Autumn Statement: Sector criticises lack of support for arts

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivering the Autumn Statement, House of Commons, Wednesday 22 November 2023
22 Nov 2023

Concerns raised over absence of long-term plan for the creative industries, but grassroots music industry welcomes measures to freeze alcohol duty and support the lowest paid.

Bringing live music to Birkenhead

An image of Future Yard building
05 Sep 2023

Covid was a challenging time for live music. But that didn’t stop Future Yard, a new live music venue in Birkenhead, from opening its doors - with the help of a loan - as Director Craig Pennington tells Seva Phillips.

The future of the London Sinfonietta

London Sinfonietta performing with Children's Chorus
17 May 2023

In response to ACE's decision last November to cut the London Sinfonietta's funding by 41%, Chief Executive Andrew Burke outlines plans for a future now, inevitably, more at risk.

AEG submits plans for 'much needed' Edinburgh arena 

23 Nov 2023

The global entertainment and sporting group AEG has submitted plans to Edinburgh Council proposing the construction of an 8,500-capacity entertainment venue to the west of the city.

If successful, work is expected to begin in 2025 for a 2027 opening.

Edinburgh, known for its world-renowned arts and cultural festivals, boasts a range of venues but does not have a large-scale indoor venue. Previous proposals for an 8,000-capacity arena south of Edinburgh were tabled in 2019 but failed to get off the ground.

AEG President Alex Hill said the project would "cement Edinburgh's reputation as a destination for culture".

He said that the “much needed” arena will bring “world-class live music and entertainment to Edinburgh.”

Early career musicians struggling with mental wellbeing

A music stand and close up of a violin player's hands
23 Nov 2023

New data suggests that musicians reporting low mental wellbeing are leaving the music industry over time. 

Music makers criticise government’s ‘tone deaf' AI hearing

22 Nov 2023

The Council of Music Makers (CMM) has dubbed a government hearing on the impact of AI “profoundly tone-deaf” for giving more input to industry executives than creators.

Monday’s hearing (20 November) was part of a Department For Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) roundtable. Representatives from the music, film, book and photography sectors were invited to comment on the opportunities and challenges AI poses to the creative industries.

In an open letter, CMM said that while it welcomed Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer's acknowledgement that “creatives rightly have concerns – and proposals – about how their work is used by artificial intelligence now and in the future” and her commitment to consider the issues raised, the hearing was “profoundly unbalanced and tone-deaf”.

CMM said it was “hugely concerned” that the roundtable gave one seat to a representative of all creatives across all media but had three seats for executives from major record companies. 

The organisation noted that corporate rightsholders are duty-bound to prioritise the interests of their shareholders.

In a statement, CMM said:” Of course, both corporate rightsholders and music-makers believe that AI companies must respect copyright and other creator rights – on that we are aligned. But corporate rightsholders cannot and do not speak for music-makers, and it cannot be assumed they are making decisions in the interest of music-makers.

“We urge record labels and the technology companies to actively engage with music-makers on AI. And we call on government to ensure that human creators are at the centre of its valuable work to ensure that the opportunities of AI are achieved in a way that benefits everyone.”

Music industry 'hugely important' for tourism

22 Nov 2023

Culture, Media and Sport Committee told it is vital government gives tourism strategic importance and ensures international musicians continue to come to the UK.

AI and music: The biggest democratisation since the internet?

Bright coloured-graphic depicting someone wearing headphones with speakers over their eyes. Created on DALL·E 2023.
21 Nov 2023

Steve Thompson is a musician, inspired by advancements in technology. Founder of the multi-genre ensemble 1201_Alarm, he reflects on the many misconceptions about AI in the music industry. 

University students fight to save music department

20 Nov 2023

Students at Oxford Brookes University have launched a petition to save a music course after plans to axe it emerged last week.

The petition, which launched on 17 November and now has around 3,000 signatures, calls for university leaders to reconsider the decision, stating that it will impact both music students and the university's culture.

"We are deeply affected by the recent decision to remove the music course from Oxford Brookes University curriculum," the petition states.

"The music department is more than just an academic division; it is a key element of our university and home to non-music students who participate in societies and music groups. 

"Its removal would mean stripping away opportunities for cultural enrichment, personal growth and community bonding."

The petition adds that arts courses such as music "contribute significantly" to students' mental well-being.

In addition to ending the music course, the university plans to reduce the number of salaried academic staff across several programmes, including English and creative writing.

A statement issued by the English and creative writing team said up to 40% of their staff could go by the end of January.

“As a dedicated team of teachers and writers, we believe the humanities are the beating heart of any university. We get to know our students so well, and they love their courses," the statement said.

“When they graduate, they go out into the world as confident and creative individuals. We have brought great prestige to Oxford Brookes University as leading researchers, ranked the sixth best English and creative writing unit in the whole of the UK for this. 

“We are involved in projects and collaborations that enrich the local community and celebrate the diversity of literature and the arts. All of that is now under threat. This is going to be a very bleak season for all of us across the university whose jobs are now at risk.”

PRS extends partnership with Oracle

14 Nov 2023

PRS for Music is extending its partnership with cloud computing service Oracle.

