Economy and Society: Contribution of Music

Kate Green Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree entirely. I will come to the points made by both my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) in more detail later in my speech.

There has been an incredible 10% increase in the number of overseas visitors coming to the UK for shows and festivals, with nearly 900,000 people visiting these shores just for live music events in 2018. Live music is at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both Britain and abroad to our arenas and smaller venues alike. “Music By Numbers” identified that music exports are another amazing success story, generating revenues of £2.7 billion, with the best of British creative talent being showcased across the globe.

There is something unique about Britain and its ability to create a globally successful music industry that is envied across the world. Ed Sheeran is the biggest selling touring artist in the world, with the “÷” tour now officially the highest grossing tour of all time. Billboard magazine recently revealed that the O2 Arena in London was the most successful music venue in the world over the past decade, with the Manchester Arena also in the top five. The Theatre Royal in St Helens is slightly further down the list but none the less a critical component of our local live music scene.

In nine of the last 15 years, the biggest selling album in the world has been from a UK artist. Lewis Capaldi recently reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. In 2019 we also saw fantastic debut albums from AJ Tracey, Dave, Mabel, Sam Fender and Tom Walker. We continue to be a world leader in all genres, from jazz and folk to grime. We are home to studios that record sensational box office film scores and soundtracks, as well as to many of the most accomplished orchestras in the world.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Does my hon. Friend agree that in-depth classical music training underpins many of the more popular genres as well, including film music and musicals, which are huge earners for the UK economy?

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

21 Jan 2020, 2:39 p.m.

I agree entirely. It is that diversity and depth that gives UK music its strength.

It is clear that music in the UK punches well above its weight economically, but that is only part of the picture. Music’s value is not purely financial; its social value must not be ignored. Music can have a profound effect on health and wellbeing. Charities such as Nordoff Robbins do fantastic work in bringing high quality music therapy to as many people as possible.

--- Later in debate ---
David Warburton Portrait David Warburton
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Absolutely; my hon. Friend is entirely right. There is some superb work going on around the country, particularly with music hubs, although it can vary from one place to another. The music hubs alone have enabled more than 700,000 children from state-funded schools to learn a musical instrument.

Many challenges faced by the music industry are also a demonstration of its enormous success. As we have heard, the “Music By Numbers” report shows a record £5.2 billion contribution to the UK economy last year, and record employment within the industry, with nearly 200,000 people directly employed in the music sector. It is a further tribute to both the resilience and the success of our music industry that we saw a 10% increase in overseas visitors to UK shows and festivals last year. When Parliament was mired in the Brexit mud, many of us enjoyed the mud at Glastonbury, some of the car parks and the furthest, most distant and inaccessible fields of which are in my constituency.

As this Government give definition to Brexit, it is worth remembering how much we ought to keep from our membership of the European Union. In a previous life, my company used to provide the global mobile content for Napster, Kazaa and many others. The explosion of streaming means that music has become even more commoditised, with almost all recorded music instantly available, but with platforms, such as YouTube, coughing up almost homeopathic amounts to artists and composers.

With little time left, I will talk to the motion and emphasise why music is so valuable for society, not just in economic but in absolute terms. For several years I worked as a music teacher at a rather gritty comprehensive school in London. I have seen at first hand the transformational effect that music can have, particularly on the outlook of the most profoundly disadvantaged and disengaged students.

As hon. Members will know, Goethe memorably described architecture as “frozen music”. Without wanting to be grandiose, music can act as “liquid architecture”, providing the structure and creative discipline that is enhanced, rather than compromised, by the joys of aesthetic satisfaction.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I am proud of Manchester’s great musical tradition, which includes our world-class orchestras, the Hallé, the Manchester Camerata and the BBC Philharmonic—whose guests are seen at concerts on a number of occasions—and our superb music institutions, Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. As we have heard, they make a great social, economic and cultural contribution, not just to Greater Manchester and our region but nationally and around the world.

