Speech to the Musicians Union, Manchester

MU Speech – 24th July 2013

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

Let me begin by saying what a pleasure it is to be here, and to meet so many people from your important organisation.

2013 is the 120th anniversary of the MU.

Whilst preparing this speech, I came across the text of a letter sent by a young clarinettist to his fellow musicians, inviting them to form a union to;

‘Protect us from amateurs, protect us from unscrupulous employers and protect us from ourselves’.

Times have moved on, but the core mission remains the same – The MU fights tirelessly for a fair deal for musicians.

Now in its 120th year, the Musicians’ Union is a globally-respected organisation, representing over 30,000 musicians working in all sectors of the music business.

Today, as we gather in this historic Manchester venue, which has hosted Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime-Ministers, and even the odd rock-star, we celebrate the rich history of your organisation.

Music is at the very heart of who we are as a nation.

In this country, music has a strong and illustrious heritage and I’m proud to be the Shadow Minister representing such a vibrant, creative and diverse sector – a sector in which we are uniquely talented.

Our music reaches around the world; broadcasting our shared culture, heritage and identity.

The latest British Recorded Music Industry figures revealed big-selling albums by Adele, Emeli Sandé, One Direction and Ed Sheeran, boosted UK artists’ share of album sales globally to 13.3% in 2012 – the highest on record.

Furthermore, according to the BPI, British acts have now claimed the world’s top-selling album for five of the last six years.

And our thriving music industry is now second only to the US in terms of music exports around the world.

Without wishing to blow our own trumpet too much, (if you’ll excuse the pun!), we are pretty good at music in this country!

Clearly, the music economy is vital to the UK.

In the UK, the music industry generates around £4bn per annum, contributing significantly to exports and providing more than 130,000 UK jobs.

And the music industry is constantly adapting to find new, innovative ways to grow.

The emergence of ‘Music Tourism’ over the last decade is testament to this.

Music Tourism is a fairly recent phenomenon in the UK but is now an integral part of our national economy and local economies around the country.

From Glastonbury and T in the Park, to Bestival and the BBC Proms, music tourists collectively spend £1.4bn during the course of their trip.

Drawing on unprecedented access to more than 2.5million anonymised ticketing transactions, a study carried out by UK Music found that:

• Large-scale live music across all regions of the UK attracts at least 7.7million attendances by domestic and overseas music tourists.

• Music tourism provides a positive contribution of £864m in Gross Valued Added to the national economy and equivalent to 19,700 full-time jobs.

We recently held the ‘Live in Barnsley’ Music Festival in my constituency – Barnsley's first indoor music festival.

‘Live in Barnsley’ brought together over 3,000 music fans – a reflection of our devotion to the rich tapestry of music in our society.

What’s more, it was a great boost to our music economy, with local bands performing and Barnsley’s business engaging with and supporting the event.

At a local level, music is just as vital to our communities – not just from a financial perspective.

In Barnsley, where I am an MP, we are proud to have the Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band which sprang up from the mining community of 1917; for men who wanted to use their hands and talent for something other than hewing coal.

Their story has been captured in the film “Brassed Off” – an inspiring snapshot of working men and women coming together to express themselves, their culture and heritage.

I’m sure that each person in this room will know of similar stories and examples.

Also in my constituency, I am inspired by the performances of the Barnsley Youth Choir, who recently sang with the world famous Hungarian Aurin Choir. It was inspiring to see adults, and children as young as six engaging collectively to bring music to our community.

Music has the power to bring people from all walks of life and from all over the world together to enjoy and engage with an activity they are truly passionate about.

It is this power which I believe makes music a crucial part of our society.

It was promising that in 2011, this Government asked Darren Henley to direct his vast amount of experience and knowledge into a Review of Music Education and Cultural Education.

Recommendation 22 of the report stated that:

“All primary schools should have access to a specialist music teacher.”

I know a music teacher. I’ll call her Mrs Smith.

Mrs Smith has a passionate belief in the ability of music to transform lives.

Mrs Smith transmits this passion to her pupils and tells me about the huge benefit kids get from it.

Whether it’s the development of their characters, their confidence, the ability to work as part of a team, the discipline required, the proven link to academic attainment.

Recently, Mrs Smith took her school orchestra to play at the Royal Albert Hall and in so doing, provided those children with an opportunity and an experience that they will never forget.

Such is the power of music.

I call her Mrs Smith because she is Mrs Kathryn Smith, from Barnsley.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if instead of making teachers of creative subjects feel undervalued, we ensured that Mrs Smiths were at the heart of every school?

I am passionate about the education of our young people, particularly in creative subjects like music.

One of my aspirations as Shadow Culture Minister is to ensure that every child – the future generation – has the opportunity to unlock their potential both in, and outside of, school.

An opportunity with twin aims:

An economic purpose to ensure young people are well prepared for a modern world of work that values transferable skills as well as core knowledge.

And a moral purpose to ensure that our young people are able to develop their attributes to become active individuals, who are able to contribute to the wellbeing of our communities – socially and culturally.

Children who play in orchestras or sing in choirs learn very quickly the value of teamwork when asked to play or sing together in separate sections.

By putting culture and creativity at the heart of the curriculum we can help ensure that our young people have these transferable skills.

The arts are a fantastic means through which to develop them.

That is why I believe Michael Gove’s now failed plans for the EBacc would have undermined and threatened the future of our creative industries.

By sidelining subjects like music, dance, drama and art, the EBacc would have put a stop to our children’s all round development.

This would not only have been detrimental to our children as individuals but detrimental for the future of our country.

