UK Music, of which the Musicians’ Union is a founder member, has brought together leading figures from the music industry to launch a parliamentary battle entitled ‘Agent of Change’ to save music venues from closure. The campaign aims to have the Agent of Change principle enshrined in law to protect premises. This has the backing of at least 75 MPs and peers, including former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, as well as organisations such as the Music Venue Trust and the MU.
The proposed new law is being brought forward by Labour MP and former Government Minister John Spellar, who tabled his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill in the House of Commons today.
There was a photocall and media interviews this morning, outside the Houses of Parliament, which succeeded in bringing attention to the fight to protect UK venues. This event involved many of the name artists and MU members backing the campaign, including Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Sandie Shaw, Glen Matlock, Howard Jones, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Tom Hingley (ex-Inspiral Carpet frontman).
The proposed legislation would mean developers would have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses, like music venues, before going ahead with their plans. That could mean, for example, the developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a venue.
UK Music Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: ‘The UK music industry contributes more than £4 billion to our economy and brings pleasure to millions of people at home and overseas. It’s time for the Government to get behind the legislation and help save the venues that are such a crucial part of the music industry.’
John Spellar MP said: ‘Fewer venues means less work, less opportunity to develop talent or even find out that you are not going to make it in the industry, but also to move up from amateur to part-time, to full-time, to national or even international stardom. If the present situation does not change, we are in danger of taking away the ladder that has served individual musicians and the music industry so well for so long.’
Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said: ‘The music eco-system in the UK is a delicate thing – take away the seed banks and the nursery slopes and eventually the top end will stagnate. Alarming signs are already there for all to see with a dearth of new bands able to fill the headline slots at festivals. If something isn’t done to reverse the alarming trend of grassroots music venues closing, then the top bands of yesterday will be the top bands of tomorrow with no new challengers. That’s unhealthy, and will rapidly bring about a decline in the music industry as a whole. The Agent of Change principle offers some hope to those venues under threat from property developers and must be adopted nationwide as the first step in redressing this urgent problem.’