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Manifesto For Music: Supercharge Sector Growth And Boost Music Exports

03.06.2024: UK Music's Policy and Campaigns Officer Dougie Brown explores what challenges and opportunities there are to music industry growth and what the next Government can do to incentivise it.

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03.06.2024: UK Music’s Policy and Campaigns Officer Dougie Brown explores what challenges and opportunities there are to music industry growth and what the next Government can do to incentivise it.

The UK music industry is poised to be an important growth sector in the second half of this decade. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, the sector was worth £5.8 billion to the UK economy, growing 65% compared to seven years prior. The creative industries – of which music is an integral part – have grown at over one and a half times the rate of the UK economy in the last decade.

The next Government has an opportunity to tap into this significant growth potential. In an increasingly competitive global environment, a mixture of increased investment, fiscal incentives and other government-backed initiatives will help to stimulate activity, create jobs, and boost growth.

Our music also has global recognition, representing the best of British to the world, with our musicians, songwriters, and producers defining the world’s soundtrack and shaping our global reputation.

Despite our relatively small size, the UK’s music exports were worth £2.5 billion in 2021 and we are one of only three net exporters of music globally.  In recorded music, the UK is the second largest exporter of music after only the US. Artists such as Harry Styles, Adele, Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran are household names across the globe.

However, there are challenges facing British music exports and the UK’s global music standing. Bureaucratic obstacles for touring musicians after the UK’s exit from the EU are holding back sector growth. Moreover, streaming growth is accelerating in key territories, and many domestic music markets, such as Latin America and South Korea, are strengthening. Intense streaming competition is putting pressure on the UK’s global music share, now 12% down from a peak of 17% in 2015.5

Nonetheless, there remains huge growth potential in the UK music industry, with the value of the global recorded music market set to double by 2030. We must seize this opportunity and support the growth of our music globally to keep the UK at the forefront of the industry.

The next Government should:

  • Introduce a tax credit to encourage new UK music production. Unlike other creative sectors, such as film, TV, and video games, the UK music industry does not benefit from a tax credit scheme. This puts the UK at a competitive disadvantage compared to other established music markets, such as France, Australia, and some US states, who offer such incentives. A tax credit supporting music creation in the UK would allow us to retain our homegrown talent and attract significant inward investment, helping to ensure that the UK is a global destination for music making.
  • Reduce VAT on tickets to 10%. UK gig-goers are charged 20% VAT on tickets, which is almost double the EU average (10.3%) and around triple countries like Belgium (6%) and Germany (7%). Reducing VAT on tickets will incentivise investment in the grassroots of the sector, stimulate live music activity and boost local economies.
  • Increase Arts Council England (ACE) funding to invest in music projects and extend support to arts councils in devolved nations. ACE, and its devolved equivalents, provide vital funding support and grants for music projects. Beneficiaries include many grassroots music venues, a diverse range of orchestras, music charities, independent labels and promoters, and music education organisations. However, funding reductions and removals from the National Portfolio have highlighted that ACE requires a larger funding settlement to continue investing in projects without making cuts elsewhere.
  • Secure a Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU. In 2019, the EU was the UK’s largest live music market, worth four times the size of the US (the UK’s second largest market). Increased bureaucracy for touring musicians following the UK’s exit from the EU is limiting sector growth. Issues include restrictive visas and work permits, complicated red tape like carnets, and barriers related to selling merchandise and truck hire. A Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU should be prioritised, potentially as part of the anticipated 2026 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) review.
  • Create a well-funded music export office. The UK needs to be more ambitious and systemic in supporting its music exports. Creating an export office targeted at music would provide support to British small and medium-sized music companies music companies and future talent, helping to build their international audiences and export profile. Similar offices are common across the globe, including in Germany, Australia, and Canada. With adequate funding, a music export office will address export barriers and help to grow music as a flagship UK industry.
  • Extend and boost funding for the International Showcase Fund (ISF) and the Music Export
    Growth Scheme (MEGS). Government-industry partnerships, like ISF and MEGS promote British music abroad and generate economic revenue.  The Government’s decision in June 2023 to boost MEGS funding to £3.2 million over the next two years is indicative of its success. To further boost export growth, both schemes should continue to receive additional Government funding beyond 2025.

UK Music sent a letter to the leaders of the political parties calling on them to draw up a world-leading music strategy, which can be read here

Read UK Music’s Manifesto for Music to find out more about what UK Music is calling for action on ahead of a general election. 

Find out more about supercharging sector growth here and find out more about boosting music exports here

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