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Friday 24th February 2006 - It's not just rehearsal space you know
As Feargal Sharkey's authenticity comes under scrutiny, it seems remarkable the number of coincidences between the Government's 'Forum' and this original and real Live Music Forum.
Many of our ideas have been a matter of public record for over ten years if you go back to early editions of Music Files, the free gig listing circulated in East Sussex and Kent between 1993 and 1998. The Government were familiar with our mission statement as early as 1999, when Jack Straw was Home Secretary and acknowledged our submissions in a letter to MP Michael Foster. Much of the Music Files content was published on the web too and the model emulated in towns along the South Coast through the nineties.
It looks like somebody has been combing through our web pages, as well, with their revolutionary 'new ideas' about rehearsal space and other elements that constitute the environment of the live music scene.
What they don't focus on though, is the variety of changes in the law that make it difficult or near impossible to learn to play and perform music to the public without the backing of rich parents.
Things like Public Liability Insurance never existed in the decades when we had a vibrant and flourishing live music scene. Now it is common for a local authority to insist that a musician has up to ten million pounds Public Liability to perform in their venues or on their land.
Together with the fact that a band starting out can't hope to earn much more than £100 between them, the costs of maintaing and improving instruments, transport and, let's not forget those rehearsal costs, make the task as difficult and more expensive than earning a degree.
And if there's no work at the end of it, what then ?
Feargal Sharkey is a bit fanciful to expect breweries to suddenly produce entertainment budgets for pubs. Something that was largely done away with in the late seventies. That was when you all started to have to pay at the door to see Punk and New Wave bands. These days profit rules and entertainment budgets cover Karaoke and sticking-yourself-on the-bar-wall-with-velcro-parties and not local bands trying to come up with original ideas.
Ten years ago, when people used to buy lots of lottery tickets, it was promised that this massive Good Causes fund would sustain Arts in the UK. Then, the Blair Government decided the money would be better spent on the hospitals and schools they had promised, and now not many bother with the lottery anyway. If you couldn't forsee that would be a passing phase in the UK what are you doing in a responsible job ?
So now, the only way to access any of the funding that they boast of providing is to learn the legal jargon (gobbledygook) of the partnership application process and compete with thousands for limited funds that are usually only available to constituted organisations with committees and balanced books.
This combination just about strangles the possibility of a jobbing musician benefiting from this flaunted funding and eliminates the possibilities of mature players passing on their experience to the younger generation in the traditional manner.
Did you get all that, Boys ?