The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Thursday 18th March 2010 - How not to answer questions

The government has avoided answering the latest questions raised by Lord Colwyn about DCMS live music stats.

This purely fictional conversation between a junior and senior civil servant is inspired by the Q&A (full text below):

Junior: The Lords want to know how many professional musicians are actually accounted for in our live music report.
Senior: We can't tell them.
Junior: Why not?
Senior: Because we don't know.
Junior: But we published figures and claimed there had been a 20% rise, 2006 to 2008.
Senior: I know, but some fool plucked numbers from a website without checking. If we admit the mistake we might have to withdraw the report.
Junior: So what shall I say?
Senior: Refer them to the previous answer.
Junior: But we seem to have avoided an answer the first time.
Senior: I know.
Junior: What about the second question, the one asking for the actual dates of the research?
Senior: Tell them... I mean, imply the fault lies with the source material, and that those responsible are now making revisions which we may incorporate later.

[Junior retreats with a conspiratorial wink]

In real life, the civil servants who prepare ministers' answers are, of course, bound by a Code of Conduct which requires honesty, impartiality, objectivity and integrity:

Actual Q&A:

Lord Colwyn: To ask Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport report Live Music: An Analysis of the Sector, of 28 January, (a) what is the definition of the term professional musician, and (b) how many professional musicians are included in the total of "those employed in live music performance" in 2006 and 2008. [HL2477]

Lord Davies of Oldham: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer that I gave to Lord Clement-Jones on 23 February 2010 (Official Report, col. WA 285).

Lord Colwyn: To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the dates of the research sources for the numbers of professional musicians in 2006 and 2008 cited in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's report Live Music: An Analysis of the Sector under the heading "increases in those performing music-are there more musicians?". [HL2478]

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Live Music: An Analysis of the Sector report used source material taken from the Creative and Cultural Skills Council (CCSC) studies of the industry. We understand that CCSC are making some revision to their material. DCMS will incorporate any changes affecting our analysis in the report in due course.

Link to DCMS live music report webpage, published 28 January 2010, revised 16 February:

Link to previous DCMS answers to questions by Lord Clement-Jones:


Hamish Birchall