London’s music scene is part of its life blood. For generations London has been the place to go to see live music.
The music scene is also important to London’s economy. A quarter of all people working in music do so in London.
The UK is the third biggest music market in the world after the USA and Japan, and the music industry was worth £3.6bn in 2008.
In a city so key to music, we must promote rather than stifle it. I want to put in place policies that will ensure that music continues to be London’s heartbeat.
London already plays host to a number of huge music events from the O2 wireless festival to the Camden Crawl with its emphasis on independent and unsigned acts, to community-led events such as the Notting Hill Carnival – and not forgetting those events designed to get a message out, such as the anti-racism festival Rise, which was London’s biggest free gig until Boris Johnson snuffed it out.
We have a Mayor who poses with Clash lyrics on the front of a fashion magazine whilst killing off the biggest anti-racist festival in Europe.
I very much support the efforts of the group Up-Rise who are campaigning to revive this important event.
But what we don’t have is a music industry-based expo in the style of Austin Texas’ highly successful South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. I want to change that with the creation of a London Music Festival.
As well as playing host to signed and unsigned acts representing genres heard around the city, the London Music Festival will be a tool for musicians to develop their careers, and bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.
Alongside shows in major venues, pub back-room gigs and street performances, a London Music Festival will also provide a forum where aspiring musicians can start to learn to play, where the world’s best instrument makers will have a chance to show off and sell their wares, and where the music industry can come together to discuss the future of the business.
Austin city council conservatively estimated SXSW 2008 to have an economic impact of around $110m to the Austin economy.
Secondly, I want to protect and promote live music.
Live music is the biggest employer in the music industry, employing 44,000 in 2008. Live music venues contribute enormously to London’s night time economy. A study by Camden Council concluded that the night time economy was between £70 million and £120million with at least 20 per cent being attributed to music venues and nightclubs.
In recent years we have seen a significant upheaval with live music venues. Hammersmith Palais closed in 2008 and for a prolonged period there was a question-mark over the Electric Ballroom. Whilst the closure of the Astoria was impossible to avoid if the Crossrail link was to go ahead it added to the sense that many live music venues were being lost.
The trend has not always been one way – the 21st Century has also seen some great venues springing back into life such as Koko, the Roundhouse, and brand new ones like the Coronet and the Troxy.
And of course it would not be right to try and keep everything just as it was and part of London’s attraction is its constant metamorphosis. But places that have provided pleasure to generations of Londoners should not be closed unnecessarily.
The Mayor’s London Plan includes policies on development and promotion of arts and culture which should be reviewed to consider provision of music venues and other entertainment venues. Changes to planning law that could tighten up the way proposals for development or alteration of use of venues need to be considered and I’m setting out in more detail today how these could work.
Preservation of venues alone will not secure the future of live music in London – it is just as important to ensure that support for venues is coupled with a strategy to support the provision of rehearsal space and places for making, performing and studying music.
A strategic approach at all levels of planning should recognise live music and aim to promote complementary uses during the day and in the evening. Venues such as the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm have done this successfully with youth, community and education activities taking place during the day.
London is celebrated and immortalised in countless songs. Many great bands have emerged from London’s live music scene and many London gigs have changed the course of music history. We must ensure that the experience of live music in the capital goes from strength to strength.