Music Industry: Motion.

I move:

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 This 1993 figure is probably a little outdated and it may now be in excess of that.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.

And growing.

Recent Grammy Award winners in America — the US equivalent of the Oscars — included Irish composers and performers such as Bill Whelan, Andy Irvine, Davy Spillane and Rita Connolly who all record for the Tara record label which is wholly Irish owned. The Chieftains and Enya continue to be among the world's most sought after artists although admittedly, they record for international record labels, but both artists have used and continue to use Irish recording studios and expertise. The international success of these performers, and more especially of their record company management and promoters, is all the more astonishing when the fierce competition and massive resources that are lined up against small independent labels by multinational companies such EMI, Warner Brothers, Polygram, CBS, RCA, Virgin, etc., is considered. Both reports make a strong recommendation which I endorse that Irish creativity should be rewarded rather than penalised and that the artist's exemption under section 2 of the Finance Act, 1969, should be extended to Irish composers, publishers and record producers who are part of the creative chain. It is ridiculous in a small country with an equally small music market, where record sales rarely top 50,000 or 60,000 albums and usually go in excess of only 10,000 — that includes U2 whose "Zooropa" album only sold in excess of 50,000 units here, although its sales overseas were significantly higher — that the State should take 48 per cent tax from composers, publishers and producers. I strongly urge the Minister to investigate this aspect of the tax regime as it applies to the music industry.

The second strand running through both reports refers to broadcasting in Ireland. From a music industry perspective broadcasting can be accurately referred to as the oxygen of publicity. The strategic vision report states that broadcasters play a vital role in the music industry as a market and as a means by which music is disseminated to the public. It goes on to state "a key determinant in the success or otherwise of music is the exposure that it enjoys through broadcasting, particularly on radio".

The report raises a very serious point in regard to airplay. Because of the small size of this country and the vast repertoire of international music plus the marketing budget available to promote major acts, it is, perhaps, inevitable that non Irish music enjoys the lion's share of broadcasting time. The report goes on the say that a constant complaint has been that Irish broadcasters do not give sufficient airplay to Irish acts and it refers to the music quotas system in operation in France and other countries.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the quota system and I know that the Minister has in his public pronouncements over the last few years indicated a certain sympathy for this point of view. Throughout the 1980s there was intensive lobbying to establish a quota system for Irish broadcasters but it fell foul of the competition element of the Treaty of Rome, which Ireland signed on accession to the European Union. However, the goalposts have now been significantly moved and the overriding concern of the EU is to protect the cultural diversity of member states. It is within that framework that I strongly urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the legal enshrinement of a quota system for Irish broadcasters in the forthcoming Broadcasting Bill.

The Senator must conclude.

I would appreciate the Cathaoirleach's indulgence for a moment. RTE radio has operated an unofficial 25 per cent Irish music content for several years, while a number of local radio stations, especially the most successful ones, have transmitted a significantly higher percentage of Irish originated content and signs on. Opponents of this argument state that quotas are an unfair imposition which would affect the viability of broadcasters, that they are an erosion of freedom of choice and that they are protectionist in nature. These arguments were used prior to the introduction of a music quota system in Canada in the early 1970s. Canada, like Ireland, lives in close proximity to a large neighbour. Similarly, the Canadians discovered that their indigenous music industry was suffering heavily from the dominance of the US market and something had to be done about it. Canadian music can now stand on its own without the type of quota which I have mentioned. It is past time such a quota system was introduced in this country. Otherwise, the Irish music industry as we know it, with some notable exceptions, will disappear.

I criticise the music policy of the two Dublin commercial stations — FM104 and 98FM — who resolutely refuse to operate a proactive policy of playing Irish recorded material. This situation is all the more disgraceful as both stations operate a virtual monopoly in a market of 1.2 million people. It is a disgraceful state of affairs and should be changed at the earliest opportunity. I do not understand why a city this size does not have more thematic radio stations to give people more choice rather than what they have at the moment, which is effectively two stations chasing the national pop station, 2FM, which caters for a market of 30 per cent of the listening audience. I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach for allowing me extra time.

I second the motion and concur with everything Senator Mooney said. He has vast experience in the industry and it is all the more obvious from the magnificent contribution he made here in the Minister's presence. The Minister took office many years ago and we knew on that occasion we had a Minister whose attitude was 100 per cent correct, who understood the industry and knew exactly what was required. His visit to Cannes to support the industry a few years ago was a great example of that.

