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Martin Elbourne on how government can support music at a local level

By | Published on Monday 18 May 2015

Martin Elbourne

On Friday we shared two of the #VoteForMusic speeches that kickstarted the second day of proceedings at this year’s CMU Insights @ The Great Escape. Well, four music people in total addressed the new UK government, and so today we share the other two speeches that were made.

First up, Great Escape founder Martin Elbourne, who spoke about how government can support regional cities by supporting music and musicians at a local level. Here are the key points he made…

I spent a year on and off working for the South Australian government, where my official title was the rather grand Thinker In Residence. My topic was live music, which was pretty much non-existent in southern Australia at the time, and we ended up writing a report with about 40 recommendations, most of which are now being implemented.

The reason they originally set up the project was because a key venue had shut down, basically the only small venue in Adelaide. But Adelaide’s problem wasn’t really just one venue shutting down – and that venue has now re-opened – though it provided the impetus to review the music community in the city.

What we really focused on was trying to stop talented young people moving away to Melbourne and Sydney. We wanted to find a way to cultivate a buzzing city, by attracting culture and tech companies, something that is very important for government.

A big thing in South Australia was the licensing laws. It was incredibly difficult to set up a new venue. So that was one of the things we addressed to get this process moving.

The day before The Great Escape this year, we staged another one day conference called Music Cities, and even though it was only on sale for two months, we had 50 cities from 20 countries signed up to it. We looked at the impact a thriving local music industry can have on a city, in terms of employment, boosting the economic and social welfare of an area, and keeping talented people within the region.

Music Canada are officially launching their own report on the impact music can have on a regional city at Midem this year, and they gave us some highlights of that work at Music Cities. And a lot of what their report says is very similar to what my findings were in Australia. The benefits – and the way to get them – are often the same worldwide.

These initiatives need to start locally and organically, but wherever a music community is starting to thrive, once the momentum is underway, they need support from government, whether local, regional or national.

At Music Cities the Deputy Mayor of Groningen gave us some advice, let the politicians see our output. He convinced all his local politicians to visit Gronigen’s Eurosonic festival, to see first hand how important it is to the town, and they’ve never questioned helping the event since.

Money is always an issue – but there are other factors too. Small venues closing down is a problem being faced all over the world. So my message to the UK government would be to look at what’s being done in cities around the world, and then look at the music communities in our own cities and towns.

Where a music community is growing, help them build a music strategy, support their work and if at all possible put some money in place. The social and economic benefits will then follow.