16/10/2019: UK Music Deputy CEO Tom Kiehl told Assembly Members today (Wednesday) about the huge potential of the music industry in Wales and the challenges it faced.
UK Music Deputy Tom Kiehl and Policy and Research Officer Sam Murray appearing before the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee
Giving evidence with UK Music Policy and Research Officer Sam Murray before the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, Tom said: “There is a great deal of potential for live music in Wales."
Tom added: “There are some outstanding festivals, as well as the rich cultural heritage that Wales has for music. BBC’s Horizons is a great initiative. The main challenge is ensuring that the talent pipeline continues to flow.”
The Committee is conducting an inquiry into the music industry in Wales. You can read the evidence that UK Music submitted to the inquiry here. Appearing alongside UK Music at the hearing were the Musician's Union represented by Andy Warnock and Phil Kear.
On the key issue of soaring business rates,Tom said: “The 2017 re-evaluation has hit music venues very badly. We estimate that the top end of the business rate rise is about 43%. To some extent it’s a consequence of gentrification. Those areas that are ripe for redevelopment have had the biggest increases. If you could get to a situation where there is more frequent re-evaluations so that you are not left with such a huge cliff-edge, where businesses are used to paying at a certain level, that could improve the situation going forward.”
On the importance of the Talent Pipeline, Tom said: “We estimate that there has been a decrease of 31% of people over the last five years taking A-level music in Wales. Similarly, for GCSEs we estimate it’s around a 24% decrease. Those are obviously indicative. Not everyone ends up being a professional musician or working in the music industry does those qualifications but what that can kind of tell us is that there is a fundamental issue developing for music in education.”
On Rehearsal Spaces, Tom said: “We run a rehearsal spaces network.There are two in the network in Wales, one in Ebbw Vale and one in Aberystwyth. They are very good and meaningful projects. They are very tied into the local community. They work closely with youth offending teams on prevention exercises. We would like to expand that network. We think that there is a lot of potential for the network in particular with the worrying issues around knife crime. There is obviously a correlation between youth centres being closed down and people not having a place to go to. So, if we can ensure that there are more safe spaces where music is used as an enabler to encourage people to develop themselves then I think we can certainly improve that offer across Wales.”
On the importance of using “Agent Of Change” to help protect venues, Tom said: “From our perspective it was great that the Welsh Government really was the first to seize the initiative. The way that the Welsh Government responded to the #SaveWomanbyStreet campaign was really positive. We always encourage venue operators to work more closely with developers where they can. So, if you have something in the legislative framework for people to conduct those discussions I think that could be a positive thing.”
On the issue of cultural zoning (with particular reference to Womanby St), Tom said: “We certainly think it would be a positive thing. If it could be achieved within the planning system that could only be a good thing for those areas.”
“If you take the example of Austin, Texas, which is the self-described live music capital of the world. It has SXSW, it has City Limits. There is a whole area that is focused on venues being close together. It’s been able to make that claim which the industry accepts as a result of that. The practicality of how it will work for those venues who are outside of those areas needs to be considered but the actual benefit of having an area where you can say that it the live music zone I think people would embrace that.”