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Music legend and senior politicians join UK Music panel at Conservative conference

It was standing room only at UK Music’s fringe event discussing the Talent Pipeline

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02/10/18: It was standing room only at UK Music’s fringe event at the Conservatives’ conference as delegates discussed the importance of the talent pipeline to the music industry.

(L-R) UK Music CEO Michael Dugher, Damian Collins MP, UK Music Chairman Andy Heath, Margot James MP and Julian Lloyd Webber

World-famous cellist and principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Julian Lloyd Webber joined Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries and Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, at the event chaired by UK Music CEO Michael Dugher.

Julian Lloyd Webber made an impassioned case about the critical importance of music in schools to applause from the packed event at the Hyatt Hotel on Tuesday, saying: “The arts are not just the icing on the cake, they are the cake itself.”

Earlier, Michael Dugher outlined the £4.4 billion annual contribution that music makes to the UK economy.  But he stressed the vital importance of nurturing the industry’s talent pipeline to safeguard the future.

He added that venues – which had suffered a closure rate of 35% over the past decade – were “absolutely critical” to the health of the talent pipeline.

Margot James addressed concerns about the lack of funding to provide music education in schools.  She said funding needed to be in place to allow youngsters to enjoy playing musical instruments.

She warned that it was “vital” that the Government resolved the issue of visas for those working in the music industry as part of the Brexit negotiations, because a failure to do so could damage the talent pipeline.

Margot also highlighted the work of Base Studios in her Stourbridge constituency and how it had worked successfully with young adults who were not in education, employment or training to develop their musical talents.

She added that it was crucial that the music industry was still able to recruit a diverse pool of talent, not just based on race or gender but also on socio-economic grounds.

Damian Collins spoke about his committee’s inquiry into the live music sector and the importance of music education.  He said he hoped that it would be possible to pull together all the research to show the beneficial impact that music had on children’s broader educational attainment.

He praised the work of organisations like PPL and PRS in helping young people make a decent living from their music.

Damian said that music could prove very useful in helping young people with mental health issues and that was an area that should be more widely explored with healthcare commissioning bodies.

Julian Lloyd Webber highlighted the decline of around 34% in arts subjects since the introduction of the Ebacc in 2010.  He said he was “saddened” that it was no longer the norm for children in the UK to take up a musical instrument, despite children in the Far East being given that opportunity.

Among those attending the event was UK Music chairman Andy Heath who painted an alarming picture of the drop in UK artists now being signed compared to overseas artists.

Speaking about the talent pipeline, Andy warned: “The crisis is right now.  It is a disgraceful situation and it has come about because we have largely abandoned music education.”

Andy said while the music business in the UK would be okay, he said “music-making in the UK is in trouble”.

The panel followed the launch of UK Music’s major new report, Securing Our Talent Pipeline.

The report showed an overall decline in music in education, with 50 per cent of children at independent schools receiving sustained music tuition, while the figure for state schools is a mere 15 per cent.

It also found 17 per cent of music creators went to fee-paying schools, compared with seven per cent in the general population.

It is important that established artists continue to make music and inspire fans yet if we want to produce the stars of the future, we’ve got to invest in talent for the future.

You can read the full report here.

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