We are nearing the run up to a general election. Many in-depth analyses have been carried out on behalf of his Department and it is the time for a decision because, whoever comes into his Department after the next general election, may not have the openness, the understanding and the concern for the music industry which we, on this side of the House, recognise he has in abundance. Action speaks louder than words and we are looking for him to bring that to the fore.

I concur with Senator Mooney's comments on the quota system. We discussed this at length with the Minister on two or three other occasions and his reply was that there was an EU regulation. It is about time he stepped in, particularly with 98FM and FM104. I highlighted this during my last contribution on this subject. I took the chief executive of FM104 to task on Northern Sound Radio and on Radio 3 and asked him to give me the airplay times for Irish music. I challenged him that the figure would be no more than 5 per cent.

These stations will be reviewed this year. If they are not prepared to give their support to Irish artists, producers, record companies, recording studios and music publishers, all of whom are making a small living from the industry, when they are the shop windows for the wares we are selling, their licences should be withdrawn and I will call for that. I make no apology for it. I worked long and hard with the previous Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, Senator Mooney and our parliamentary party to have those stations licensed. They were unlicensed at the time. We achieved that. We recognised the difficulties and territorial problems that would arise. However, I never thought I would see the day when an Irish radio station would refuse to give more than 5 per cent of its airplay to Irish artists between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Senator Taylor-Quinn seems to think this is a joke. I am reluctant to name her because the radio station in Clare is probably one of the best examples of what community and local radio is about. This is a serious matter. I spend between £200,000 and £300,000 per year in the Irish live music industry. However, people like me are becoming fewer. We will not be able to survive the crisis at hand. RTE Radio One has nothing but chat shows and bad news, with the exception of Ronan Collins, from 8 a.m. until the evening. Perhaps the station is making an effort with "The Gay Byrne Show" by moving it from current affairs to light entertainment. No alternative radio licence was granted for our capital city in the last ten years. I hope the Independent Radio and Television Commission will be sympathetic to any licence application which caters for the alternative listener of between 35 and 80 years of age. There is no such station in the city at present and the industry is suffering badly.

"Riverdance" has been the best shop window for tourism and Irish music and culture we have seen in our lifetimes. It shows what RTE television, which has the opposite attitude to RTE Radio One although it does not have the airplay time, can do for Ireland in the context of tourism and sales. I believe "Riverdance" will sell ten million units. It is extraordinary to see its popularity and what it has done for Bord Fáilte. I congratulate everybody concerned. The Minister played a major role in enthusiastically encouraging everybody involved and did everything possible to help them.

I concur with Senator Mooney's comments on the producers who create the product, come up with the ideas and give the artists the encouragement they need. The usual sales figure for an album in Ireland is 5,000. One can imagine the number of hours involved in recording an album. It takes between five or six weeks and eight or nine months, depending on the creativity that is necessary. If the incentives were available, the top producers in the world would come to Ireland, just as the artists have done, and we could grow our industry. From that point of view the proposal I have outlined would be a magnificent gesture.

The Irish Film Board and the Arts Council have been established but the music industry takes in 40 to 50 times more than those sections of the arts. Some area of the music industry should be grant aided. Foreign artists come to this country and leave without having to pay one penny in tax. The Minister should examine the possibility of imposing a 10 per cent tax. Five per cent could be given to the new board and five per cent could go to the Exchequer. If we go to the UK to record we pay 27 per cent artists' tax. If we go to Australia or America we pay 10 per cent and in Canada it is 15 per cent. If a record is a hit here or in England, it can be a hit in any other English speaking part of the world. A music board could grow the business and create employment.

Fáiltím go mór roimh and deis seo chun na forbairtí úrnua i dtionscal an cheoil a chur i gcuntas and chomh maith le sin mo thuairimí is mo thionscnaimh féin i leith thionscail an cheoil, atá ar cheann de na bhfuil ann, chultúrtha is tábhachtaí a bhfuil ann, a chur faoi bhur mbráid. Is tráithiúil mar a tharlaíonn an díospóireacht seo, ar dhá chúis. I dtús báire, ar an mbonn náisiúnta, fuair mé cóip de FORTE le déanaí, an meitheal oibre a bhunaigh mé i mBealtaine 1995. Sa dara áit, mar chuid dár nUachtaránacht Eorpach agus i gcomhpháirt leis an gCoimisiún Eorpach, tá Mor-Fhóram Eorpach eagraithe agam atá le tarlú in Inis an tseachtain seo agus a dhéanfaidh smaointe a chothú faoi ghníomhartha agus tionscnaimh gur féidir a ghlacadh ar bhonn na hAontachta leis an mórthionscal Eorpach seo a fhorbairt.

