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This week saw the Arctic Monkeys selling out their 2018 tour with tickets of up to £80 in a matter of minutes.

Why are a band that had such a unique grassroots uprising charging so much for tickets when they know what a financial mess our economy is right now and how little most of us have in our pockets to go and see established music? In my opinion, £80 is excessive and elitist, allowing only a certain sector of society to attend.

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A recent chat round the NE crew showed that £30-£40 is the most people would pay for tickets due to other commitments and on further investigation, while many have bought tickets, the excessive prices for big events is becoming a real issue. These inflated prices exclude huge numbers of the fans who over the years have spent money on supporting the band through their early careers. While venue hire and costs for putting on a tour of this size must be immense, it surely doesn’t warrant these ticket charges. And that’s where subsidies and grants can be of assistance.

This news comes when The Arts Council just have released details of how they intend to support the growth and development of the arts in the UK. This money comes from lottery funding and UK taxes. Some of these grants are as follows:

  • Music Education Hubs will receive £150 million to support pupils to explore music and give them the opportunity to excel, regardless of their background. (There are 120 Music Education Hubs around the country which helped over 660,000 young people to play a musical instrument in 2015/16).
  • National Youth Music Organisations (NYMOs) will receive £838,820 to provide pathways for talented young musicians to develop across a range of musical genres.
  • Music for Youth (one of the NYMOs) will receive £210,000 from DfE to provide high quality inspirational music experiences to young people across England through performance opportunities, participatory workshops and musical collaborations.

Now this all looks very impressive. The hearty figures suggest that Arts Council spending will support new music and increase the opportunities for young people accessing music across the country. Looking at this, all young people should therefore be able to access all musical genres as participants and audience members.

Unfortunately, this is not exactly the case. Music funding is currently being divvied out to various music forms cross the UK and has chosen to give 220m over the next 5 years for opera subsidies while only 25m will be spent on popular new music, showcasing new music and supporting small venues.

The Arts Council is lavishing eight times more on opera than it is on popular music which in itself seems incredibly elitist. Their main focus in terms of music should be to broaden all the musical experiences of the young. However, they seem to be too posh for pop if these figures are anything to go by. Public funds should be used to broaden art experiences for all and make every aspect of our arts culture more inclusive. In The Arts Council, only one out of the sixteen members has a background in pop while the rest are academics and representatives from museums and orchestras.
The Arts Council have made claims that pop/rock has an easier access to mainstream through television, film and internet yet these media and programmes like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent should surely not be seen as the only way of bringing music to the masses?! A recent poll by Classic FM no less discovered that their audience showed that 2/3 had no interest in opera as they felt it was too highbrow, too long and too expensive. Opera is not what the majority of people want yet it is receiving huge grants that come from public money. It would seem the Arts Council have again subsidised music to suit their interests and not taken on board the needs of the music industry at a more grass roots level. This is where it becomes a real problem. For good music to continue, there needs to be the constant support and encouragement for new music but also the provision of places and opportunities for this new music to thrive. We already have across our cities and towns, venues closing left, right and centre as they can’t afford to pay high rents and charges. Bands are struggling to find venues to perform in and it is down to a small but dedicated scene of individuals and companies such as Northern Exposure, to put on events where bands can play, earn a little and promote their sound to paying crowds who in turn see their favourite bands and a few new ones to love too. This scene is not an easy one for anyone to be a part of. There is no money, no grants, very few subsidies and most bands are finding this industry tough to stay a part of.

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Example, singer, songwriter and music producer as a guest on The Wright Stuff earlier this week commented…

‘What’s interesting to me is that pop encompasses all types of music from rock to indie to alt. Some music is overexposed and yes people do get to hear it. But the over-exposed pop is not what the majority of people are listening to’

The most brilliant part of being within the music industry is the constant thread of new music, new sounds, diversity of musicians and genres. However, music that falls in to this ‘popular’ category is being subsidised much less than opera.

‘There’s no young people I know who want to see opera,’ Example said, ‘certainly not eight times the amount who want to see pop. This decision is representative of the board and not the country. There should be investment and support of young new music. Unsigned bands as well – there needs to be more support for them. Lap top musicians, bedroom producers, now there are lots of them – real whizz kids on computers but the art of playing the piano or the guitar, we’re at the risk of losing that – the history of the UK and rock n roll is so important.’

Music is vitally important for a whole host of reasons – creativity and self-expression are vital to support good mental health, not just playing instruments but listening to and appreciating good music – so surely all forms of music should be made more accessible?

With The Arctic Monkeys charging up to £80 a ticket for people to come and see them in huge venues, while many venues are closing down as they require more funding just to stay afloat, this most recent decision by The Arts Council makes no sense. Surely, subsidising all musical events would be a way to inspire a new generation, improve the life experiences of all current music lovers and generally make musical experiences more accessible for all.

KATE O’BRIEN

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