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Labour's ‘Access to Arts’ plan outlines what a Labour government would do to support the future of the creative industries. But how does it measure up to the challenges you are facing? Experts from across the Musicians’ Union departments share their thoughts on the plan.

“The proposed support for the live sector is vital”

We're reassured to see a commitment to tackling secondary ticketing. The inflation of ticket prices on secondary platforms makes gigs financially inaccessible, and damages the artist/fan relationship.

Furthermore, ticket revenue should always reflect the intended ticket prices and should stay within the sector, benefitting those involved in the shows, and future-proofing careers and the wider live scene.

The proposed support for the live sector is vital, and will help to repair some of the damage caused over recent years. Performers need solutions to the touring barriers brought about through leaving the EU, and also a stable live sector in the UK with venues suitably protected and supported.

The UK's grassroots music scene is currently in a state of crisis, with all involved - from venue manager to artist to crew - struggling due to the cost of living crisis, the increasing pressures on running a venue and the challenging economics of small shows. Without additional support across all parts of this sector, venues will continue to close, artists will continue to struggle and take work elsewhere, and the sector will shrink.

This will naturally affect the talent pipeline, with all parts of the industry eventually being impacted and damaged. This will also negatively affect the diversity of those performing and working in the live music scene, as well as the audiences.

Efforts to better protect freelance creators are welcome and will hopefully ensure that opportunities and conditions are improved and strengthened. Creators are facing increasing challenges through low fees, poor terms and the development of AI, and need better protections in order to build and sustain viable careers within the industry.

Kelly Wood is National Organiser for Live, Theatre and Music Writers

“Input from teachers and practitioners is invaluable”

We welcome their commitments to making music education accessible to young people regardless of their background, and to provide more security for the self-employed workforce such as a ban on exploitative contracts, as outlined in the New Deal for Working People.

The debate over zero-hour contracts underscores the need for enforceability, ensuring responsible implementation by employers. Adequate funding is crucial to support public organisations in upholding ethical employment practices.

We hope that a National Music Education Network will address issues affecting music education hubs in England.

While a review of the Arts Council England and proposals for a National Music Education Network are positive, we hope that systemic issues like chronic underfunding and inadequate terms of employment will be addressed.

A curriculum and assessment review, and supporting arts organisations' funding, are steps in the right direction.

We hope that diverse perspectives will shape policy. Input from teachers and practitioners is invaluable for crafting meaningful curriculum and assessments, and comprehensive oversight by OFSTED and the reinstatement of local authority advisers can enhance support.

We are eager to collaborate with Labour to improve working conditions for instrumental teachers and restore music education entitlement for all children.

Chris Walters is National Organise for Education, Health & Wellbeing

“It’s vital that students can see themselves represented”

It’s fantastic to see a commitment to a broad and inclusive curriculum, and we look forward to working with Labour to ensure they have a diverse range of voices advising on what a diverse and inclusive curriculum for music students should look like. It’s vital that students can see themselves represented across the music curriculum.

Labour have listened when we have raised concerns about the lack of protections for freelancers. All too often when our members raise concerns, they become the problem and the issues they experience aren’t dealt with. Greater protections against blacklisting and whistle-blower protections for freelancers are an integral part in tackling this.

John Shortell is Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

“We want to see a future Labour government go further”

The MU wholeheartedly backs the commitment to protect intellectual property rights, and we want to see a future Labour government go further than the words of the publication to mention performers' rights and the need to protect creatives however their works are exploited.

That means closing the gaps in digital distribution such as fixing streaming, and also working towards a near future in which most ‘terrestrial transmissions’ as we know them will be ‘broadcast’ on the internet.

Geoff Ellerby is National Organiser for Recording and Broadcasting

“It is heartening to see the New Deal for Working People address some of these issues for our members”

The current arts funding system is broken. Between 2009 and 2021, per person cultural funding was down 50% in England, 33% in Scotland and 36% in Wales in real terms. Over the last decade, grant-in-aid and lottery funding for the arts in England has been reduced by £178 million in real terms. Arts Council England cuts are having a devastating impact on our orchestras and with devolved and local funding cuts looming, this outlook is concerning.

It is therefore interesting that Labour is looking at a different model for arts funding, and we look forward to engaging with Labour in those discussions. It is vital that arts organisations are adequately funded so that our musicians can expect to be properly paid with decent terms and conditions, whether employed or freelance. A review of Arts Council England should also help tackle some of those challenges, and it is essential that trade unions representing arts and culture workers are involved in that process.

The industry wants to attract a more diverse workforce. To do that, a future Labour government must also address the current levels of precarious and often poorly paid work alongside the talent pipeline. It is heartening to see the New Deal for Working People address some of these issues for our members.

The BBC is the single biggest employer of MU members in the UK. Virtually all MU members will interact with the BBC at some stage of their career. That’s why the next BBC funding settlement is crucial to supporting musicians’ jobs and thriving creating industries. The way the Conservatives have set the current licence fee is rather arbitrary and the BBC is facing huge financial challenges as a result. With the current settlement ending in 2027, we want to see a settlement that’s fit for purpose and will support the BBC Performing Groups and wider music output for generations to come.

Jo Laverty is National Organiser for Orchestras

Arts funding

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

Arts Council England has made major cuts in public funding to arts organisations. The UK's music sector needs more investment to keep it world leading and protect the working people at its heart.

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

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