The music royalty distributor has moved its royalty payment database to Oracle Exadata Database Service on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), which it says has accelerated payments to its 165,000 members.

PRS for Music is the first collecting society in the world to have migrated its data processing systems to OCI. It attributes the move as “instrumental” in hitting a record-breaking £836m of royalties in 2022.

In the third quarter of 2023, PRS for Music broke its quarterly payout record, distributing £239m.

The society has previously promised to be distributing more than £1bn in royalities annually by 2026.

“Working with Oracle to migrate our distribution systems to the cloud was a seismic shift in infrastructure for PRS for Music, and a landmark moment in our industry,” said Mark Krajewski, Managing Director, Strategic Alliances and Chief Information Officer of PRS for Music.

“Exadata Database Service on OCI has been a catalyst for our ambitious data strategy, and with cutting-edge technologies in place we can continue to pioneer new activities to define the future of music royalty management. 

“We have more control over our data than ever before, allowing for better data-driven decision making and greater speed, transparency, and accuracy in royalty distributions.”

DCMS unveils £5m boost for grassroots music

A group of musicians rehearse in a studio
13 Nov 2023

New fund to support grassroots music will offer grants of up to £40k to rehearsal spaces, recording studios, festivals, venues and promoters. 

Music initiatives launched to help dementia suffers 

13 Nov 2023

Two music programmes designed to provide support to people with dementia and their carers have been launched by The National Academy For Social Prescribing (NASP).

The £5m Power Of Music Fund has been established to distribute small grants to grassroots dementia choirs and music groups, with support from organisations including Utley Foundation, Arts Council England and Music For All.

Applications for the fund open on 22 November 22, providing money to cover basic costs, including room hire, transport and refreshments. 

One grant of £500k will be available for a new Centre of Excellence, which will test new approaches to embedding music as part of dementia care, gather evidence of cost savings for the NHS, and design new models of care which could be scaled up and spread across England.  

Already active is the Music Can website, which aims to help people living with dementia, carers and practitioners feel confident about using music as part of care, offering a directory of support, playlists, music activities and advice.

The platform builds on recommendations from last year’s Power of Music report and has been led by Universal Music UK and developed by Boston Consulting Group.

Speaking about the launch, Charlotte Osborn-Forde, CEO at NASP, said: “Music can be a lifeline for people living with dementia and their carers, creating moments of joy and connection when so much else is hard to cope with. 

“It is the perfect example of social prescribing and something that can have long-lasting impact on people’s wellbeing and take pressure off the NHS. 

“But dementia choirs and local projects often find it hard to keep going from one month to the next, and they are rarely well connected to wider healthcare services, meaning lots of people miss out on the benefits." 

“We want to help make music a standard part of dementia care – with doctors, link workers, and others offering music-based activities and referring people to the Music Can platform.”

Unions protest live music cuts at Northern Ballet

10 Nov 2023

The Musicians' Union (MU) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) will participate in a joint demonstration against proposed cuts to live music accompanying Northern Ballet's touring productions.

The General Secretaries of both unions will protest outside Newcastle Theatre Royal from 6.30 pm today (10 November) alongside musicians performing in the company's current production of Beauty and the Beast.

The rally marks an escalation of action by the unions, who are calling for Northern Ballet to reconsider its decision to replace its live orchestra with pre-recorded music for some performances to save money.

Last month, the Leeds-based company announced it had entered into “emergency discussions” with its core funder, Arts Council England, to “reassess the amount of live music” accompanying its touring productions from April 2024 onward.
The MU and TUC say the decision puts the livelihoods of musicians in the orchestra at risk and is symptomatic of a "lack of funding in the arts in the North".

Naomi Pohl of the MU said: "Musicians and the magic they bring to live performances cannot be replaced by recordings without a great loss to the art form. We are protesting not just for the musicians and their families but for everyone who believes in the power of live music." 
TUC Northern Regional Secretary Liz Blackshaw added: "The arts are a cornerstone of our society, and live music is essential to the fabric of performing arts. We stand with the Musicians’ Union in demanding a stop to this short-sighted cultural vandalism.

"We must protect our cultural assets and the professionals who dedicate their lives to enriching ours." 

Music teacher training bursaries set to return

09 Nov 2023

The Department for Education has announced that trainee music teachers at secondary level will be entitled to a bursary of £10,000 from September 2024, after previously axing the support in 2020.

The tax-free sum, which is less than half that on offer for languages and STEM subjects, will be paid in equal monthly instalments over the duration of a trainee teacher's course.

It's hoped the bursary's reintroduction will significantly boost the number of music teachers. Last month, an Ofsted report on music teaching in schools found some schools were experiencing challenges recruiting music teachers at the key stage 3. In a few cases, music had been temporarily removed from the curriculum because of a shortage of specialists.

According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, just 31% of the target for music teacher recruitment will be met in 2023. 

UK Music’s Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl welcomed the return of the bursary for music but said: ”There is still far more to be done to fix the current shortage of music teachers.”

