In the hip and happening House of Commons this week (some) MPs are trying to outlaw ‘Call of Duty 3’ and others want to compel all school kids in Yorkshire to learn Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at.
I’ve never played a video game, but I did buy Call of Duty 2 for someone last Christmas, and as yet he’s shown no obvious signs of turning into a crazed gun-toting knife-wielding maniac. He may just be very good at hiding it. Tom Watson has now tabled a pro-COD amendment, which I’ve just signed. The Murdochs of course might argue that obsessive gaming has unleashed the beast in him.
On Tuesday this week in Westminster Hall (the mini-Chamber) we had a predictably dead and dull and depressing debate on “the Music Industry and the Economy”Â. It may as well have been about the wing-nut industry were it not for the fact that there’s not billions of ÃÂ£ÃÂ£ÃÂ£ÃÂ£s to be made out of wing-nut exports and so it’s difficult for Tory MPs to get quite so excited about it.
It was a 30 minute debate, which basically means the MP who asked for the debate gets 15 minutes to speak and the Minister gets 15 minutes to respond. Other MPs either have to rely on the generosity of the backbench MP to give them a couple of minutes, or they can do very brief interventions. The MP who asked for the debate was Nigel Adams, the newish Tory MP for Selby. I’m not sure why he did and was none the wiser after hearing his speech. You would think someone who actually liked music might go a little further than just mentioning the O2 and Selby fake festival (the world’s best tribute acts, apparently) and his teenage son’s band and lots of big numbers after pound signs. Actually I do him a disservice… he mentions Amy Winehouse, Coldplay and Susan Boyle. But without comment.
Some current issues affecting bands and artists were mentioned, eg quite a few MPs welcomed Lord Clement-Jones’ Live Music Bill. But to hear MPs talk you’d think that it was all a huge success story, simply because Adele is shifting lots of units. I think she accounts for about 10% of UK exports? Something like that. If Adele were to fall under a bus tomorrow… well, she’d probably sell a shedload more records in the short-term, but then they’d be screwed. No acknowledgement that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for anyone but the most successful artists and record labels to make a living out of music. That unless you’re big enough to make money on tours and merchandise, you’re going to struggle. Indeed virtually no mention of the piracy debate and the impact illegal downloading is having, or the effect of the cuts on rehearsal spaces, music in schools, venues going out of business because people have no money to spend.
Have a read of this for classic examples of:
– MPs making meaningless interventions just so they can up their score on www.theyworkforyou.com ”â a site which records how many times MPs speak and ask Qs in Parliament – e.g. the MP whose only contribution was to ask Nigel Adams what the name of his son’s band is ”â it’s Summer City, they describe themselves on MySpace as “Happy Hardcore/ Pop Punk/ Trance, and they’ve got a grant from the local Tory council to make a video, which is nice.
– In the same vein, MPs making brief interventions right at the start, and then leaving without listening to the rest of the debate ”â e.g. Tory MP Louise Mensch, newly married to the manager of Metallica, bit of a rock chick, paying tribute to Feargal Sharkey, who has just resigned as CEO of UK Music. Her Tory colleague replied that Feargal’s contribution to music was indeed immense: “It is rare to switch the telly on and not hear one of his pieces of music being played in an advertisement.”Â Not “great band, the Undertones” or “as the late great John Peel said, Teenage Kicks is the best pop song ever”Â just “used in lots of ads”. What a legacy.
– MPs mentioning local bands, local festivals, etc, just so they can get in their local paper (“young performers such as Zorzilla, Magnets and Daniel Addison in Folkestone in my constituency”Â said another Tory MP)
– MPs reciting long lists of bands they never listen to ”â if you ever fall into casual conversation with the Tory MP for the Wirral Esther McVey, try to get her into a discussion of the relative virtues of Crocodiles and Heaven up Here without telling her which band you’re talking about… See if she knows.
– MPs showing they are passionate about music and think that creativity and a bit of spark, a bit of an edge, a bit of attitude, something that makes people feel something that inspires some people to pick up a guitar or to get political or write fanzines and blogs or just go to gigs or listen to really loud music in the dark, or do all of those things, is more important than how much money it makes, and that perhaps there’s something we could and should be doing to foster and support this? Actually, forget that. Adele sells loads of records. All is well in the world.