Rock 'n' roll becomes respectable

Young people urged to join music business as career with prospects
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The Music Biz - for years regarded by sensible parents as a dangerous hotbed of rebellion and job insecurity - is now being eagerly promoted by the Government as a career with prospects.

The Department for Education and Employment has funded an important study, launched today, aimed at helping young people to move into an industry which is now one of Britain's biggest export earners.

The managers of artists from Blur to Simply Red and Gary Glitter have contributed to research aimed at helping the British music industry to be better qualified and more business-minded than its competitors.

New music business qualifications are being drawn up so that young people can follow an industry-approved career path. It is a huge turnaround for an industry which has traditionally recruited on an "it's not what you know, but who you know" basis.

The change has been brought about by the IMF, a London-based organisation which represents the management teams of most of the biggest names in British pop music.

James Fisher, general secretary of the IMF - which commissioned the new study along with the DfEE - said youngsters often joined the music industry on a whim.

"They are coming along saying, 'Isn't this groovy man, my kid brother plays in a band.' They are doing it simply from a love of music," he said. "Somebody has got to put some professionalism into it."

The study, Lifetime Learning within the UK Music Industry, canvassed the views of 120 of Britain's leading music managers, responsible for the careers of most of the big names in British pop.

The authors, based at the Policy Research Institute at Leeds Metropolitan University, found that 59 per cent of the managers admitted to having no relevant qualifications.

Liam Murphy, head of the research team, said: "If we are to remain competitive in what is now one of our great industrial strengths then we must make sure we have the necessary training and education programmes."

The UK music industry is now valued at pounds 2.5bn and employs 115,000 people full-time.

According to the report, British popular music is now in its third golden period, with Oasis helping to inspire a position of strength in the global market to compare with previous high points led by the Beatles in the 1960s and Culture Club in the early 1980s.

But there are ominous signs which threaten the 20 per cent share of world record sales at present enjoyed by British acts.

The record-buying boom of the early 1990s which was inspired by the arrival of the CD format is now over. The research team found that the growing markets for record sales were in developing countries where English is not the dominant language. Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan are now in the top 15 most valuable pop markets.

Although the British music industry's sophisticated marketing machine has enabled it to boost sales in emerging markets such as Brazil and Indonesia, the report states that the rise of recorded indigenous music in such countries is likely to force down Britain's global market share.

The report debunks a succession of predictions that have been made about the global future of pop music.

The idea of an MTV-inspired homogenisation of world pop has been proved wrong as the station has been forced to splinter its coverage to cover tastes in rock, rap, pop and dance.

Similarly the death of vinyl has not come about. "By early 1995," the researchers noted, "it was clear that the black vinyl LP and 12-inch was alive and well and staging a recovery."

The UK domestic expenditure on records stands at pounds 1.7bn, which is nearly 7 per cent of the world market.