The slow death of independent music venues in our cities

We are in Independent Venues Week. While John Harris has previously chronicled the decline of the ‘toilet circuit’, it is to be hoped that Independent Venues Week does for small music venues what Record Store Day has done for vinyl sales. We now speak of the ‘vinyl revival’ but sadly, the toilet, as it were, remains far from re-circuited.

It has been reported – via figures from the Music Venues Trust – that 40 per cent of London’s live music venues have closed over the past seven years. It’s not just a problem in the capital. Demand for housing in inner-city areas is rising across the country. Among a variety of factors that are raising economic pressure on small venues, this increase in inner-city living is driving more noise complaints against them from property developers and residents. This can lead to closures, especially where local authorities inflexibly interpret their licensing and planning responsibilities.



Who will pick up Sir Peter Bazalgette’s diversity baton?

“Diversity,” the Work Foundation reported nearly a decade ago, “is critical to the continuing success of the creative industries”. Recent controversies over the lack of diversity in nominees to the Oscars and the BRITs contribute to a sense that we’ve not moved forward over the intervening period.

This impression, however, is not wholly accurate. “Some excellent progress has been made,” recently wrote Ed Vaizey, a minister holding a large funding carrot in one hand and a diversity stick in another. This progress has been most rapid in the parts of the creative industries where this carrot and stick are most relevant.



London’s creative industries are strong – But compared to where?

GLA Economics has recently published research that confirms the importance of London to the UK’s creative industries as a whole. However, even in China and Japan, which have recently received trade delegations led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London respectively, it probably isn’t news that London is the epicentre of the UK’s creative industries. London is a preeminent world city and world cities are at the vanguard of cultural and creative innovation. Nowhere else in the UK is anywhere near as plugged into global networks as London. Or as much a melting pot of international creative talent. Or in such proximity to global finance and political power. All these factors advantage London over the creative economies of other parts of the UK. GLA Economics confirm that London is capitalising on these advantages:

  • In 2012, GVA of the creative industries in London was estimated at £34.6 billion, accounting for just under half (47.6 per cent) of the UK total (£72.7 billion).
  • In 2014, 16.3 per cent of jobs in the capital were in the creative industries (795,800 jobs); this compares to 7.4 per cent of the total number of jobs in the rest of the country (or 1.96 million jobs).
  • GVA per workforce job (as a proxy of productivity of the sector) was equal to £71,100 in 2012 in London. This compares to an equivalent figure in the UK as a whole of £49,800.

In other words, there are proportionately more creative workers, being more productive and generating a larger percentage of economic output as a whole, in London than elsewhere in the UK. It is not just creative industry workers outside of London that creative industry workers in London are more productive than. It is also other kinds of workers in London. The GVA per workforce job in the creative industries in 2012 was 25 per cent higher than the average across all sectors of the London economy (at £56,700). The economic importance of the creative industries to London – to say nothing of their cultural and social functions – makes it all the more concerning that theEvening Standard reports that 30 per cent of artist studios are expected to have disappeared by 2020. And has previously noted that 40 per cent of London’s live music venues have closed over the past seven years. Continuing to provide an affordable and diverse range of art spaces and facilities amid rising land values is a challenge shared by London and other world cities, while these cities are a more appropriate benchmark for the performance of London’s creative industries than the rest of the UK. The World Cities Culture Forum, managed by BOP Consulting on behalf of the GLA, exists to uncover responses to such challenges and also to build up comparative data across these world cities. Hopefully, the upcoming World Cities Culture Summit at various locations across London from Wednesday 19 to Friday 21 November will advance these debates.



The Export Power and Potential of UK IP

A Global Investment Conference in London is putting Intellectual Property on the agenda.

The GREAT Global Investment Conference is today taking place at Lancaster House, London. Organised by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the event promises to bring together investors, business leaders and government ministers from around the world.



Birmingham’s Creative Ecology

Debating the 3Cs with the Creative Industries Federation, from BOP’s Jonathan Todd
This week the Creative Industries Federation launched new research on How public investment in the arts contributes to growth in the creative industries – now known in the sector as “the ecology” argument. So it’s the right time to look at one particular “ecology” in detail.

In June, the Creative Industries Federation brought a stellar cast together in Birmingham. It included Jonnie Turpie MBE (Maverick TV, Creative England, and High Sheriff of the West Midlands), Anita Bhalla OBE (Chair of Creative City Partnership), Piers Read (Managing Director, The Custard Factory) and Karl Hilton (Programme Executive, Games and Digital, Creative England), and occurred at Fazeley Studios, which sits in the heart of what is reported to be the UK’s largest creative and digital businesses cluster outside London, with 400 businesses employing 2,000 people.



Hurdles on the path to valuing creativity and culture

Following the general election, at DCMS we have both continuity – in the shape of Ed Vaizey and Baroness Neville-Rolfe – and change – John Whittingdale, Tracey Crouch, Baroness Shields. This new ministerial team will undoubtedly be looking for robust economic evidence when developing policy ideas over the next 5 years, however gathering this evidence must overcome some persistent methodological challenges.

Since 2010, not least through vehicles like the Creative Industries Council that have sought improved relations between government and industry, the attention given to measurement of the economic contribution of the creative industries has increased. Nonetheless, a series of unresolved issues remain.



The Flat White Powered Second Machine Age

General Purpose Technology (GPT) is an example of economic jargon that fails to trip off tongues. These are technologies that accelerate the trajectory of economic progress by spreading across economies. Quarry Bank Mill, now a National Trust property near Manchester and a lovely place to spend Mother’s Day, gives an insight into the power of steam as a GPT in the first industrial revolution. Electricity was another GPT in the second industrial revolution laterin the 19th century. Together these revolutions gave us the first machine age.

Subsequent GPT dearth is thought by some economists, such as Robert Gordon, to be the underlying cause of declining GDP growth rates across the western world. Gordon sees the innovation gains of technology as being finite. Our slowing growth is, therefore, the consequence of the innovation gains of steam and electricity being exhausted, and no new GPT coming along to replace them.