IN THIS BRIEFING —
- Comment – BBC Boating Bungle
- Comment - The Jubilee Concert
- Comment – All Together Now
Welcome to the June issue of our monthly public affairs bulletin, BASCA Briefing. A digest of current activities and BASCA policy, in each issue the Briefing provides insight into issues we are concerned by, and looks at news developments from the music writers’ point of view. This month we look at the contribution music made to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and we comment on a hearing in the European Parliament in the run-up to the publication of the draft directive on the collective management of rights.
BBC Big Boating Bungle or Who Truly Values Music In Our Time?
BASCA members are bemused, dismayed and in some cases, extremely angry that the 5 hours BBC television coverage of the Thames Pageant paid little or no attention to the huge contribution made by British composers and performers by way of the 10 music herald barges which headed each of the designated sections of the 1,000-strong flotilla.
13 of the UK’s leading composers were commissioned to write new works for an array of musical ensembles. The enterprise involved a huge effort in creating suitable New Water Music compositions and interviews were recorded with the composers and performers. However, as far as the television-watching public were concerned, coverage of what could have been a cultural landmark, amounted to 8 seconds of just one of the new pieces while the majority of any airtime given to the music focussed on rain-bedraggled student singers belting out patriotic songs by dead composers.
A BBC spokesperson is reported as saying – “These artists were asked by the pageant organisers to take part, and were in no way guaranteed to end up on telly. I would hope that they should feel honoured that they were part of the jubilee celebrations at all, regardless of whether they appeared on TV or not.” Of course they felt honoured, but this flippant comment totally misses the point, which is about how we as a nation value the music that is written by British composers.
BASCA Briefings often speak about the value of music in commercial terms because we are acutely aware of how important it is to for creative artists to be able to earn a living from their work. However, BASCA is equally passionate about the value of music within culture; the power of music to celebrate, commemorate, uplift, inspire, sustain and soothe; the power of music to communicate, unite, reflect and highlight; the importance of music, in common with all the arts, to tell the nation’s story, express the nation’s culture and give the nation heart and heritage.
Surely the brief of the nation’s public broadcaster should have been to enlighten first and then to entertain and to give the viewing public an experience which focussed on discovery rather than its own personalities. What a lost opportunity and one which makes us question who truly values music in our time?
The Jubilee Concert
Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the BBC TV coverage of the Thames Pageant, if anyone is in any doubt about how important music is to cultural and social life of the United Kingdom they should perhaps reflect on the Diamond Jubilee Concert. Hundreds of thousands of people turned up on what looked like being a chilly and wet evening (although in fact they faired rather better than they might have feared) and stood for hours just to be part of the event and to hear the wide variety of music and artists. Whilst it is certainly the case that not everyone agreed on the choice of the music or the artists who performed, and there was much discussion both in the media and around water coolers as people returned to work on Wednesday, we have no one saying that the idea of having such a concert was a bad one. When there are great or momentous events to celebrate, whether it be on a national or an individual level, music is almost always central. Nothing else seems to fill the space where words end. However unless the value of music is maintained and those who write and create it are given the tools by which they can earn a return on their creativity we are in danger of becoming a nation of hobbyist music makers – where music is used it must be paid.
All Together Now
On the subject of payment for the use of music BASCA was present last week at a hearing in the European Parliament organised by the grouping of Socialist and Democrat MEPs. The subject of the hearing was “The Copyright Challenge: Can Europe Ensure That Creators’ Rights are Collected and Managed Fairly?” This was a timely debate as the draft directive on collective management of rights is apparently in the last stages of preparation and will be published before the end of the summer.
The debate gave the MEPs present the chance to hear a wide range of views on the importance of copyright to creators and the importance of collective management in licensing those rights and collecting and distributing income on their behalf. Once the draft directive is published it will be debated and amended in the parliament and so it is important that MEPs from all parties understand the issues.
Much of what was said was unremarkable to anyone involved in the issues, and BASCA member Rupert Hine, speaking as a songwriter and on behalf of CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) made the authors’ point of view clear. However what struck us was the tone adopted by some of the representatives of the users of copyright works. We have become used over the past few years to hearing people say that copyright was a block to digital progress and that any measure to deal with internet piracy was an infringement of personal liberty (we paraphrase the arguments) but for the first time we noticed a hint of entitlement. There was talk of what consumers “required”. Whilst we believe that the music industry has taken and should take some blame for being slow to adapt to new models of distribution and consumption BASCA is concerned that certain parties believe that just because they want to use music they should be allowed to on whatever terms they wish: as we have said before and say again above music is central to the lives of many people, but it has a value and that value must be respected.