New approaches to marketing UK creativity internationally – presentation for the Westminster Media Forum

Earlier this week, I took part in a panel at Westminster Media Forum’s ‘The UK Creative Industries in the International Market’ seminar, chaired by Mike Weatherley MP. The panel focused on exploring new approaches to marketing UK creativity internationally, and my fellow panellists were Miles Bullough (Aardman), Alex Caccia (Ideaworks Labs), Richard Wilson (TIGA) and Andy Bryant (Red Bee Media).

I was there to present key findings and recommendations from the hub’s Arts Council England– and British Council-commissioned research into how the two organisations can more effectively collaborate to support musicians and music organisations to work abroad. The resulting report Supporting Musicians Abroad was published earlier this year, alongside mapping data we collected as part of our research. Meanwhile, here’s a copy of my WMF Supporting Musicians Abroad presentation

It’s great to see that the two organisations have acted on a good number of our recommendations. Sometimes, as a researcher you work really hard to come up with carefully thought-through, industry-tested recommendations, only for them to be consigned to the ‘what could have been’ pile. So, I’m pleased that Arts Council and British Council have made some good moves as a result of our work with them, including:

* At a strategic level, our recommendations have been specifically referenced by the Arts Council and British the Council as part of their new Memorandum of Understanding, which sets out how the two organisations should work together
* Members of the music teams in both organisations now meet regularly, and attend each other’s strategic planning sessions; each officer in these teams now has a direct ‘oppo’ in the other organisation
* Along with UK Trade & Investment, the two organisations have formed an international music framwork group, through which they can share plans, jointly develop projects, maximise efficiencies and minimise duplication
* Arts Council England has invested in The Great Escape and Womex 2010 and 2011, the latter in partnership with UK Trade & Investment
* It’s also given ‘go and see’ support to a group of producers to identify relevant new showcae opportunities for English electronica/experimental music

Returning to the WMF seminar, which was primarily focused on the TV, film and gaming sectors, the key themes from the WMF seminar were the importance of a level playing in terms of tax breaks (give them to UK players or take them away from others!), collaboration as a means of making more happen, the challenges of balancing creativity and entrepreneurialism – and the imperative to do so and the need for information to flow freely between people working in different contexts within the creative industries (not least between policy makers and those making content). There were also repeated calls for the government to apply pressure to the banks to increase the amount of money flowing to small creative businesses via the much maligned Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme.

To conclude the final panel, Mike Weatherley asked panellists to tell him what they thought government should prioritise in terms of its support for the creative industries. Here, my insight is that flow of money (via improved lending and investment from banks and central government initiatives as well as public funding) to small independent music businesses – from across the whole sector, not just the indie/rock and pop sector – is absolutely key, alongside fit-for-purpose business-related training and mentoring support. Small scale promoters, creative producers, independent record labels – these are the folks who for decades have created the conditions for artists to innovate (before being ‘spotted’ by larger set ups, who can take them further), and whose continued ability to do so is absolutely crucial to the ongoing contribution made to the UK’s GDP by the creative industries

Let’s hope that Mike will take all those points back to his discussions with Ed Vaizey, Jeremy Hunt and Vince Cable.