I welcome the opportunity to put on record recent developments in the music industry and my attitudes and initiatives towards this most important of our cultural industries. I also thank both Senators for their gracious comments and positive contributions. The timing of this debate is opportune for two reasons. First, on the national level I have recently received the report of FORTE, the music task force which I established in May 1995. Senators will recall that I received an interim report which enabled me to make a recommendation to the Minister for Finance to expand BES this year. Second, as part of our European Presidency and in co-operation with the European Commission, I have organised a major European forum which is to take place this week in Ennis and which will develop ideas on actions and initiatives that can be undertaken at Community level to develop this major European industry.

The fact that the health and potential of the music industry is seen as a fit topic for debate in this august Chamber is a measure of just how much we have developed as a society. One would not have to transpose oneself a great distance back in time to find oneself in an era where issues of concern to music and musicians would not have loomed large in the thinking of our legislators and policy makers. The welcome change in the perception of music as an industry rather than a commendable pastime or even an esoteric obsession has been brought about by the reality of modern society and the challenge of the postindustrial world.

It has taken some time for the realisation to sink in that a community's wealth should be measured no longer in terms of its access to base metals and primary raw materials. Instead, the capacity to produce wealth is increasingly a function of a community's creativity, imagination and flexibility. The nature of employment has changed to the extent that we are increasingly a service orientated society and it is to that sector that we must look for increased employment. Music is a cultural industry and as such it belongs to the service sector. Employment in the cultural industries is typical of the service sector in general in terms of the potential for employment creation, the maintenance and the characteristics of that employment. The cultural industries at present provide approximately 21,500 full-time job equivalents. That is about 1.9 per cent of the total employed workforce. This compares with the banking sector's 2 per cent, with 24,000 full-time job equivalents and about 7,500 in computer hardware.

It is beneficial to examine some of the characteristics of employment in the cultural sector. The most recent authoritative study of employment in the cultural area recorded that the cultural sector is a mixture of full-time, part-time and seasonal employment. Of the estimated 33,800 employed in the cultural sector, approximately 48 per cent are employed in cultural arts organisations while the balance operate on a freelance or self-employed basis.

The gross aggregate value of cultural industries in 1993 was £441 million. This figure does not take account of the contribution made by the cultural industries to other sectors, for instance, the importance of Irish music to our tourism industry. Significantly, the study shows that 88 per cent of the cultural sector's income is earned through their own direct trading activity and that only 12 per cent is earned by way of grants.

Music is by far the biggest employer within our cultural industries, accounting for approximately 10,000 jobs. It operates on many levels; from aspiring young artists who view the world as their potential audience to music lovers who listen to radio, buy records and attend concerts; from the traditional musician playing in sessions to the concert performer. It is a complex world with an ethos, culture and mythology of its own. It is a diverse and seemingly fractured industry representing a partnership between the creative and business worlds — a sometimes tense alliance between often conflicting aims and motivations. Yet, despite its inherent tensions it is an enormously successful industry with huge potential rewards for those seeking a successful career.

In 1995 the European music industry had an estimated turnover of £14.8 billion — a greater turnover than both the cinema and video industries. Most significantly the industry on a European scale provides employment for over 600,000 people. The world music market is valued at £24.68 billion. Ireland as a nation has done well in this highly competitive international market. We are, for instance, the fifth highest provider of international hit records in the international pop and rock music market. If you take six of the top selling Irish artists — such as U2, the Cranberries, Enya, Sinéad O'Connor, Chris De Burgh and Van Morrison — you find that between them they have sold 124.5 million records worldwide,

What about Boyzone?

Indeed and we congratulate them. These records sales give a minimum retail turnover of £1.25 billion. It is estimated that in 1993 Irish music accounted for 4 per cent of the German market, 3 per cent of the Dutch market and 5 per cent of album sales in Britain — a level of penetration achieved by few other Irish industries, including the tourism and drinks industry, and bettered in the UK only by the US and UK recording artists.

