift themselves up above the noise? How do we help them to protect their rights?
We need to make sure we are not just discovering the new talent of the future, but also preparing that new talent for the world as it is now.
The big creative challenge now is to come up with the new ideas that keep people listening and which set a true and realistic value on talent. In short, we need to create a new business model that is fairer to everyone – music-buying public, performers, and those who have built up the industry.
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