There is a massive payback on the investment that we make into the music sector, but funding is a real problem, especially for regional orchestras and musicians. What more can the Minister do to work with the Treasury to encourage and support regional philanthropy, including through possible fiscal measures? I also make the case for sustainable and secure public funding. That will soon be a particular issue for the BBC Philharmonic, as consideration is given to the future of the licence fee.

Our music institutions have all highlighted to me the importance of developing a pipeline of talent. Our great orchestras, college, music school and music services have adopted a partnership approach. I pay particular tribute to the Trafford music service, led by the amazing Ruth O’Keefe, which is part of the Greater Manchester music hub and gives many children in Trafford the opportunity to develop their musical potential.

As I have said, developing talent to its full potential through classical and intensive training is important, not just to the classical music sector; those musicians also provide the bedrock of all other genres, including film, pop and TV music. Musical education is very important to allowing young people to achieve their full potential through the highest quality classroom music activities, instrumental lessons and participation in choirs, bands and groups.

One issue that I have been asked to raise in particular, which the Minister could perhaps discuss with his counterparts in the Department for Education, is chaperone licensing. The music service is subject to stringent chaperone licensing, similar to commercial businesses and different from what would be required for schools more generally. That puts real cost and administrative burdens on the music service. Is the Minister prepared to pursue the concerns that the music services are raising with me with his colleagues in the DFE?

The work that is done by our music service and in our schools and classrooms is supplemented by our orchestras’ own fabulous activities. The Hallé Orchestra, for example, has welcomed literally tens of thousands to the Bridgewater Hall to perform and train with its own professional musicians. The BBC Philharmonic’s “Ten pieces” and “Bring the Noise” programmes have also been very well received.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) rightly pointed out the benefits of music in reaching some of our most disadvantaged and marginalised communities. We see some innovative approaches to this work, for example by the BBC Philharmonic again, partnering with the Royal Northern College of Music on the Pathfinder scheme. I also join him in commending the excellent work of the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. I have seen its work in my constituency with people with learning difficulties, with refugees and with people with dementia; it has the power to transform and light up those people’s lives.

Nordoff Robbins believes, and I agree, that everyone should have the right to participate in music in ways that meet their needs. There is a particular opportunity, therefore, to develop music therapy in the context of social prescribing. Again, I wonder whether that is something the Minister could discuss with his counterparts, this time in the Department of Health and Social Care.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

21 Jan 2020, 3:01 p.m.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. It is also a great pleasure to participate in a debate with so many members of MP4 here on the Front Benches. I feel humbled in their presence and I hope they will give us a rendition later in the debate.

I am well aware of the economic benefits of the music industry; my son composes music for films, so I see the inside of that industry from a family point of view. However, I will concentrate here on the benefit to society. People may remember that Edward Elgar once said:

“My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us! The world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require.”

However, I think those days have long passed.

A good example of that is in the availability of organists. I happen to be an organist myself, so I speak from personal experience. The lack of organists is much more important than the lack of people going to church, and shows the inability of young people’s education to pick out the talent that exists and to encourage young people to go on to play the organ and to develop it. That must be tied in with what the Arts Council has asked for in terms of a diverse and appropriate potential workforce—a point that it is making very forcefully.

There are two other examples that I would give of how music affects society, both from my own constituency. The first is an organisation called Not a Choir. It is actually a choir, but it is for people who have never sung before, believe that they cannot sing or in some way feel embarrassed about trying to sing. It has given the people who sing with it a tremendous amount of solidarity with each other. It has taken away a lot of the loneliness they feel by allowing them to participate and perform together. They perform publicly together, and their performances are very much appreciated by the people who listen to them and in the villages around them.

The second example is a charity in my constituency called Music for Autism, which is run by the conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s. He gets members of the orchestra to work with young autistic people and provide them with a good music therapy experience. It is a delight to watch not just the young autistic people’s ability to latch on to the music and their being helped with it, but also how much the musicians who participate get out of it. We only have to see their faces when they are performing to realise that this is something worth doing.

I suggest to the Minister that more needs to be put into education for musicians and talent spotting of musicians, and also that more needs to be put into efforts to ensure that music is at the heart of our communities, both now and in the future.