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Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 53 - 59)

THURSDAY 20 MAY 1999

MR CHRIS GREEN AND MS SARAH RODGERS

Chairman

  53. Mr Green, Ms Rodgers, thank you very much indeed for coming to see us this morning. You are the final witnesses in this brief but, I think, very important inquiry. Whichever of you would care to make a brief opening statement we will be delighted to hear?

  (Ms Rodgers) Thank you; that is going to be me, partly to test whether the voice is going to hold out. You will be aware, from our written submission, that we have a different point of view from the Classical Music Alliance, but we are not here to be at odds with anybody about this whole issue, because we believe that the issue of the Classical Music Subsidy is symptomatic of something much deeper, a much deeper malady, and we have the same concerns for classical music and, indeed, for other genres of music that are just suffering from lack of support. And we are really looking for ways to make up the deficit that is going to be caused by the removal of this Subsidy, and looking for ways whereby classical composers can rightfully earn a living out of what they do.

Mr Fearn

  54. Good morning. Straight in, really. Do you believe that the Arts Council for England should direct more of its existing budget towards composition, as opposed to performance?
  (Ms Rodgers) As opposed to performance. This is a problem that we go round and round in circles about, and have done for many years now, and I know Chris will amplify a little bit on this. But, basically, there is a limited pot of money and there are many, many demands upon that money. You will also have seen, from the figures that we submitted for the latest round of applications for music commissions, that there were something like 90 applications, adding up to £360,000 worth of funding, and the Arts Council had £35,000 available. That does not amount to many composers' incomes for a year's worth of funding.
  (Mr Green) I think I would like to add to that. I entirely agree with Sarah Rodgers that many arts organisations are put into an invidious position because they are competing against each other for the same pot, and I do not think that there are any areas of music which want to do others down. The question is, is the pot big enough, or is there a way of making the existing pot go further. And I think there is a very important element here, which relates to the National Lottery, which I am sure we all know really began its life primarily funding capital projects and which is steadily changing direction, so that there is more and more support going into less capital-based projects, into educational programmes, into development programmes, into providing serious income for various organisations. Now I think there are many of us in the music world who welcome this change of direction and, while we can understand why, in the first place, this was not the direction which was chosen for the National Lottery, and there have been some great capital projects, by and large, there are all kinds of organisations throughout the country in the arts world which are in serious financial trouble, whether we are talking about theatre or whether we are talking about music. And if, through the Arts Council and through the National Lottery, much more substantial funding can be made available, in the form of direct funding, in support of activity and of product, rather than just in terms of buildings and capital, it could and should make a very significant difference. And, when we are talking about those applications for commissioning money, we are talking about a tiny amount of money, £35,000 to be available for commissioning is ridiculous, but we also know that the pressure the Arts Council is under from other sources is phenomenal. It is a terrible choice, do we provide more money for commissioning or do we actually close an orchestra down; these are real decisions, made in a very tough world. I think our position is very clear, that we believe that more should be made of the existing resources, where it possibly can be, and we want this to be done in musical terms on as broadly-based a cross-genre basis as can be achieved.

  55. Would you say then that, because so many applications are turned down, we are missing the composers and songwriters, the youth of the nation, as it were, who want to come from university, who want to come from schooling; are we missing out on that, is the grass-roots not getting their true share?
  (Ms Rodgers) I think that has to be so, but that is a part of the problem. There are so many people who are fighting or competing for so few funding resources that that is always going to be a problem. And I think, possibly, that we are not taking into account the fact that, okay, 30 or 40 years ago the number of composers and potential composers, compared with now, was much, much smaller, there are many, many more people there who are wanting to earn their living in the arts in this way and the ability for them to do that has not moved with the numbers that have increased.

  56. So, really, looking back to the past, those dead composers, I should not use the phrase again but the dead composers, the subsidies are still going around there to actually invite audiences to come and listen to their music, but the young composers are left out in the cold?
  (Ms Rodgers) There is not enough provision for young composers today, no.

