Border Control Login

Focus Wales festival co-founder Neal Thompson calls for the industry to prepare for inevitable change.

In what is described as the ‘post-Covid recovery’, official statistics purport a financial boom for the music industry, both domestically and globally.

According to UK Music’s Here, There and Everywhere music tourism study, published in 2023, the live music industry alone contributed £6.6 billion to the UK economy. Globally, promoter Live Nation reported record revenues and attendance figures for its third quarter, and streaming giant Spotify a record 236 million premium subscribers going into 2024.

In dichotomy, however, these reports arrive against the backdrop of the permanent closures of grassroots music venues (76 across the UK in 2023, according to Music Venue Trust), and the potential demonetisation or removal of artists below a certain threshold of listening numbers from streaming platforms.

This is coupled with evidence of a decrease in ethnic diversity of those employed within the music industry between 2020 and 2022 (UK Music diversity report) and the Women and Equalities Commission Report finding that discrimination and misogyny remain endemic.

“This exponential growth period for the sector is at risk of becoming unsustainable should the opportunities for development of new artists continue to degrade.”

These factors suggest that this exponential growth period for the sector is at risk of becoming unsustainable should the opportunities for development of new artists continue to degrade.

Likewise, serious issues of abuse and discrimination within the industry cannot be ignored, and collective responsibility and action must be taken.

Two things are certain: The future is inevitable, but in this case, it is also entirely foreseeable. The opportunity here is, for the industry as a whole, to take the initiative and organise a collective response to address these issues and to regulate itself for the greater good.

The proposals for the independent regulation of football in England (IREF) outline a possible, similar future for the music industry. The Crouch report took on recommendations from a fan-led review. Two particular points of interest being the recommendation that IREF should mandate each club to have an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, focusing on the organisation’s EDI objectives and how it will achieve them, as part of the annual licensing process. The proposed legislation revolves around the fair distribution of money through the ‘pyramid’, i.e., the clubs in the top division – where the income gap compared to the lower divisions is significant – should distribute money fairly throughout the rest of the league. The significant part of this recommendation is that the new independent regulator would not directly intervene to decide how this was done. Instead, in step with the new legislation and existence of the regulator, there is now an expectation that the industry will take the necessary steps towards agreeing a fair system of distribution internally.

This is a case of regulate or be regulated but surely the way forward is clear?

In Wales, there is already legislation in place on a national level, to protect wellbeing and to ensure equality and sustainability. The Government agency responsible for developing the event industry’s latest ten-year strategy is built around these principles.

Regulation, in response to the major issues facing the future of the industry, which are applicable to all its players, would seem inevitable. It is just a question of whether collective responsibility will be accepted, before it is imposed.

The future of the music business is unavoidable and is almost here; so better get ready for it.