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UK Music says IP and other music matters should be brought together in government department rejig

By | Published on Wednesday 15 January 2020

UK Music

Cross-sector trade group UK Music has urged the government to ensure that any rejig of existing government departments doesn’t sideline the music industry and its lobbyists. It also suggested that intellectual property matters and other music industry considerations could be merged into one department.

This is happening because British Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson is planning a significant reorganisation of the UK’s departments of government. You know, Brexit is going to be completely sorted by the end of the month, so what else have he and his team got to be getting on with?

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office currently sits under the Department For Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, while other music industry issues tend to be addressed by the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Music education sits with education ministers, obviously, and the music industry also has relationships with the Department For International Trade on export initiatives.

Being lumped in with the culture brief sometimes works against the music industry, not least because there is often a high turnover of ministers in that domain, many politicians seeing a DCMS job as something you do as a stepping stone towards a role in a “proper” ministry. Some politicians also tend to think of culture as a “nice to have” thing, rather than a serious contributor to the UK economy.

Acknowledging the impending overhaul of UK government departments, outgoing UK Music boss Michael Dugher said yesterday: “It is vital that the forthcoming changes to government departments safeguard the future of our world-leading music industry which makes such an important contribution to our economy at home and our soft power overseas. Whilst we should not underestimate music’s role in cultural terms, my fear is that the music industry could get left behind with the museums and art galleries in some kind of emaciated ‘heritage’ department”.

“Music has always been stuck between a rock and a hard place”, he went on. “Whilst UK Music has made huge progress, too many in Whitehall still don’t appreciate that music is an economic powerhouse on a par, and indeed bigger, than many other great British industries. At the same time, there are still too many arts snobs who don’t see music, and in particular popular music, as a ‘proper’ art. The music business must be at the top table of the government’s industrial strategy”.

Making a proposal of his own regarding the rejig, Dugher added: “Bringing intellectual property and music together in one department would be a natural fit and simplify policy-making. It would also send a powerful signal about the fundamental importance of IP to our industry”.

Dugher then notes that, in his three years as UK Music CEO, he has dealt with four different culture secretaries. Now, of course, that’s partly because of the general disarray there’s been in UK government since 2016’s EU referendum, though – as noted – culture ministers more than most don’t usually stick around all that long. And UK Music needs to talk to ministers and advisors in other departments too.

“It is critical that the music industry gets some much-needed continuity from the government”, he concluded. “We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Culture Secretary [Nicky] Morgan, and DCMS Minister Nigel Adams has been a superb minister who has displayed tremendous support for our industry. We need that strong relationship to continue the success story of our industry”.