Given the potential richness of the music industry, the wonder is not so much that we now address ourselves to the focused initiatives that might usefully be undertaken to assist the industry but rather why it has taken so long for the message to take hold. Clearly a rich natural resource with such enormous potential is an area that must be of interest and concern to Government. Despite recent statements by some commentators that the creative elements in our society are now being "stall fed" and that life has become too easy for our writers and creative people, I still believe that the cultural industries need and would welcome focused initiatives and partnership with Government and State agencies. For instance, the motion before this House mentions two specific reports, A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry and the more recently published IBEC report Striking the Right Note. Both reports make the case for such strategic planning and partnership. The former report was one of the main reasons I decided to establish a special task force, FORTE, on the music industry and I specifically referred to that report when announcing the terms of reference of the task force. The IBEC report was a separate initiative by the music industry group of IBEC and worked parallel to the FORTE report. Four members of the IBEC group were also members of FORTE and it was agreed that the IBEC report would feed into and inform the FORTE group. Indeed the coincidence of membership made this inevitable.

The FORTE group has completed its study and submitted its final report to me. I am now considering this report with a view to implementation of many measures which I will discuss. However, I had at the beginning of FORTE's deliberations requested that they provide me with an interim report covering possible initiatives in the area of taxation. This interim report, coupled with others, such as the strategic vision and the IBEC report, enabled me to successfully argue the case for the extension of the business expansion scheme to the music industry. I offer this as my first response to the analysis offered by the music industry and as an indicator of my personal commitment to action.

The extension of the BES to the music industry has been correctly interpreted as recognition by the Government of the increasing value of the cultural and creative sectors and their potential in terms of employment creation, value added and generation of wealth. The BES for music has been specifically targeted to stimulate investment in the production, publication, marketing and promotion of new and emerging talent and is not intended to fund activity already taking place in the industry or well established artists.

The decision to extend the BES to music was made against a background that includes the following; the assertion in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work that most new jobs will be generated in the service-oriented sector; the National Economic and Social Forum's report “Jobs Potential of the Services Sector” which concluded that a range of policy changes, including taxation measures, are needed to support the further development of the services sector and to accelerate its employment performance; the Government's policy agreement A Government of Renewal which states that “particular attention will be given to the introduction of tax and other incentives in order to expand employment in the music industry” and, as I mentioned, the interim report from the music task force FORTE coupled with the industry submissions on the development of the Irish music industry.

The music industry employs some 10,000 people and is a major contributor to the economy. Why then, if it is doing so well, does it need assistance from the Government and the hard pressed taxpayer? The main reason is that the music industry is an extremely high risk area and despite our major success stories which quite rightly receive the bulk of media attention, the fact remains that it is still extremely difficult for new and emerging talent to secure adequate investment. So risky is investment in new artists that there has been a tendency for investment in the music industry to be concentrated on a relatively few bankable, established artists, arguably at the expense of emerging talent.

There is also a huge attrition rate among new artists and bands. This squandering of creative talent represents a waste of resources that would not be tolerated in any other industry. Both the reports mentioned in the motion before us and also the FORTE report have indicated that increased investment in new and emerging talent would help many more artists make the leap from talented amateur to marketable professional.

The extension of the BES to music is intended to encourage and reward investment in the most vulnerable area. It is a valid and worthwhile investment in a national asset and it must always be borne in mind that when we invest in new artists we are creating employment, not just for the artists themselves but also for all the support services such as road crews, management, promoters, retailers, merchandisers, studio personnel, etc.

To ensure that the extension of the BES to the music industry is targeted and focused and brings real benefit to both the artists and the taxpayer, all projects will be certified by me as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. This certification process is subject to guidelines which have been agreed between myself and the Minister of Finance. The issue of a certificate will not imply any judgement as the artistic merit — I claim no expertise or special sensitivity to the nuances and relative merits of the different musical genres nor would I allow myself sit in judgment of them. Similarly, certification by me does not represent an endorsement of the investment worth of the project. The effect that this measure will have on the music industry will be closely assessed during the first year of operation of the scheme in order to inform our decisions for any fine tuning that may be required in the future.

