Huw D Jones examines a new report for the Higher Education Academy on how universities can support the live music industry in Wales.
The live music industry in Wales is currently worth about £60 million per year – about 4% of the UK total. Yet according to a report last year by Dr Paul Carr for the Welsh Music Foundation, Wales is hampered from taking a greater share of the UK’s live music industry, currently worth £1.5 billion, by a lack of specialist venues, slow ticket sales, poor relations between local authorities and promoters, and a shortage of skilled technicians and event managers.
In this latest report for the Higher Education Academy, Carr picks up on the issue of how the live music industry can work with higher education to overcome these challenges. Drawing on existing literature and the findings of an online questionnaire and stakeholder interviews, the report identifies several areas for Welsh universities to address.
One area is training. Research by Creative and Cultural Skills, a government advisory body, suggests that graduates are not leaving university with the skills the music industry needs. Many are entering the jobs market without relevant experience.
Carr calls on Welsh universities to investigate partnerships with industry to address this skills gap. He highlights the example of the University of Bolton, which has teamed up with The Backstage Academy, a rehearsal studio with strong industry links, to provide a 15 month foundation degree in Live Events Production. Carr also notes the demand amongst those surveyed for more part-time, distance learning and particularly ‘accelerated’ training courses, as well as strategic work placements with industry.
Another key area is the lack of hard data on the live music industry in Wales on which to base policy solutions. Carr calls for a comprehensive mapping document of the sector – similar to those already completed in other small nations, such as Scotland, New Zealand and Finland – as well as for more research into such issues as: why bands bypass Wales when touring; how transport to and from venues could be improved; and how Wales could benefit from the tourism potential of live music.
Implementing these recommendations will be tricky. As noted in the report, many within the music industry think that the professors in their ivory towers are simply too removed to understand the pressures facing musicians on the ground.
Yet Carr hopes to overcome this ‘knowledge resistance’ with a special seminar in Cardiff this October hosted in partnership with the Live Music Exchange, a music think tank, and the 2012 Sŵn Festival. This should provide the ideal opportunity for academics, musicians and promoters, to discuss how they can work together for the mutual benefit of the live music industry in Wales.