The UK Government recently posted its official response to a crucial document, which highlighted the many problems facing the country’s music industry. Access breaks it down, to find out what is really being done to find a solution.
Earlier this year, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee published a wide-reaching and very detailed report about the state of live music in the UK.
The ‘ninth report of session’, over 50 pages long, collected evidence from key figures in the UK music industry, and tackled issues such as ticket touting, grassroots venue closures, regulation, prejudice towards grime artists, festival monopolisation and more.
The House of Commons published its official response to the report earlier in the year. So – what exactly is the Government doing to address the many issues still faced by the UK music industry?
The DCMS report highlights that misleading sales practices are causing consumers to pay hugely inflated prices for tickets which are often not even valid, and that this is money they could otherwise have spent on attending more live shows.
Secondary ticketing has become one of the hottest topics in the music industry over the last couple of years, following high-profile controversies and court cases against companies such as Viagogo and Stubhub.
In response to the secondary ticketing controversy, the Government said: “The Government is committed to cracking down on unacceptable behaviour in the ticketing market and improving fans’ chances of buying tickets at a reasonable price. Recent announcements of action by enforcement agencies demonstrate that we are prepared to go after those who flout the law or abuse the ticketing market.”
The Government response, however, did not make any new commitments to cracking down on ticket touting. Instead, it acknowledged the work of another independent organisation – the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers – and encouraged resale organisations to join STAR’s (voluntary) Code of Practice, offering greater transparency. As it stands, however, there seems to be little incentive for them to do so.
Government also pointed to a review of online advertising regulations, which the DCMS is in the process of carrying out. This will help to identify areas in which rules surrounding advertising ticket resale are either not clear enough, or not being enforced.
The many challenges facing music venues were another key topic covered in the DCMS report. It said: “The Government has not acted promptly enough to stem the tide of venue closures, which has been happening at a rate unprecedented in other cultural sectors for more than 10 years.”
Increasing prices in London, as well as limiting regulations, have led to closures of small and medium-sized venues, where the next Adeles and Stormzys will hone their craft. The report advised that the effects of these small venue closures might not be felt immediately, but the next artists generation of artists could be severely crippled if we don’t maintain these important cultural spaces.
In response, Government said: “Small venues may need to adapt existing business models to focus more strongly on social value – for example, reaching out to new and diverse audiences. That is why Government welcomes initiatives such as the Music Venues Trust’s new pipeline investment fund.”
Its response also pointed to a number of policy changes it has made in the last few years, aimed at helping small businesses: “Since Budget 2016 the Government has introduced a range of business rates measures in England worth more than £13bn over the next five years. This includes switching from RPI to CPI indexation, increasing the frequency of revaluations, and doubling the threshold for 100% Small Business Rate Relief to £12,000 from April 2017.”
It concluded: “The departments leading on policies impacting venues, including DCMS, MHCLG and the Home Office, [must continue to work] with the sector through regular meetings, sharing of evidence and exchanging ideas and good practice.”
One key issue raised in the report is that of festival monopolisation – an issue Access covered in our September issue. The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) published a report last year which showed US company Live Nation now owns more than 25% of all major UK festivals – those over 5,000 attendance.
The AIF presented this evidence to the DCMS, which recommended to “ask the Competition and Markets Authority to consider conducting a market study of the music industry”, in order to assess whether it is fair for consumers, artists and promoters.
The Government said it had no authority over the CMA, which is an independent regulator. It then went on to point to a previous ticketing market review which took place in 2016, saying: “Government worked with the CMA and the National Trading Standards Board to take enforcement action against ticketing platforms and sellers where necessary. This has had some impact on the information provided to consumers, but work is ongoing.”
Paul Reed, CEO of the AIF, expressed disappointment at the lack of action from Government on the issue of festival monopolisation. He said: “Following a robust and wide-ranging inquiry into live music from the DCMS Select Committee, this is a derisory response from Government. Referring to the Waterson Report avoids the breadth and depth of the issues AIF has outlined in terms of the widespread dominance of a single company, Live Nation, across the live music sector.
“It is well established that competition issues in the live music sector go way beyond ticketing, and we will continue to ring the alarm bells around the systemic problems arising from the increasing grip of vertically integrated major corporations along the live music supply chain, and the effect this has on competition.
“The problem is only going to get worse if it is not addressed properly and swiftly. We will be writing to the relevant Government Ministers accordingly.”
So – what is the Government doing?
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘ninth session’ report is huge – full of carefully researched information that fairly and clearly details all of the most pressing issues facing the live music industry. The House of Commons’ official response, by comparison, feels insufficient.
Although the House of Commons has acknowledged many of the issues facing one of its most important creative industries – worth £4.5bn to the economy in 2018 – it has not committed to any action. Its response amounts to little more than lip service, raising questions about whether it really recognizes the value of the live music sector in the UK.
What do you think, eventprofs? We highly recommend reading the DCMS report to gain an overview of the state of live music in the UK.