How This Government Will Stop the Music

Last Sunday night’s bland middle aged love in at the Olympics closing ceremony painted a bleak future for the British music industry under this Government.

Despite a brief appearance by Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz, along with stage school kid Jessie J (whose claims that it’s not about the money are looking increasingly dubious), the vast array of music on offer was performed by middle aged, verging on geriatric, or in some cases dead relics from the past.

British music, which led the world from sixties boy bands, to punk, ska, the rave explosion, Brit Pop and the final emergence of a credible UK hip hop scene has started to look like it might finally have run out of ideas.  One of the reasons for this may yet prove to be the draconian welfare regime for the young, which began under last Government and has been escalated by the current one.

When Tony Blair’s New Deal was launched – the first large scale workfare scheme – the music industry rose up in protest.  Ably led by now defunct Creation Records, the label which could count Brit Pops giants like Oasis and Primal Scream on their books, the industry warned of the chilling effect on British creativity if young people were to be forced into endless workfare style schemes.

Blair had made much of ‘Cool Britannia’ and Brit Pop, famously inviting the Noel Gallagher to Number Ten shortly after his election win.  Fearing his fake trendy image was under threat he hastily made concessions to his workfare plans and the ‘New Deal for Musicians’ was born.  This scheme allowed young musicians to pursue a career in the music industry without the risk of being sent to work in a charity shop for no pay, or forced onto the notorious Environmental Task Force to dredge canals and pick up litter.

The rest of the New Deal collapsed as private sector parasites like A4e failed to find enough workfare placements for the hundreds of thousands of young people referred to the scheme.  The New Deal for Musicians however did have some limited success with Brit award winning James Morrison and Mercury Prize nominees The Zutons just two examples of well known artists who emerged from the scheme.

Despite this the New Deal for Musicians was merged with the Flexible New Deal in 2009, and the Tories have now abandoned support for young musicians completely under the Work Programme.  Instead young benefit claimants are forced onto endless workfare schemes, working 30 hours a week in charity shops and supermarkets.  The impact on the ability of young, working class people to devote time to a career in music or the other creative industries will be unprecedented.

The list of musicians who cut their teeth whilst claiming benefits is impressive, including not just punk, hip hop, rave or rock icons, but even the likes of Tom Jones who was notorious for actively avoiding work according to his Jobcentre records.

It is somewhat ironic, that one of David Cameron’s pretend favourite bands, The Smiths, would very likely have never happened had Morrissey and Johnny Marr been sent to work in Tesco for no pay instead of pursuing a career in music.

Big British artists, whether Dizzee Rascal or the Rolling Stones, do not emerge in a vacuum.  For every successful act there are many who don’t achieve the same level of fame, although many may end up working in other roles in the music industry.

There also exists an army of promoters, venue managers, DJs, small time band managers, fanzine writers and producers, all of whom have allowed the British music industry to prosper and many of whom have cut their teeth whilst claiming benefits.  Without this wider support the more successful acts would never emerge.  It took more than The Beatles to make The Beatles.

The festival industry, worth hundreds of millions and which draws visitors to the UK from around the world, emerged from a free festival scene in which many people were claiming benefits.  Had this meagre financial support not been available then events such as Glastonbury Festival may never have been born.

Music is not the only art-form which has benefited from the Welfare State.  Both Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst spent time on benefits.  Elsewhere a struggling single mum on benefits was quietly creating the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter.  Under this Government’s plans for single parents, JK Rowling would have been on workfare rather than creating some of the most successful characters in children’s literature in history.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent £7 billion in 2010/11, significantly more than the entire budget for Job Seeker’s Allowance which stood at £4.5 billion.  Barely any of this money, if any at all, goes to grass roots working class musicians, one of the greatest sources of this country’s cultural heritage.  Toff’s hobbies like the National Opera, or Oxbridge luvvies at the BBC, hoover up the bulk of the money.  The benefits system, which some have dubbed the unofficial arts council, has delivered far more in both economic and artistic success then other state funded institutions could ever dream of.

It shows just how far propaganda aimed at eroding the welfare state has come that less than 15 years it was successfully argued that young, creative people deserve the support of the benefits system.  Now we are fighting for people with serious disabilities or health conditions to receive the life saving support they need under what’s left of the Wefare State.

But we should not ignore the devastating effect on culture that the demolition of the Welfare State will bring.  Some of the greatest British exports of the last 50 years started out as benefit scrounging scum.  With young people to be forced into endless workfare if they are unable to find a job then a career in the music or other creative industries will become a preserve of only the rich.  If you want a vision of the future of the British music industry imagine a posh kid singing Coldplay songs, forever.

