On Monday in the House of Lords a Conservative member called Guy Black who is called Lord Black of Brentwood opened a discussion in the afternoon with his request “To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the health of the music industry in England. In begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I declare my interest as chairman of the Royal College of Music.” The Minister who responded to him following these first few words was Stephen Parkinson called Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay and his initial response was as follows:
Stephen: My Lords, the music industry is a key national asset, contributing £4 billion to our economy in 2021, fuelling tens of thousands of jobs and projecting our soft power on the global stage. We are working with the industry to respond to the difficulties that some aspects of the sector continue to face following the pandemic, including rising energy costs, with which we have supported businesses through the £18 billion energy bill relief scheme. We will continue to work closely with the industry to understand emerging challenges and identify ways we can support it.
The two of them did discuss some more questions and a number of other members of the House of Lords took part including Steve Bassam who is Lord Bassam of Brighton. His question was as follows and the response from Stephen Parkinson is below.
Steve: My Lords, the Minister referenced high energy costs. The noble Lord, Lord Black, spoke more widely of some of the threats to the music industry. Grass-roots music venues are closing at the rate of one a week, as the noble Lord rightly said. Without these venues, emerging artists will struggle to showcase their talents and grow the fanbase required to move to bigger venues. The Minister will know that many sports governing bodies prioritise grass-roots investment, while non-music performing arts enjoy various forms of public subsidy. Some theatres are able to charge a small restoration levy. Music is so important to our personal, communal and national shared experience. What other, more imaginative options than the Minister has given us today are his department exploring to ensure that smaller venues can flourish instead of being lost for good?
Stephen: The noble Lord is right to raise this. I have pointed to the £18 billion energy bill relief scheme and the energy bill discount scheme, which has succeeded it. The Music Venue Trust has been raising the issue of small grass-roots venues. The Creative Industries Minister, Julia Lopez, met the trust last month to discuss its proposals for a levy such as the noble Lord outlined. I am also happy to say that on the trust’s other initiative, Own Our Venues, the Arts Council has contributed £500,000 of public funding towards this community project to purchase at-risk venues and rent them back to the owners as benevolent landlords. We look to creative solutions to these problems.
These were very interesting and it would be fascinating to obtain responses from people in the industry.