That Seanad Éireann calls on the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to outline his Department's response to the job creation recommendations contained in the IBEC report on the music industry and the report A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry commissioned by Irish Songwriters and Publishers and submitted to the Government; and the steps he intends taking to implement these recommendations.
While the value of the Irish music industry is variable the Irish Export Board estimates that the total value of the sector is well in excess of £100 million. This 1993 figure is probably a little outdated and it may now be in excess of that. The figure is arrived at based on the sales of recorded music, live music performances, merchandising and exports. Due to the variable nature of the industry it is also difficult to estimate with any degree of accuracy how many people are employed either part-time or full-time but studies indicate the figure is in excess of 10,000 nationwide.
The importance of the Irish music industry has been belatedly recognised in recent years. In the early 1990s a Government report on competitiveness stated:
The Irish music industry is developing as a major internationally traded service. The industry includes composing, publishing, performance and recording of music, sales and distribution, tapes and compact discs, and associated services. There is already significant employment in these areas and there are real opportunities for increasing employment in the industry if advantage is taken of the technological, structural and legislative changes now taking place in the worldwide music industry. A detailed examination of the industry will be taken to identify the potential for job creation.
The foregoing is a quote from the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. Sadly no such detailed examination of the Irish music industry has been undertaken and we in Fianna Fáil believe it is past time that the Government recognised the underlying economic value of the industry to the economy. In referring to the Government as a whole, I hasten to add that I am perhaps being somewhat disingenuous in not acknowledging the individual contribution that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has made, and continues to make, in the area of the arts.
Our motion is based on two reports. Striking the Right Note was a submission to Government on the development of the Irish music industry prepared by the IBEC music industry group in November 1995. A prior submission to Government entitled A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry was submitted in February 1994. Inevitably there is a great degree of overlap between the two reports and the participants in both are almost the same. They represent song writers, publishers, the record industry and the royalty collection agencies. Both reports go into considerable detail on the structural weaknesses in the Irish music industry and make positive recommendations on how the State could assist in developing the full potential of the industry in Ireland.
The music industry has always had a certain mystery about it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it has never been taken very seriously by politicians. This air of mystery extends into the manufacturing process. Some years ago I remember a record company executive refusing to go into detail on the manufacturing process of vinyl with the somewhat ingenious answer that it would remove the mystery for consumers who really only wanted to know if the latest hit was in their local record shop on a piece of black vinyl. He said that providing details of the manufacturing process would eliminate the glamour and glitter associated with the pop music business.
Whatever about the mystery and the glamour, the rewards for success in the music industry are limitless. For example, the royalties alone, as distinct from sales, generated by the sales of the two "Riverdance" videos have already generated several million pounds for its creators. This aspect of the music industry has created some controversy among consumers who believe they are being ripped off by multinational record companies who have a virtual monopoly on worldwide sales and effectively operate a cartel on pricing policy.
The Minister and colleagues will be aware that in recent years the record industry in Britain has been called to account by a House of Commons select committee to explain its pricing policies, specifically on compact discs, and justify the perceived high profit margins involved. Of course, they denied that there were unjustifiably high profit margins but, to quote the age old cliche, "they would, wouldn't they".
The perception of the music industry by the vast majority of people, whether here or abroad, is of a bloated, egocentric, hugely profitable and secretive business. Therefore, the question can be legitimately asked why should scarce State resources be directed towards the assistance of such an industry? The answer lies in both of these well researched and comprehensive reports on the state of our music industry.
In the document entitled entitled A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry the participants recommend that the policy objectives of the Irish music industry should be to maximise employment, participate fully in commercial opportunities afforded by the development of new technology, enable and actively foster the creative output of music of Irish origin in recognition of the importance of maintaining a vibrant cultural life and support training for musicians.
Management expertise should be more widely available so that Irish performers have the capability to successfully utilise their creative talents in a demanding domestic and international marketplace. The main recommendation of the IBEC report is the establishment of an Irish music board. The report goes into considerable detail on the activities of this proposed board. They are: to prepare and agree with Government the co-ordination of a five year development plan for the industry; to review progress yearly and present the results in an annual report; to advise Departments, State agencies, education and training bodies and other organisations regarding the needs of the music industry; and other policies and practices vis-á-vis the industry generally. The new Irish music board would also engage in and promote overseas marketing activities by the Irish industry and would be a source of expertise, knowledge and experience of how the industry operates.
While I have a great deal of sympathy with many of the aims of the IBEC report, I am not convinced that the establishment of yet another State agency would be the most practical response to the development of the music industry. Indeed, many of the proposed activities of the new board are already carried out by various State agencies such as the Irish Export Board and Bord Fáilte. I compliment the Irish Export Board particularly for its initiatives over recent years. It has helped considerably to fund Irish participation at the internationally prestigious MIDEM festival in the south of France, which the Minister has graced. It is a worldwide shop window for international music sales and much money has been generated in this country as a result. A more sensible approach would be the establishment of an ad hoc or advisory board by the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to advise the Minister of the day on various aspects of the Irish music industry. The Minister has in recent years acquired elements of this expertise through a variety of committees and by direct contact with the music industry itself.
There are three broad strands common to both reports that I would like to follow. The first is the definition of music as a form of cultural expression and a defining national characteristic. According to IBEC, the Irish music industry is dominated by multinational companies. Statistics indicate that 90 per cent of record sales in this country is in the control of six companies, all of which are foreign owned. However, the upside is that independent record companies which are wholly Irish owned have made a far greater and significant contribution to the development of Irish music within Ireland and overseas than their size indicates. For example, one of the biggest selling Irish records of all time "A Woman's Heart" featuring leading Irish female artists was manufactured and distributed by a wholly owned Irish record company. Equally, artists such as Sharon Shannon, The Saw Doctors, Mary Black, Daniel O'Donnell, Christy Moore and Foster and Allen enjoy international success with companies which are wholly Irish owned. The outstanding success of the two "Riverdance" videos which are now estimated to have sold in excess of four million units worldwide is not only creatively Irish in its entirety, but is also Irish owned.