The U.K. government today (March 23) announced the launch of a Creative Industries Council (CIC) that is being hailed by the country's music industry. The plan was made public by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, during the annual Budget speech at the Houses of Parliament as part of a broader policy to revive the country's flagging economy.
Feargal Sharkey, a former musician (The Undertones, solo) and current CEO of lobbying organization U.K. Music, tells Billboard.biz the news represents a significant step for the U.K.'s ambitions "to become the world's largest net exporter of music."
A year ago, the then-newly-formed U.K. Music spelled out its vision of what the British music industry should look like by 2020 in a manifesto called 'Liberating Creativity.'
"We urged the government to set up a more structured and coordinated policy that supports all the creative industries," Sharkey said, "including games, films, design, fashion and, of course, music. Twelve months later, that is precisely what the chancellor has done."
To fulfil its ambitions, Sharkey says, the CIC should implement three key requirements: help the creative sectors gain access to the financial and investment communities; develop the necessary education, skills and training; and enforce tougher copyright protection.
According to U.K. Music, the U.K.'s creative industries employ almost 2 million people, accounting for 8.2% of gross domestic product. The music industry alone generates almost £4 billion ($6.5 billion) a year.
These new measures, Osborne said in his speech will "provide a voice for the sector with the financial community and coordinate action on barriers to growth…as well as access to finance, the CIC will look at other issues in the sector, which may include skills, export markets, regulation, IP and infrastructure."
Sharkey hopes the CIC will be installed by June at the latest. He envisages a board of 10 to 12 experts, with one person representing the different creative-industry categories.
It should be co-chaired by the government's minister of culture, communications and the creative industries and the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, he adds.
Sharkey points out that the music industry has suffered because the financial sector constantly fails to support talent the way other industries are financed.
"We seem unable to access normal finance because the financiers and investors simply do not understand copyright, intellectual property (IP) and the fact that it takes time to develop an artist," he declares.
To illustrate his point, he referred to singer/songwriter Adele, who has topped both the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart with '21' (XL) and the U.K. sales chart. "That is the result of five years' development, support and investment by her record company and the people around her," Sharkey explains.
He also hopes the CIC will spur the government to realize other U.K. Music wishes, including a more relaxed live-music licensing law. The country should also have IP attaches in different territories worldwide "to make sure U.K. copyright is being developed and protected."
Moreover, the music sector's relationship with the country's UKTI (U.K. Trade & Industry) department, which supported the 140 U.K. acts that attended this year's South by Southwest Music and Media Conference, should be developed further.
For the first time in 25 years, three U.K. acts (Adele, Marsha Ambrosius, and Mumford & Sons) held the Top three positions in the Billboard Top 200 as recently as March 19, Sharkey notes. "We don't want to wait another 25 years to achieve that again."