The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Friday 12th December 2008 - Culture Secretary and the elephant in the room

The sound and picture quality may be awful, but there can be no doubt that MPs Ian Cawsey (Labour, Brigg and Goole, bass and vocals), Kevin Brennan (Labour, Cardiff West, guitar) and Greg Knight (Conservative, East Yorks, drums) are having a great time belting out 'Teenage Kicks' with none other than Feargal Sharkey himself:

The occasion of Sharkey's comeback was the British Phonographic Industry annual 'Rock the Boat' bash in July 2007 on Thames riverboat Golden Jubilee moored at Westminster Pier, grungy mobile footage on Myspace courtesy of Cawsey.

Telegraph political columnist Jonathan Isaby was there. Sharkey told him: "I've got to know these guys through my work on the Live Music Forum and they persuaded me to join them. But I was absolutely terrified, I had to check the lyrics on the internet beforehand.":

In fact the LMF had just been disbanded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Fast forward to 9th July 2008 and this year's 'Rock the Boat', once again on the Golden Jubilee. Feargal, now CEO of UK Music, again performed with the MP band known as MP4 (which includes Pete Wishart on keyboards, SNP Perth & Perthshire North). This time, however, Feargal and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham also did a turn.

The duet came to public attention on 11 November when Feargal used it to illustrate the working of Form 696 during evidence to the Culture Committee inquiry into the Licensing Act 2003:

'... should the Secretary of State and I choose to repeat that performance I suppose we will be providing our name, address, date of birth and contact numbers to the Metropolitan Police at least 14 days in advance of that event taking place to ensure that we are not in any way a threat to the prevention of terrorism.'

This lobbying has reaped significant benefits for music industry copyright interests. Yesterday, 11 December, in a speech for UK Music's 'Creators Conference' at the ICA the Culture Secretary announced what looks like a policy u-turn by accepting in principle the industry case for extending the copyright term in sound recordings. See 'Copyright law extended' BBC news online:

Given the occasion it is not surprising that Burnham should focus on copyright issues, despite the fact that relatively few performers will benefit significantly from copyright extension. Grassroots issues were apparently on the agenda, however. In his very long speech - over 2,600 words - Burnham cited £500,000 for new rehearsal spaces (funding announced by DCMS more than a year ago) and setting a goal of 5,000 new creative industries apprenticeships.

But not once did he mention entertainment licensing reform that could benefit tens of thousands of musicians directly by creating new opportunities to perform:


Hamish Birchall