Minister for Digital and Culture addresses the BPI AGM

Matt Hancock praises the music industry and reaffirms government support

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

It is a huge pleasure to be here as the champion of music in Government.

It’s a great task.

It’s made easier by the incredible talent that makes the sector such a great success story for the UK.

Defined by energy and originality, built on a long and proud heritage; the country that produced Elgar, the Beatles, David Bowie and Soul II Soul, now with Sam Smith, Jessie J, Stormzy and Skepta…Boy Better Know we’re at the forefront of the global scene.

Ever the home of innovation, entire genres of music have originated here in the UK. I’m from the North West - which of course gave us Merseybeat and the Madchester scene. From heavy metal and punk to dubstep and grime - I’ll admit I’m more familiar with some than with others - our music industry constantly reinvents itself, and continues to in this digital age.

Success of the industry

Every year, one in six of all albums sold across the world is by a British artist.

Last year, British acts produced five of the global top ten.

When Adele had the best-selling album of 2015, with 25, she became the 8th Brit in 11 years to enjoy the achievement. Makes you wonder why her music is so morose.

After the US, the UK is the largest exporter of music in the world.

Not bad for our small islands off the north coast of Europe.

It’s true in live music too. The UK’s festivals attract the world’s greatest performers (well, the very few who aren’t homegrown).

Last year more than 700,000 tourists came here for the music.

In 2014, according to UK Music’s Measuring Music report, the industry contributed over £4 billion to the economy. It supports over 100,000 jobs - not just those who create and perform, but our talent army of producers, sound engineers, arrangers, promoters, publishers and venue operators.

These numbers are only growing.

Government Support

I’m determined that we build on this success.

I pledge to you today that I will do all I can, to work to make that happen.

I understand what is and what isn’t the job in Government.

It’s not my job to judge what’s coming next, produce the music, and it’s certainly never, ever my job to sing.

But it is our job in Government to support the environment for your success.

There’s the economic support:

The Music Export Growth Scheme, jointly run by the BPI and Government, helps independent music companies reach overseas markets. Catfish and the Bottlemen, winners of this year’s BRIT award for British Breakthrough Act, are just one of the talented acts to benefit.

The GREAT Campaign promotes Britain as one of the most exciting and thriving cultural destinations in the world.

We’ve reformed entertainment licensing, to make it easier for venues to put on gigs.

We’ve brought in tax relief for orchestras, so they are now encouraged to perform across the whole of the UK, not just in London.

We have invested almost half a billion in music and cultural education, including almost £270m for music education hubs and more than £100m for the Music and Dance Scheme

There’s £75m for music education hubs will be provided in the coming year.

Over the Autumn I’ll be taking the Digital Economy Bill through Parliament, which will bring criminal penalties for online copyright infringement in line with physical infringement - making sure we have the right legal framework in place to support creators and the content they produce.

And of course we support Creative Content UK’s “Get it Right from a Genuine Site” campaign, which helps to educate and build respect for music and our other creative industries.

Access & diversity

These successes and this support are important.

But I’m not satisfied: they aren’t enough.

Because it’s more than just the economics and the dry policy work.

As Bono once said ‘music can change lives, because it can change people’.

I couldn’t agree more.

We in Government are on a mission to spread opportunity to all, not just the privileged few.

In my view, it is the very real responsibility of everyone in this room to be a force for social mobility in Britain.

No one should be excluded from your industry because of their accent or their postcode.

Onstage talent is often diverse - because talent doesn’t choose where it lands - but let’s make sure not only that it remains so but that it’s matched by an equal diversity behind the scenes.

In the boardroom as much as backstage.

I feel incredibly strongly about it.

There’s already some great work going on.

The BRITs have long supported wider access.

Organisations like Creative Access are doing great work.

It’s great that the BPI have given their assistance to the Rated Awards, taking place at the legendary Roundhouse this evening.

This year there’s a diverse range of talent on the Mercury Music prize shortlist.

UK Music are also doing some sterling work, with the launch of the music industry’s first ever workforce diversity survey.

But, taken together, it’s not enough. Music can’t be the preserve of the privileged.

Are you doing all you can to blast open the doors to the industry? I want the answer to be yes.

Because the music industry is not just an industry: music defines how we are seen as a nation. It defines how we see ourselves – as individuals, as communities, as a nation.

In Brexit Britain it is more important than ever that we are, that we are seen as, and that we insist on being the outward, open, global, progressive country we are when we are at our best.

Seeking all the raw talent in our nation. Lifting our eyes to the horizon and telling our story to the world.

But you, everyone in music, you move us, thrill us, you make us dance, and sing.

You are some of our finest ambassadors.

Let us build on these successes, let us spread the opportunities to all, let’s make UK music go from strength to strength.

And in that goal I will be on your side.

Published 7 September 2016