Feargal Sharkey on what is ‘the music industry’

For those of us actually working in said sector, it’s a good question to consider. Certainly, it’s something debated ad infinitum at conferences and in newspaper columns all over the world. The chorus of views focussed on new paradigms and new models is, at times, deafening.

This is natural. And, after all, speculating on the future is an enjoyable sport.

However, for the perennial ‘person in the street’, I would wager that a definition of ‘the music industry’ is actually quite limited. Most likely, it probably encompasses a core of artists, musicians, record labels, managers and publishers, combined with personal experience of consuming the music they love, and attending gigs and festivals.

Most would also understand – inherently – that the UK is inordinately talented at making music. They would understand we have an enviable musical heritage, and that we continue to break new and innovative ground.

For most politicians, unsurprisingly, such observations will be exactly the same.
This is good, obviously. But I think it vital that we attempt to broaden this perception.
For instance, what is the worth and value of music to the media? To digital businesses? To tourism?

How much does live music contribute to our local economies?
How important is music to the social structure of the UK?
And what would life be like without it?

These were questions posed by PRS for Music’s Will Page and Chris Carey in their sterling paper Adding Up The Music Industry. In short, how do we measure music’s intrinsic value?

The answer: with difficulty.

Undoubtedly, there is a need for more research, to measure the potency of music and its true value to UK PLC.

It is also one of the key reasons why UK Music launched an industry-wide consultation last year, and why we will be publishing a strategy document for the commercial music sector this March.

Entitled Liberating Creativity, this document aims to help others recognise the importance of music to the UK, and just how deep its effects permeate throughout our society and our economy. It will then pitch a number of recommendations to Government – measures that, we believe, will help our commercial music sector to flourish.

Some of these recommendations are ambitious, but that’s good too.

There are challenging times, but ultimately, whatever our business looks like, we want this country to be number one for music in 2010 – and for the years and decades to come.

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