Prejudice 'risking the future' of grime music, say MPs

Discrimination and prejudice is jeopardising the success of grime and hip hop music, according to a warning from MPs, music venues and artists.

A report by the Commons media select committee says despite grime being one of the "UK's most exciting musical exports", venue owners and councils are failing to support urban music, with venues demonstrating "unfounded concerns" over licensing.

Rapper ShaoDow told Sky News: "A few years ago I was doing a club tour around the country and on the day I was due to arrive at one of the clubs I phoned up the venue beforehand to check everything was in order and the venue said, 'oh, I've just realised you make hip hop. We can't do that here because we will lose our licence'."

"It's very unfair, because it means that the music I love, that I make, and that others love and enjoy listening to, is being forced into circumstances it doesn't need to. It should be celebrated and thrive."

ShaoDow says he actually steers clear of expletives and explicit themes that some associate with grime music but still he gets "tarred with same brush".

He added: "If a promoter or venue hears hip hop, grime or urban they instantly assume that drugs or violence at their venue, then it's gonna result in cancelled bookings and no place to perform."

The report is the result of an inquiry by the group of MPs into the future of the UK's live music industry.

It calls on the government to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on risk management to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted.

In previous years, many industry figures raised concerns about the Metropolitan Police's controversial risk assessments (Form 696), claiming that acts and audiences of certain genres were being unfairly targeted.

In 2017, the London force abolished the form - which required venues to detail the type of music that would be played and the ethnicity of the clientele.

But the head of music at London's Roundhouse, Jane Beese, told the inquiry that prejudice against urban music persists.

"There is still an amount of what I believe to be institutionalised racism, which is hindering that scene rather than allowing it to flourish," she said.

Ms Beese told Sky News that music venues are at a "crisis point".

She said: "The closure of so many venues over the last 10 to 20 years, not just in London but across the country, has basically meant we're taking away the source, the lifeblood of the creative industries, it's where they start off, it's where people hone their craft."

The MPs' committee made a number of recommendations, including advising the public "not to buy or sell tickets" through the ticket website Viagogo, and trying to stop the closure of more music venues.

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher welcomed the report as a "landmark" and a "wake-up call" towards protecting the live music industry.

He told Sky News: "I think they're right to say to fans boycott Viagogo, but they're also saying we need more action from government to review the legislation that impacts on Viagogo.

"The CMA really needs to take tough action against these companies".

Viagogo has been attacked for some of its business methods, including alleged breaches of consumer law.

He said UK music particularly welcomed the recommendation that a new taskforce is needed to help and support emerging talent

"We urgently need help to nurture the music industry's talent pipeline if we are to continue producing world-leading superstars like Adele and Ed Sheeran," said Mr Dugher.

"With the decline of music in education in particular, there is a real danger that having the chance of a successful career in music means that you have to have access to the 'Bank of Mum and Dad'. We are, in effect drawing water from a well that's getting smaller and smaller."

The MPs' committee said the government needs to play a greater role in supporting and incentivising the industry to support the grassroots music scene.

Damian Collins, head of the committee, said: "At the headline level music scene looks strong. Big international stars, people like Ed Sheeran who go all around the world and people want to see them.

"Our concern though is the talent pipeline. It's how hard is it for new acts to break through.

"Declining level of performance space, declining level of rehearsal space, concerns about not enough young people taking up music in school as well, then that means the talent pipeline is much more restricted."

Viagogo said in a statement: "We are disappointed that the DCMS have singled us out particularly, when hundreds of thousands of British citizens use our service to buy and sell tickets to their favorite live events every day and never experience any problems.

"We provide an invaluable service to UK consumers by giving them access to events in the UK and all over the world.

"For those transactions that fall into the 1% annually where customers do have an issue, the overwhelming majority of cases are due to the unfair and potentially illegal restrictions the event organizers pose simply because customers have chosen to purchase tickets from a competitor of theirs.

"We have been complying and will absolutely continue to work constructively with the CMA to make further amends where necessary, all the while putting all of the buyers and sellers who use the platform first."