| 12°C Dublin

Playing to our strengths by tuning up the Irish music industry

Close

Paddy Moloney

Paddy Moloney

Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O'Connor

The Script

The Script

Hozier

Hozier

Bono

Bono

Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes

/

Paddy Moloney

Music occupies a special place in Ireland. It is at the core of society and is a crucial part of our national identity.

So inherent is music to our lives, to Ireland's international image, that at times the economic impact of the sector can be overlooked.

Why is that? Is it because the value of creative industries can, at times, be difficult to quantify? Is it because we view music as something that is carried out as a hobby - rather than as a viable career?

Or is it simply because we're so good at producing world-class music that it's something we take for granted?

These are the questions that we need to consider and respond to, if we are to continue to ensure that Ireland maintains its thriving music sector.

Ireland's music industry currently supports 11,500 jobs nationwide and is worth close to half a billion euro annually to the economy. Music is something Ireland does well, sitting at the nexus of both how we see ourselves, and how the world sees us.

It draws tens of thousands of visitors to our shores each year, and along with our poets and storytellers, is a unique component of Ireland's cultural heritage.

Like many other industries, the sector has been impacted upon in recent years - as a result not just from technological changes, and the impact of the economic downturn, but also by the lack of a clear and coherent strategy to support the sector.

At IMRO, we believe that now is the time to develop a real plan for Irish music, involving all stakeholders - be they government, industry representative bodies, musicians and songwriters themselves. This is crucial if we are to optimise the economic and social return of the sector.

Late last year, we consulted with artists and labels, publishers and songwriters, retail, broadcast personnel and management companies, asking them about their priorities for, and concerns in relation to, music in Ireland.

The resulting report, The Socio-Economic Impact of Ireland's Music Industry, which was carried out by Deloitte, demonstrates the potential for Irish music and highlights a number of recommendations in relation to finance, market access, intellectual property, training and collaboration.

The report recommends the establishment of a joint government-music industry taskforce, with representatives from government, business and the industry, which would reinvigorate the music sector and encourage new collaborations to maximise the sector's contribution to the economy.

We are suggesting appointing a focused group, for a short period of time, to provide direction, strategic thought and leadership. This guidance will be crucial to direct the sector and help ensure the report's recommendations are implemented.

While the overall value of recorded music sales in Ireland were impacted by structural industry changes and the downturn, we are beginning to see signs of improvement. In 2008 overall sales stood at €72m, falling to €33m in 2012 - but last year, overall figures improved to €42.5m. Some of this can be attributed to rising digital sales. And we can continue on this upward trajectory.

Given the increase in popularity of streaming and digital music services, it will be important to examine intellectual property (IP) legislation and ensure that the current regime is fit for purpose, in this quickly changing sector.

Therefore, we would urgently recommend the appointment of an 'IP Tsar', to consider the impact of intellectual property and copyright legislation - and enforcement - in both the music and technology industries.

Like any other industry, music needs R&D. And we need to make a career in music attractive as an actual job, rather than something that people do in their spare time. We'd like to see the development of more advanced training courses for professionals to focus on 'business of music' education - particularly early career musicians.

To co-ordinate all of this, the establishment of a music office - Music Ireland - would provide a focal point for the music industry, similar to the role played by the Irish Film Board. This office would provide assistance to individuals in the music sector and those looking to enter new overseas markets and encourage greater collaboration between the music, tourism, gaming and technology sectors. It would also ensure greater support for musicians, many of whom are self-employed, in accessing finance and ensuring that fiscal supports are effective and appropriately structured.

These kinds of supports and initiatives are already in place in such countries as Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Sweden, and the knock-on social and economic dividend has been significant there. Given our musical heritage, ability, and our cultural and musical DNA, Ireland's opportunity is arguably greater than these nations.

By examining issues such as IP and finance, and by planning initiatives for training and cross-sectoral collaboration, we can help our artists and songwriters grow and develop and tap into new export markets - all of which will maximise the potential of the sector.

We now have an opportunity to position Ireland as the world's leading location to create music. By investing in our music, we're investing in our economic future.

Victor Finn is chief executive of the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO)

Sunday Indo Business