The pandemic has clearly shown that the Conservative government does not value the music industry despite it playing an integral role in the economy and bringing joy to people’s lives. In a recent interview, Rishi Sunak stated that creatives such as those in the music industry should retrain due to the limited jobs available to them at the moment. This was then followed by a new campaign from the Conservatives. It showed a picture of a ballerina named Fatima with the caption “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet)”. They have since retracted the campaign. However, they will never be able to take back how insulting it was for those that have worked so hard to obtain a job in the music industry.
The damage that this could have for those within the industry and those who aspire to be is deeply concerning. Since the government have shown it complete disregard, there is little hope that they will provide necessary further funding. This would not only negatively impact on musicians and singers but also the vast number of jobs behind the scenes such as music producers, tour managers and sound technicians to name just a few. Furthermore, it is already extremely difficult for young people to pursue a career in music as they are not given the same support as those who want to go down a more “traditional” route. This may discourage young people from exploring their talents which is such a shame. Sunak’s comments also suggest that music is for people from privileged backgrounds that are able to obtain jobs more easily due to their status. This could also have negative implications for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, perhaps making them feel as though they will never make it in the music industry, so it is a waste of time to even try.
This would be deeply regrettable as some of the most incredible musicians in the UK have come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have inspired others in similar situations to follow in their footsteps. One of the best examples is best international act and British male solo artist, Stormzy. He has set up two scholarships to support black British students as well as funded the tuition fees and living expenses of two other students at the University of Cambridge as the Guardian has noted. This shows that the music industry is crucial in providing role models that young people can look up to and that artists can use their platform to uplift others. Another example of this is Little Mix, one of the world’s biggest girl groups. Their music has stood up for women’s rights and supported the LGBTQ+ community which encourages young people to love themselves as they are. Finally, it has to be mentioned that the UK’s music industry is home to one of the most successful bands in history, the Beatles. They won 10 Grammy’s throughout their career and have left such a legacy within the world of music. Therefore, it is evident that the UK music industry has not only produced some amazing talent, but it is also so important for our society as a whole.
The Guardian states that the music industry contributes £5bn for the UK economy yearly. Thus, it should be held in the same regard as any other. Let’s play the music campaign has outlined that the live music industry makes up £1.1 billion of this with so many people visiting from all over the world just to attend the UK’s infamous concerts and festivals. Glastonbury alone makes £100m a year for local businesses and charities which highlights the vital role it plays in supporting communities. The Conservatives should not give up on the music industry just because of the damage it has suffered due to the pandemic as it clear that once it is safe again, it will continue to generate so much money for the economy. In the meantime, it will provide some much-needed light in these bleak times with new music releases (Little mix’s upcoming album is essential right now).
Campaigns such as “Let’s Play the Music” and “We Need Crew” show that music is not just a hobby but a credible career. Following the former campaign, high profile artists signed a letter to the culture secretary asking for support during this difficult time. Following the latter, Niall Horan has raised funds by putting on a virtual concert. Thus, those who have a privileged position within the industry are willing to defend it on behalf of those that don’t which shows that there is something intrinsically valuable about it that is worth protecting.
Therefore, Sunak’s comments could not be any more misguided as asking those in the music industry to retrain will only lead to a huge loss of phenomenal talent, inspirational role models, a sense of community and togetherness and a lively section of the UK’s economy.
[Eilidh Stewart, she/her, @eilidhstewart0]
[Image Credit: Mike @mikebirdy]