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Ahead of tomorrow's general election in Britain – the second since 2015 – IQ explores what each of the main parties are offering the live music business
By Jon Chapple on 07 Jun 2017
In just under 15 hours, polling stations across the UK will open once more as the British public votes to elect a new government for the second time in two years.
The latest polls show the gap between Theresa May’s governing Conservative party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour as having narrowed to just one point – meaning all bets are off as Brexit Britain heads into its most important general election in a generation.
With that in mind, IQ has delved into the manifestoes of five parties standing across Britain – so no SNP, Plaid Cymru or DUP – and with at least one seat at the last general election to explore what effect their policies could have on the live music business.
The Tories, led by incumbent prime minister Theresa May, have campaigned on a platform of “strong and stable leadership” ahead of the start of negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union on 19 June.
As set out in the party’s recent Building Our Industrial Strategy green paper, the Conservative manifesto commits to supporting the UK’s music and creative industries by extending corporation tax breaks, introducing a new cultural development fund (although it has yet to put a figure on the funding available) and protecting artists’ intellectual property, developing the “skills and digital infrastructure that creative companies need”.
While the manifesto does not mention the live music industry specifically (or the music industry at all), May’s party alludes to the importance of cultural venues to urban areas, saying “towns and cities excel when they have a vibrant cultural life”, and says the cultural development fund will be used to “turn around communities”.
“Britain’s arts and culture are world-beating, and are at the heart of the regeneration of much of modern Britain,” it reads. “We will continue our strong support for the arts and ensure more of that support is based outside London.”
Prominent Tory Matt Hancock, currently minister of state for digital and culture, is also on record as criticising controversial risk-assessment document Form 696, which he says are forcing promoters of grime shows and other “urban music events” out of London.
As for Brexit, the Conservatives are optimistic, saying the country “can emerge from [the EU], look beyond it and launch into the future with confidence”. Of particular interest for those in the touring business worried about Brexit – and the pledge to bring “net migration down to the tens of thousands” – there is a welcome exception: Conditional on the recommendation of the independent Migration Advisory Committee, a Tory government “envisages [being able to] set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically important sectors” without “adding to net migration as whole”.
“We will continue our strong support for the arts and ensure more of that support is based outside London”
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn – he of Grime4Corbyn fame – has been the most vocal in his support for British live music. Channelling Music Venue Trust in an interview with The Independent yesterday, Corbyn said a Labour government would explore opportunities to support the UK’s independent venues.
“What you have is a number of independent venues, sometimes pubs, cafés and so on, that have become almost informal live music venues,” he said, “and the small cafe does well and, hey presto, along comes a Costa [Coffee], Starbucks, Nero or something to take it over.
“[It’s] the same with pubs, which are often very reluctant to have live music on. Those live venues are absolutely crucial to the future of the music scene. So the £1,000 pub-licensing rebate” – introduced by Tory chancellor Philip Hammond – “is a good thing; we want to extend that a lot further.”
The party’s manifesto, like the Conservatives’, pays tribute to the UK’s creative industries, describing them as “the envy of the world”, and contains a promise for a cultural capital fund “to upgrade our existing cultural and creative infrastructure”. (Unlike the Tories, Labour has put a figure on it: £1 billion.)
Other live biz-friendly initiatives include introducing an agent-of-change principle in planning law to “ensure that new housing developments can co-exist with existing music venues”, strengthening trade-union support for performers, reversing cuts to the Arts Council and investing in music education.
“Live venues are absolutely crucial to the future of the music scene”
The pro-EU Lib Dems have committed to a second referendum on EU membership, and, like the Greens (see below) and the Scotland-only SNP, advocate continuing the free movement of people in the EU – a position that will find support from many in the touring business. “We support the principle of freedom of movement – to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity and reputation as an open, tolerant society,” its manifesto reads.
The manifesto contains one specific mention of live music, saying the party will, if elected, “examine the available funding and planning rules for live music venues and the grassroots music sector, protecting venues from further closures”. Lib Dem peer Lord Clement-Jones has previously used his position in the House of Lords to campaign for an overhaul of the 2003 Licensing Act.
Like the Conservatives, the Lib Dems also pledge to protect IP – specifically mentioning working with EU countries to continue cooperation on collective licensing – and suggests introducing ‘creative enterprise zones’ to “grow and regenerate the cultural output of areas across the UK”.
To boost continued growth in the creative industries, the party supports “tailored industry-specific tax support, promoting creative skills; supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules; and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses”.
“We will examine the available funding and planning rules for live music venues, protecting venues from further closures”
UK Independence Party
Ukip, a right-wing Eurosceptic party which has urged its supporters to vote tactically in favour of the Conservatives where there is no Ukip candidate, has few policies tailored specifically towards the creative industries, instead trumpeting its credentials as “pro-business” across the board. Its manifesto does, however, contain a pledge to cut business rates, the rise in which under the Conservatives has been criticised by the UK Live Music Group.
The sole mention of ‘arts’ or ‘culture’ (at least not in the context of the perceived failings of multiculturalism) is in its plans to create ‘coastal enterprise zones’ to reverse the decline of Britain’s seaside towns. Its heritage and tourism spokeswoman, Victoria Ayling, says a ‘coastal towns taskforce’ would raise funding for “new arts and heritage facilities in coastal towns”.
“Ukip will support small businesses by cutting rates by 20% for businesses operating from premises with a rateable value of less than £50,000”
Like the Lib Dems, the Greens’ relatively concise manifesto lists a core policy as protecting freedom of movement and remaining in the EU single market.
That’s where the good news (depending on your point of view) for the music industry ends, with no mention of arts, culture or music elsewhere. Aside from saying in its manifesto the party will “support start-ups and creative enterprises through community credit and green investment”, the party’s policy positions on the arts are further fleshed out on its website – although take them with a grain of salt, as the site was last updated before the 2015 election.
One policy that, if still in place, would ring alarm bells for concert promoters is a proposed new tax on “superstar performances”, with the proceeds “hypothecated to local cultural enterprises”. The page also outlines the party’s lukewarm position on corporate partnerships (“there may be a role for commercial sponsorship of any cultural activity”, it reads; emphasis ours) and the need for ‘protection’ of music and comedy from the “homogenising influence of a dominating global artistic culture”. The Greens do, however, pledge support for the overhaul of licensing “to ensure that small-scale live performance in pubs, clubs and similar venues is not stifled”.
“We will explore the feasibility of a tax on superstar performances”
Polling stations open at 7am tomorrow and close at 10pm, with the result expected to be ‘called’ in early hours of Friday morning. Anything less than an increased majority for May will be widely seen as a failure, while Corbyn has ruled out standing down in the event of a defeat.
Many polls show the two now almost neck and neck, although the final ‘poll of polls’ by Britain Elects shows the Tories still six points ahead.
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