Labour's love affair with rock hits sour note

New Deal for musicians to end in autumn

In its early, heady days of popularity, New Labour shamelessly deployed the stars of Britpop to drive home the message that it had captured the spirit of the age. Tony Blair told Brit Awards guests that the UK music industry was "once again in its right place, at the top of the world". Blur's Damon Albarn met the future Prime Minister in his Commons office. The Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher was among the first visitors to Downing Street after Labour's 1997 landslide.

Then the Blair Government set up a special scheme aimed at nurturing the next generation of rock stars. But a decade later, Labour's love affair with pop is over. The so-called New Deal for Musicians – which gave talented youngsters on the dole access to instruments, recording studios, industry mentors and a topped-up basic allowance – will be scrapped in the autumn.

Since its launch in 1999 with the backing of Sir Paul McCartney, it has helped more than 4,000 unemployed youngsters get a foothold in the music industry as aspiring bands, instrumentalists, singers and songwriters. Those helped include James Morrison, nominated for Best Male Artist at last month's Brit Awards, the indie rock band the Zutons, the Welsh singer Jem, Toploader and the jazz saxophonist-rapper Soweto Kinch.

Morrison was given the cash for a guitar when he joined the New Deal for Musicians, and spent all his time writing songs and playing live. Two years later his debut album, Undiscovered, reached number one in Britain and was a massive hit around the world. He told The Independent he was awarded a record deal on the strength of a song he recorded while on the New Deal. "Going on the scheme helped me out a lot," he said yesterday. "I had no money; I was signing on. I got that bit extra to help me through. I got a new guitar. Without the help from the New Deal, I would have struggled to do what I was doing."

Jem – born Jemma Griffiths – said the scheme had taught her how to use a studio, cut demos, and opened the doors of record company executives. "I wanted to be an artist; I wanted to make an album," the 33-year-old said. "But I couldn't get a bank loan and I knew it wouldn't happen if I was working. It gave me help with housing and living expenses." Her debut album sold 300,000 copies in Britain and the US.

The initiative was drawn up after the music industry argued that forcing talented people onto general jobseeking schemes stifled their creativity. In return for the support, they were expected to spend at least 30 hours a week practising or learning new skills. But in October the overall New Deal is replaced by the Government's Flexible New Deal.

The former music industry mogul Alan McGee, one of the initiative's architects,said he was not surprised, given the "economic tsunami" facing the country. "I bump into young kids all the time who say they started their bands because of the New Deal for Musicians," he said. "I'm sure a lot of music has come through because of it. It's a very bad time to be in a band with the economic collapse and the record companies in crisis."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "If someone has a specific talent in music, their help and support would be geared to music. They will still get all the help they require."

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power