On music education in schools, Darren Henley said it best in his report:

“For children to achieve their best they need to have their eyes and ears opened to the widest musical possibilities.”

It is therefore important that we place music and other creative subjects at the heart of our curriculum, in order to provide children with an all rounded education which will equip them for their future.

This is something Stephen Twigg, Labour’s Shadow Education secretary, reiterated recently. Responding to recent changes in the National Curriculum, he stated:

“David Cameron and Michael Gove have spent the last three years trying to personally rewrite the National Curriculum – they should have listened to the experts in the first place... Labour would ensure a reformed curriculum allows teachers in all schools the freedom to innovate and prepare young people for the challenges of the modern economy.”

The key word there is: innovate; encouraging children towards creative and different ways of thinking.

This Government’s approach to this curriculum is a step backwards rather than allowing children to flourish.

Music teaches many skills; discipline, focus, perseverance, practice – it’s a long list.

We should be actively encouraging these skills in young people.

But there is no point in denying it – this is still a challenging time for the music sector, despite all the successes of the chart-topping household names.

So what we need to do now is address the issues and challenges facing professional musicians.

The MU is leading a campaign to change the way musicians contribute to National Insurance.

Today more than half of professional musicians work for less than £20 thousand per year and 60% of musicians have worked for free over the past year.

It isn’t right that in 2013, professional musicians are still being asked to work for free.

That wouldn’t be considered acceptable in other professions – why should it happen to professional musicians?

In addition 34% of professional musicians have to hold down other jobs in order to survive as a musician.

I believe that these financial pressures on musicians are part of a trend that is a consequence of us as a society not valuing the creative vocations, like music, in the way that they should be.

Let me explain this in more detail.

Recently, I was talking with a young man who is a musician and now a huge success.

He, and his other group members, have launched their first album to much acclaim, and are now touring the country.

Whilst he was struggling to make it into the “big time” he told me that he would often be asked, including by his father;

“When are you going to get a proper job?”

Instead of criticising the aspirations of young people who dream of and plan for creative careers, we need to talk up the importance of music in our society and explore and engage with new opportunities.

Rather than dissuading our young people from realising their talent, we should be doing everything we can to nurture it (even if it means hearing your daughter practise her violin at 6am on a Sunday morning!)

This all starts with supporting our cultural and creative activities.

Since September 2012, the Government has set up 122 Music Hubs around the UK, charged with ensuring that children receive a high quality education in music.

Their remit includes ensuring that our children are provided with opportunities to play in ensembles, perform from an early age and a responsibility to develop a singing strategy, ensuring that every pupil sings regularly in choirs and other singing groups.

In principle, this is a good idea.

But in reality, the reports from the hubs are mixed, and sadly, the government is gambling with our children’s musical education.

With funding cut by a third and a guarantee only until 2015, the success of Music Hubs has been limited and there are a range of issues that need to be addressed:

What is the process of review?

What is the best mechanism by which best practice can be shared?

There are, of course, fantastic examples of cultural education in our country.

In Newham, the “Every Childs a Musician” Scheme ensures that every young person in year 5, across 62 schools, has the chance to learn a musical instrument at no cost to parents for at least a year.

It is schemes like this that we need to be building upon.

It is clear that there are many challenges facing the music industry– challenges which could impact on the future of our music industry and the wider cultural and creative industries.

It is for this reason that Labour has been developing a 6 point plan directly in relation to the Creative Industries.

This plan has been put together by our Shadow Cabinet team – with contributions from the Shadow Treasury, BIS, Education, DCLG and Foreign Office teams – as we understand that cross governmental cooperation with regards to the Creative Industries is crucial to their success and that the culture agenda is something that should be integrated across government departments.

Firstly, we need to nurture creative skills in education and Develop Talent.

By giving young people the opportunities and skills through a creative education we can ensure that our creative industries have the widest talent pool available to draw from.

Second, we need to explore new and innovative ways of giving the creative industries Access to Finance. Through the use of more inventive and innovative fundraising methods, like using Regional Investment Banks and crowd sourced funding, we can help support the creative industries in different ways.

Third, we need to Champion Intellectual Property – an essential requirement for the music industry. By protecting content creators and the rights of the consumer we can provide a sound basis for investment.

We must also rethink the role of the IPO and make sure they are working efficiently to help content creators whilst avoiding stifling creativity.

Fourth, we need a Regional Strategy to support the arts in all regions of the country, not just in London, and ensure that there are opportunities available in every town and city. We intend to support this strategy through our Creative Councillors Network.

Fifth, we also need an International Strategy, promoting our creative industries and cultural attractions all around the world. This would cement our place as the leading music industry in the world.

Sixth, and finally, we need to highlight Equality of Access and Opportunity, ensuring that everyone – whatever their background, and wherever they live in the UK, has access to arts and culture. A policy of inclusion is paramount, because in the best traditions of my Party – we have always been about ‘Bread and Roses’.

I passionately believe in the contribution that music makes to our lives.

It is as important for our economy as it is for diverse and fair communities.

It is a reflection of the type of society we want to live in and is indicative of where we spend time with our families and friends, what we want our city and town centres to look like and where we work.

As the Shadow Minister for Culture, I want to confront the challenges which have been presented by this Government and work towards a music industry which:

Is instrumental in helping achieve a strong economy

Helps support vibrant communities

Makes sure young people have the opportunities to engage with the arts and with music.

And that professional musicians are given every chance to lead fulfilling careers.

I want us to build a vision where music is recognised for the vital part it plays in our lives.

I look forward to working with you to achieve that.

Thank you

To keep up to date with my work, sign up here.


Sign up for updates from Dan Jarvis