23 responses to “How This Government Will Stop the Music

  1. Fantastic article Johnny, I’m going to share this to various news groups of mine.

  2. Nice one Johnny. Also a few athletes must have trained on the dole in the old days, actors, acrobats, aerialists, all the precarious professions that make for a vibrant (is that the word?) culture.

  3. Reblogged this on AMP and commented:
    Very wise words from The Void…

  4. Heyyyyyyyyy Hang on a minute, the likes of A4E have not failed at all at all. There is showing to be a mini boom in the UNDERTAKING INDUSTRY with more disabled unable to take anymore on a daily basis thanks to the Tories and A4E. New Funeral Directors must be setting up all over the UK – plenty of workfare programs to be had here in this market, bit reminiscent of Oliver Twist too in victorian england.

    • Unfortunately those who have breathed their last due to various “welfare” oppression are unlikely to have left anything behind for anything other than a person sized cardboard box and a box of matches.

  5. Just Love to see David Cameron being filmed on BBC Parliament and news saying of those reliant on Welfare Benefits “”LET THEM EAT CAKE””. We all I think know what happened to the French female who recited those same words “WHILE” she was alive.

  6. It’s not just the unemployment issue here, but also the self-employed which covers a huge amount of people in the creative and entertainment industries. I’ve mentioned this before in response to a different article, but as someone who works in the creative industries, I have immediate concerns from my field. This is an area where long development times with low income can be quite commonplace and yet are essential not only for smaller more artistic endeavours but also in the development of new technologies and techniques which serve to benefit the industry as a whole. This doesn’t effect just potential ‘pop stars’ etc, but the whole industry that supports music, TV and cinema, gaming and the arts in general. This is actually a very important time to find ways to fuel technological and creative innovation – particularly considering we are no longer a manufacturing country. However, short sighted actions do nothing to support future growth. But I suspect they know that and don’t care, there is likely a far more sinister social agenda that has nothing to do with budget cuts at all.

  7. The band UB40 was named after ‘Unemployment Benefit form 40’. Their first album was titled Signing Off, as the band were signing off from, or ending, their claim for unemployment benefit.

  8. Back in teh day I tried to get on to teh ND for musicians. It was vastly oversubscribed – that is, it was underresourced. I don’t know how that happens, actually. It makes no sense. Demand is there, supply – notsomuch.
    Anyway, the first 6 months of the course is spent doing everything they can to get you any job. It’s only if you surive that you get to anything remotely related to music.
    Now of course if you say to your provider that you are interested in music/creative arts be prepared to be disappointed. Though quite honestly whatever you say they ignore anyway.

  9. The difference between then and now is, while the early eighties inspired the likes of UB40. Nowadays they’d have to beg the Dragons in the Den.

  10. If the Cameron cunt fucks off and dies the Smiths will reform. Deal!

    • Are you the REAL Johhny Marr or is this a joke?It would be so brilliant if it really was.

      If you are, can you please get the message out that this government is leaving the unemployed with no money under sanctions for 6 months for made up transgressions.

      It is terrorising and driving the sick and disabled to their deaths with a fake medical.

      I just got the date for mine. If found fit for work, I will die. I am too ill to work, will never recover. I wil not be able to comply with work seeking activity. I will lose the roof over my head and money for food. I have no place else to go. I am one of thousands.

      Perhapas the Smiths should reform to tell the world what is happening.

  11. The Dragons love the publicity of supporting young art and disabled people.This is the world

  12. Preda’tory’ is the word – reminiscent of the real life manhunts with hounds and all back in the middle ages by the likes of cameron and his aristocratic cohorts, cronies, whatever they are? Is this what banning foxhunting did, they privately salavated together and have reformed all as “disabled hunting” – it is just a game to them.

  13. Actually, a lot of the work programme is not forcing people into work experience schemes, because there just isn’t enough to go round. A lot of people on these schemes are being left to their own devices and being seen by the provider about once a month. Not really being given any help. Which is a pro and a con. If you just want to get on with promoting your music, then thats the freedom you want, but if you do genuinely need help in finding work then the scheme is failing you.

    Most musicians are better off working in a bar part time (if they can get it), its less hassle than claiming JSA.

  14. Avenging _Angel

    Part of the weekend’s:- going to die

  15. Pingback: 2012: A Year of Lies and Blunders at the DWP Part 2 | the void

  16. Pingback: From austerity to fairyland | Rosanne Rabinowitz

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