  57. What about education, does your society do anything for education at all in schools?
  (Mr Green) We are involved with education on two levels. You will perhaps appreciate from our submission that we are three guilds which have recently come together into a new Academy, and therefore many things we are doing are quite new, or are being stretched across a much broader arena than the original guilds used to dwell in. But we have actually recently established an Education Working Party and we are working on two fronts. The first one is to establish what support we can give to young writers, whether they be songwriters or composers, whatever area of music they come from, in school and in that very important period immediately beyond school, when many of them, in fact, do not go through formal musical college education, develop their skills elsewhere, and they can be very isolated and they obviously need support. We already run a number of workshops on a very regular basis for songwriters; we are looking very carefully at what we can do for composition. But, equally, of course, we have a very serious interest in what is happening generally within schools, because a great deal of the problem which we face, particularly in relation to classical music, is that its audience needs to be developed further. Part of the reason why pop is so successful is because it has an audience, and it is able to survive economically and to thrive economically from its own commercial success. We are talking, when we talk about classical music, about a whole range of things, but, by and large, we are talking about an area of music which finds it much more difficult to survive without support of one kind or another; and, therefore, the development of audiences for tomorrow is a very important part of the programme, and from within our limited resources we certainly hope to do something to support that.

  Mr Fearn: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman.

Chairman

  58. Could I just follow up, before calling Mr Faber. We have been talking a lot, and there has been an argument about it this morning, about whether composers are dead or alive, just because they have expired. The Dead Poets Society, the film, the poems are there, anybody can read them, and that is the way you derive pleasure from poetry, by reading it, or it is very pleasurable to hear it recited as well. Plays, they are best performed, of course, that is what they are written for, but you can derive huge pleasure from reading plays, and, indeed, that is how I became an addict of the plays of Bernard Shaw. But, although the scores and musical competitions preserve them, they are not really alive until they are performed, in one form or another. And this is a question I would like to put to you. That, I think, is the dilemma one faces. In any kind of logic whatsoever, the internal PRS Subsidy is anomalous and unjustified, and there is no doubt about that; on the other hand, any kind of subsidy from the Arts Council or anywhere else is not going to provide an impulsion for performance in a way that the PRS internal subsidy has done. So the question really arises, is what is an undoubted anomaly justified by the benefit that it provides?
  (Ms Rodgers) I think it is true to say that we are of the view that, by virtue of the fact that that subsidy depends on taking earnings from other composers, in order to give it to classical composers, then, you are right, it is not justifiable; but that still leaves us with a gap. And there are a number of threads, if I might, that I would like to draw together out of both your first questions. A question that you put to the other two groups has been about how to define classical music[6], now, to a large extent, these days, I believe that classical music is defined by its audiences, those people who select, who choose, who specifically want to go to hear that kind of music, not because it is being pushed at them but because they choose specifically to go to that kind of music. In that context, if you were to pursue the argument about raising tariffs, which we are very keen so to do, then the result of raising tariffs just small percentage points would probably result in putting something like 20 pence[7] on the cost of a ticket, which is not going to be of any concern to classical concert-goers.

  59. But I will ask you a question about an answer you have just given. I heard on the radio the other day Dawn Upshaw, an opera star, singing popular songs, I would actually have paid not to hear it because she just does not know how to sing that kind of song; but, nevertheless, she was about to give a recital of such songs at the Wigmore Hall. And the people who go to the Wigmore Hall will be the kind of people who go to listen to Judith Weir, who listen to Britten and Tippett and Vaughan Williams, yet they would have gone to Dawn Upshaw, slumming it a bit, because it was this lady who was going to grace these songs with a kind of classical patina. So what is that?
  (Ms Rodgers) Inevitably, in all genres, there is, if you like, a core of the genre which you can define quite clearly, and then as you get to the perimeters there is bound to be lots of cross-over; more and more with composers today we have feet in several disciplines, media writers write concert music, concert writers write jazz, there are going to be fringes and the edges are going to be blurred. But, to come back again to the definition of classical music, and something that you were saying, Chairman, about the fact that you can read a play, the poems you can hear. The skill of a classical writer is such that a classical writer can look at a score and can hear it; now that is something, I do not say that that is not true of other writers, but that is quite particular to classical writers, that there is a depth of skill and training that reflects in the complexity of the music and the way in which they are able to handle those materials.


6   Note by witness: In the context of this inquiry "classical music" is defined by the PRS licensing tariff LC (live classical). Back

7   Note by witness: This is supposing that a 2 per cent increase in the tariff would add 20p to the price of a £10 ticket. Back


 
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