This last weekend wasn’t terribly nice in UK music land. It got a bit messy, what with the sour exchange between critics and their supporters on the one side, and composer Mark Anthony Turnage and performers on the other.
Some of us piled in, each supporting our preferred tribe. For clarity’s sake, I was on the side of the angels: the composers and the performers.
They gets a story in The Sun – ‘Opera gets percentage wise more money than pop music’. It all gets heated. There’s a ‘Talking Point’ on Sky News and everything: KT Tunstall vs a Sony-signed violinist. The Arts Council is apparently ‘too posh for pop’.
I waded into the discussion on Twitter. Asked the protagonist how many applicants there had been to the Arts Council for pop music venues. They respond by saying that data is something the Arts Council should reveal not them. Which then begs the question, why wasn’t that in the original (inflammatory) story?
Then I start thinking: this all has a whiff of populism about it.
I ignored it all for today, until a former colleague of mine got in contact.
Then I notice the chap behind the campaign has tweeted me a link to the letter he’s sent Darren Henley at Arts Council England asking for an open conversation about it.
From a PR perspective I’m struck a bit dumb. Why didn’t you send the letter to the Arts Council first, then get The Sun to link to it? If you’d done that you’d have looked a little less shouty about it all.
Don’t the recording companies play a part in all of this too? They’re the ones who rake in the money. Why is it all down to the Arts Council?
Why are you pitting one musical genre against a couple of others and promoting the idea there’s animosity between them and you? That's bollocks.
And also, if you want my help promoting your cause don’t just tweet me a link to a PDF. That’s just really rude. That’s like turning up at my front door in your underpants and asking me if I’ve got the time.
Here’s the thing. The narrative that Music Venues Trust and UK Music is putting out is playing on the idea that opera sneers at pop music. It’s taking the Cleese/Barker/Corbett sketch and extrapolating it to fuel a political agenda. Fuck you.
I’m don’t write to defend the Arts Council. Darren Henley can do that.
What I know is that there are endless musicians in the classical and operatic world who seek to inspire, educate and mentor new talent in spite of dwindling state funding for music education. There are pop music-making contemporaries of mine who inspire kids they teach today too. Attend any Music Expo hosted by Rhinegold Publishing and you’ll know that music education is much wider than opera or classical music. It strives to be inclusive even though the music education budget has been starved.
Turning on a section of the music industry in order to benefit your own cause doesn’t put you in an especially good light.
And if you want my support, you need to do a lot more than just send me a link to a PDF. I’ll be wanting a three course meal, with cocktails and a movie, darling.
We’re all on the same side for fucks sake. Play nicely.
UPDATE 11 April 2018: Telegraph Pop Critic James Hall wrote this piece pretty much saying a similar point (just without the swear words).
The Thoroughly Good Blog is an independent blog celebrating classical music and the arts. Please consider supporting its development in 2018 by giving a donation using this PayPal.Me link. Tar.