COMMONS

Committee calls for action to safeguard the future of the UK’s live music industry

19 March 2019

The DCMS Committee has published its Report into Live Music. Mumford & Sons’ band member Ben Lovett, Tom Gray of Gomez and DJ/producer DJ Target were among the established artists who gave evidence.

Summary

  • MPs advise public ‘not to buy or sell tickets’ through viagogo
  • Call for review of business rates on live music sector to help struggling venues
  • More investment needed, including from the music industry, in developing new talent
  • Concerns about discrimination hindering success of urban music

Chair's comment

Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee said:

“The UK is witnessing a boom in live music with increasing numbers attending concerts and festivals, giving a boost for the economy, with home-grown talent like Ed Sheeran taking that success across the world.

Yet for all its vibrancy, away from the headline acts the music industry is also facing stark challenges. Bad experiences with ticket resale platforms are damaging trust in the industry, smaller music venues are closing at an unprecedented rate, and the future of the talent pipeline is at risk.

We’re calling on the Government to review the effectiveness of the law intended to prevent consumers being ripped-off when buying tickets for live concerts. The Government shouldn’t rely on the work of voluntary groups to take on the giants in the ticket resale market but make sure there is effective action to end exploitation, and greater transparency and redress for ticket-buyers when things go wrong.

The DCMS Committee has taken today the highly unusual step of issuing a warning to the public against using a major secondary ticketing site until it complies fully with consumer law.

When it comes to live performance, it’s shocking to hear that grime artists are continuing to face prejudice, which risks hampering the success of one of our most successful musical exports.

Urgent action is needed if the live music industry is to continue to make a significant contribution to both the economy and cultural life of the country. We also look to the music industry to make sure that enough of the big money generated at the top finds its way down to grassroots level to support emerging talent. It happens with sport, why not music?”

Final Report

Viagogo ‘caused distress for too many music fans for too long’

The Report notes significant progress by enforcement agencies in bringing a number of secondary resale platforms into line with consumer law following action by the Competition and Markets Authority and the Advertising Standards Agency, as well as changes made within the industry itself to limit the resale of tickets for profit.

However, MPs give a stark warning against the use of viagogo’s website: “We believe that viagogo has yet to prove itself a trustworthy operator given its history of resisting compliance, court orders and parliamentary scrutiny, and flouting consumer law… We are concerned that while that work takes place, consumers remain vulnerable to the site's misleading sales practices. It is imperative that the CMA acts promptly and decisively to bring viagogo into line with consumer law and, until it does so, we advise the public not to buy or sell tickets via viagogo.”

On March 5, the CMA put out a statement noting “issues of concern” in viagogo’s compliance saying it was preparing to take legal action to ask a court to find the company in contempt for failing to comply with a previous court order.

MPs single out viagogo for having “caused distress for too many music fans for too long,” and note their frustration at the company’s unwillingness to appear before the Committee and provide oral evidence, demonstrating disdain for not only the legislative process but its customers.

The Committee recommends giving fans a quicker and easier process to resolve secondary ticketing disputes because poor experiences risk blighting people’s enjoyment of live music and drain money out of the industry.

The Report questions the effectiveness of legislation intended to block the use of bots to harvest tickets on primary websites and the failure to tackle other means used by ticket touts such as multiple purchases.

The Government should set out how it intends to review the effectiveness of the Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2018 and publish a review of the regulations.

Measures by Google to increase transparency around secondary ticket selling are welcomed, however the Report notes that Google has repeatedly allowed tickets to be sold in breach of UK consumer protection law.  The Committee calls on the Government to set out the responsibilities of companies such as Google to ensure that advertisements comply with consumer protection law.

Discrimination persisting against urban music

The Report has uncovered evidence of persisting prejudice against urban music and grime artists, risking the future of one of the UK’s most exciting musical exports.

There had been well-publicised concerns that acts and audiences were being unfairly targeted by the Metropolitan Police through controversial risk assessments (form 696), abolished in 2017.  In evidence, one witness told the Committee that “institutionalised racism” continues to exist. Local councils are failing to support urban music, with venues demonstrating unfounded concerns over licensing. Hip Hop artist ShaoDow cited a club cancelling a gig at short notice when it discovered his style of music over concerns it would lose its licence if the performance went ahead. Other rappers had faced similar experiences.

The Committee calls for cross-departmental action by Government to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on risk management to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted. 

Unprecedented closure of music venues presents significant and urgent challenge

In the past decade, the UK has seen the closures of music venues nationwide, while sites that remain face a struggle to stay open given rising costs and declining revenues. Unsubsidised, small and medium-scale venues face particular problems attributed to rising rents and business rates and stagnating incomes.

The Report finds that the Government has failed to act promptly to stem the tide of the closures happening on a scale unprecedented in other cultural sectors, a development that presents a significant and urgent challenge to the music industry. Evidence suggests that the UK’s position at the forefront of the music industry could be at risk because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their live craft.

The Government should immediately review the impact of recent business rates changes on the live music sector and introduce new or extend existing relief schemes such as those for pubs or small retail properties to lessen the burden of business rates on music venues in order to protect grassroots venues and independent festivals.

Further support should be given by the Government by extending tax relief, already given for orchestra performances, to other forms of music production.

Taskforce needed to support young talent

The Report calls on the Government to set up a taskforce to examine how the music industry may be supported and incentivised to invest more effectively in supporting grassroots talent. The music industry should ensure that a greater proportion of its revenues is channelled into supporting artists at the early stages of their careers.

Among other recommendations, MPs repeat a call made in a previous Report that arts subjects be added to the EBacc to address concerns that in its current form the EBacc has had a negative impact on the provision and uptake of music in schools.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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