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360°: The value of live music to society

Dr Julia Jones, CEO of Found in Music, maintains that to understand the true social value of music one must consider a wide variety of properties

06 Jun 2018

Julia Jones, Found in Music

In recent years, I’ve become obsessed with driving home messages regarding the value of music and live performance.

This is largely due to the work I’ve been involved with in London: setting up the Mayor of London’s taskforce to stop busking from being wiped off public streets; sitting on the London Music Board to support the work of the Greater London Authority and Music Venue Trust in protecting grassroots venues; providing evidence at the House of Lords for the Music and Dementia Commission; providing evidence regarding the value of music in schools as chair of Young Voices Concerts; and examining the decrease in live music in student unions. The list goes on.

There seems to be an endless number of campaigns, committees, boards and commissions these days that are all examining the value of music. This is absolutely great news. However, due to the fact that I’m fortunate enough to be involved in most of them, I’m realising that the true value of music is being missed.

The true value of music to society is when you add them all together into one 360° ‘super-value’.

Music (and live music in particular) has unique properties that when harnessed properly can drive economic development and improve health and wellbeing (in exceptional ways). There are not many other tools that have such a diverse range of benefits.

We have also now entered an era where it’s possible to engage multiple generations with popular music, because the grandparents invented it and the grandchildren are still devouring it. This has opened up new and exciting opportunities for intergenerational line-ups and audiences. This phenomenon is only going to grow stronger in the next two decades as the youth of the 1970s and 80s become OAPs. Music tastes from youth last a lifetime.

For the live industry this offers extensive audiences. For towns and cities this offers new opportunities to use music to drive tourism, the local economy and the health and wellbeing of communities. I had several conversations about this at ILMC this year with promoters who are expanding their event portfolios to tap this demand.

I have made it my mission in 2018 … to bring all the stakeholders together into one joined-up conversation

For this 360° super-value to be properly exploited it’s essential to bring all of the stakeholders around the same table: Decision-makers from the music industry, the urban planners, the education system, the health boards, the economic development and licensing teams.

As the value of music becomes more and more recognised, there will be more opportunities. Red tape will be removed (or adjusted) in order to support and facilitate more music opportunities. Research already shows that children who learn a musical instrument in school are less likely to develop dementia in later life. Research also shows that music has a unique ability to reach even those with late-stage dementia at the end of their lives. So surely it makes sense for us to examine and value music for both education and dementia together rather than separately – because they are linked.

Research also shows that loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions, and we urgently need to ensure that everyone remains socially active. Live music in public spaces is one of the simplest ways to successfully socialise a wide range of age groups, and street performance is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to regularly animate public spaces with live music. Grassroots venues can also play an important role in maintaining social spaces.

So again, why are we examining street performance, music and loneliness separately? They are all connected.

I have made it my mission in 2018 to urge cities, governments, and organisations to stop adopting microapproaches and to instead bring all the stakeholders together into one joined-up conversation. Let’s stop using a silo approach and instead measure the true value of music across all aspects of society. Then we can all work together to make plans that ensure that we get as much music into as many people’s lives as possible.

Music makes life better. Music can increase happiness (this is scientifically proven, and is driven by automatic neurochemical reactions). Happiness is key to wellbeing. People buy things that make them happy. Music is the one ‘language’ that everyone on planet Earth can understand and enjoy.


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