Chris Walters, National Organiser for Education, Health & Wellbeing at the Musicians’ Union, added: “We urge the government to revisit its own National Plan for Music Education and review the other barriers that stand in the way of the plan’s delivery, including straitened school budgets and mixed messaging to schools about the importance of the arts.”

Meanwhile, Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, noted: “Despite the good news for secondary teachers, there is no bursary at primary level, where a lack of courses remains a point of great concern." In over two-thirds of the primary schools, Ofsted found that non-specialist teachers taught music, with over half lacking the subject knowledge to teach the curriculum well. 

The government has announced that trainee Art & Design and English teachers will also be offered a £10,000 bursary for 2024/25.

Partnership offers hundreds of gigs for young artists

08 Nov 2023

A partnership between two organisations based in Manchester is offering hundreds of paid gigs to young emerging artists.

Live music marketplace GigPig and arts organisation Reform Radio are collaborating to help artists launch their professional careers.

Reform Radio says it will use its platform to engage young adults looking for new opportunities, working creatively with them over a sustained period to develop new skills for employment.

The station supported 316 young people last year and has a community of more than 500 artists working with the organisation at any one time.

Meanwhile GigPig, which already offers artists a free platform to find, play and get paid for gigs, will match artists up with Manchester venues each month. 

Reform Radio’s Station Manager Robin Guérard said: “The ultimate goal is to enable the city’s venues to discover new artists, in turn giving young artists a platform to establish themselves as professional artists; from where they can build their profile and connections to secure repeat work.”

“I truly believe that with more partnerships like this, we will improve the industry for all new and existing professional artists.”

UK 'risks being left behind' in global music race

Tom Kiehl speaking at a panel debate
07 Nov 2023

UK music exports generated £4bn in 2022, but an industry body has warned that the sector needs more government support to compete internationally.

Former NPO’s entire catalogue acquired

07 Nov 2023

A Manchester-based ensemble that closed following the loss of its entire Arts Council England (ACE) funding has had its full catalogue of works acquired.

NMC Recordings announced the full acquisition of Psappha’s work earlier this week.

Throughout its 32-year history, Psappha commissioned and premiered music by more than 500 composers and also launched its own record label.

Announcing its closure earlier this year, the ensemble said the loss of £250,000 a year funding from ACE had proven “too great a challenge to overcome”.

NMC Executive Director Cathy Graham said Psappha’s contribution to living composers and the musical life of this country has been “immeasurable”. 

“We were enormously saddened to learn of their decision to close but proud and happy that NMC Recordings is able to safeguard their legacy by ensuring their magnificent recorded archive, which we have previously distributed, will be available in perpetuity.”

Study of Black music and record stores awarded over £240k

06 Nov 2023

Research that aims to compile a history of record shops specialising in Black music from the 1950s onwards has received a £247,494 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Led by Leicester-based organisation 2Funky Arts, the project called 'The Record Store and Black Music, A UK History' will produce a film, publication, podcast series and educational resource using collected interviews with artists, DJs, store owners and customers as well as documentation.

Describing the work as “groundbreaking”, 2Funky Arts said: “For the Windrush generation and Black diaspora, the early independent UK record store was a music-fuelled vehicle for resistance against systemic racism. 

“Such sites became fertile ground for new music, and cultural eco-systems that shaped society’s relationship with Black music.”

MU calls on government to save UK orchestras

02 Nov 2023

The General Secretary of the Musician’s Union (MU) has called on the Chancellor and Culture Secretary to take urgent action to save some of the UK’s best-known orchestras.

Naomi Pohl has written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer asking for support for Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations Northern Ballet, English National Opera and Royal Opera House, as well as other organisations “struggling with real terms funding cuts that threaten musicians’ jobs and pay”.

In her letter, Pohl said: “The financial pressures include the lingering impact of the pandemic closure period, rising costs such as energy, travel and accommodation, plus at best static public funding. 

“For organisations like ENO and Royal Opera House that run listed buildings, the costs of doing so have risen sharply, and this is affecting their budgets for creative output.”

“While the Covid recovery loans were intended to keep organisations like these running through the height of the pandemic crisis and out the other side, many cannot afford to repay them now without making significant additional cuts to their budgets.”

The MU has requested the government to consider a range of actions, including writing off Covid recovery loans for the live performance sector and making the extension of orchestral and theatre tax relief permanent.

Charity seeks support for musician development programme

01 Nov 2023

A talent development organisation has launched a fundraising appeal to support the next generation of jazz musicians.

The Tomorrow’s Warriors charity aims to raise £100,000 through its #IAMWARRIOR appeal to help sustain its free-to-access Young Artist Development and Emerging Artist Programmes. 

Music Week reports that the organisation relies on the support of funding and donations to continue to deliver its learning programmes that provide music education to the next generation of jazz musicians, with a focus on young women and those from diverse and low-income backgrounds. 

Mercury Prize winners Ezra Collective are among jazz musicians to have previously benefitted from the programme.

DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson said: “Tomorrow's Warriors occupies a unique and vital space in our cultural landscape. Their work in helping positively shape future generations is of critical importance, especially in light of the tribulations we currently face." 


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