Why Don’t We Just… get behind the British music industry?

Hero image

The terror attacks that rocked the nation have shown us how music can bring people together.

I saw that unity at the One Love Manchester concert after the suicide attack that claimed so many lives.

Thanks to Live Nation boss Paul Latham and many other unsung heroes, 50,000 fans at Old Trafford and millions more watching on TV were able to share a special few hours of remembrance and show their resilience.

A star line-up is also behind a charity single to raise money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Music provides the soundtrack for our lives and often helps heal and unite people in the most trying of times. But it’s not just about superstars and concerts at our big stadiums and arenas.

This month, I joined the acts at Live in Barnsley – a fantastic event that I first played at when I was the local MP. I still get my guitar out for the festival in my new role as chief executive at UK Music, the body that represents the UK music industry.

Thousands of people come every year and fill the bars and clubs to see the local talent. It’s a free event organised by volunteers that puts a smile on people’s faces and is going from strength to strength.

But not everywhere is as lucky as Barnsley. Many venues that gave some of today’s stars their first break are struggling to survive.

Just like the artists they helped, those venues need a break if we want a healthy UK music scene.

Theresa May and her government have the power to offer that help by making a small but crucial change to planning rules.

UK Music is campaigning for the introduction of a statutory “agent of change” to help music venues survive.

That means that if new homes or offices are built near pre-existing businesses like live music venues, the burden is on developers to make sure solutions are in place to mitigate the impact of any new development on those businesses.

For example, new homes may increase the chance of noise complaints that could threaten the future of a live music venue.

The “agent of change” principle would require developers to put measures in place to allow music venues to continue to operate and co-exist.

The pressure on the government and local authorities to help supply new housing means it is increasingly likely that new homes and existing music venues will be neighbours and will have to live together. That’s why we need urgent action to protect live music venues.

In the last decade, we have seen a sharp fall of 35 per cent in the number of grassroots venues in the UK. That cannot be allowed to continue.

The government has a chance in this new parliamentary session to help us tackle that threat and ensure the UK continues to have a vibrant live music scene.

The Wales Assembly is already responding to the problem. Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths has pledged to revise national planning policy to include an explicit reference to the “agent of change” principle.

We need similar action from Westminster to give music venues greater protection and help them survive and thrive.

Grassroots music venues have played a vital role in nurturing the careers of British musicians over the past 60 years – from The Beatles at the Cavern in Liverpool, Duran Duran at Rum Runner in Birmingham and Radiohead at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford.

All three of the UK’s highest grossing live music attractions in 2017 – Adele, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay – started their careers touring grassroots music venues.

With the looming uncertainty of Brexit, ministers should be doing all they can to protect jobs in the music industry and help the sector grow.

By making a few simple changes to planning rules, the government can safeguard our music industry and continue bringing people together.

Michael Dugher is CEO of UK Music, a former shadow Culture Secretary and ex-MP for Barnsley East

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Why Don’t We Just… get behind the British music industry?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.