Throughout my consideration of the music industry you will have noticed that I have emphasised the benefits that the industry can bring in purely financial and economic terms. I do this not because I necessarily believe that these are the most important arguments, far from it, but because they are the arguments which tend to carry most weight. Perhaps more important, and just as relevant, is the intrinsic worth of music as a means of communication, of artistic and cultural expression, of national identity, social empowerment and enrichment and of sheer pleasure. I am at one with the Senators who stated that the cultural component must be emphasised and that is why I am willing to face challenges in Europe and elsewhere. We are blessed to enjoy such a rich heritage of music and song and also an imaginative and creative people who are constantly rediscovering, reinventing and redefining that heritage for themselves. The reports mentioned in this motion and the FORTE report contain many challenging elements and, as I said, I am considering the analysis provided and the recommendations made.

I have detailed the background to the extension of BES to music since I believe it is a very important initiative and one that is very relevant to the industry. It shows what can be achieved when the concerns of an industry are linked to Government policy for the overall benefit of the community. This partnership approach will be continued and developed in my ongoing dialogue with the industry. I find myself in agreement with several important issues raised in the various reports but I must hasten to add that I do not enjoy jurisdiction on several of the areas covered, for instance, copyright or education. However, I would like to assure Senators that I will be keen to support any initiatives by my colleagues in Government at a local, national or international level which will address the many important issues still outstanding.

The Minister should get his colleague to introduce the new Copyright Act.

I would like to pay tribute to an industry which has articulated its needs in a reasonable and coherent manner and I can assure the House that I will be examining the findings of the various reports with a view to assessing how I may assist the further development of this great national resource.

I wish to pay tribute to an industry which has articulated its needs in a reasonable and coherent manner. I assure the House I will examine the findings of the various reports with a view to assessing how I might assist the further development of this great natural resource. I deeply appreciate the valuable points and comments made by Senators. I listened to them with great care. I agree with them it should be borne in mind that, apart from production in the music industry, the relaying of an actual broadcast is not so much a commodity but the carrier of a cultural expression. Go raibh míle maith agat.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this worthwhile debate. I compliment the Opposition Senators for tabling the motion and giving this House the opportunity to discuss this very important issue. As the Minister said, the music industry provides employment for over 10,000 people and is growing all the time. Per head of population, the international success of Irish musicians has been quite extraordinary. In the current climate there is an international focus on Ireland for a variety of reasons such as the success of many artists and bands and our repeated success in the Eurovision Song Contest. Sinéad O'Connor and bands such as U2 and Boyzone have brought Ireland to international attention.

We are very fortunate to have Deputy Higgins as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. He fully appreciates and recognises the importance of music to our culture and future employment. I am delighted with the manner in which he has dealt with the issue this evening. The fact he has convinced the Minister for Finance to include investment in the music industry in the BES scheme is very welcome. I am pleased he and the Government have decided to take this initiative. The investment will be focused on those who need it rather than existing successful projects. Lack of finance is often a difficulty as far as an artist's success and recognition is concerned.

This decision will provide investment in the areas highlighted by Striking the Right Note, the report by the music industry group of IBEC, and A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry. Those reports highlighted weaknesses in relation to publication, recording and management. Investment in these areas through the BES scheme should be extremely helpful and I hope will provide what the Opposition Senators and the Minister desire for the industry.

The forum established by the Minister is meeting this week in Ennis, in the Minister's home county of Clare, to consider and deliberate on that issue. Coming, as I do, from a county with an appreciation of traditional music, song and dance, I am delighted it is taking place in that area. I hope the Minister will consider locating the centre for music in County Clare. I hope he will not take offence at that parochial note; I appreciate that his constituency will also make a strong bid for it.

The contribution of people such as Miko Russell to the traditional music sector must be valued and appreciated. He is a focus for the interaction between the tourism and cultural industries. Many Europeans have come to the west, particularly Clare, as a result of Miko Russell travelling to Germany 20 or 25 years ago. That might not receive national recognition but it is a reality which has been recognised by the Minister who has provided funding for a centre in Doolin. That is greatly appreciated and is very valuable and worthwhile.

The overall importance of the industry is recognised by this Government. The Minister, in particular, has been very positive and recognises its cultural importance. We have modern rock bands which have achieved international fame but we also have our traditional music. It is important to distinguish between them to some degree and to recognise the separate contributions which each can make.

It is very important to further develop the international focus which has been placed on Ireland by our various artists. Much of this has occurred with little State support, particularly from the Irish Trade Board, SFADCo and the various promoting bodies. To date, these bodies have been far more geared towards promoting industries such as computers and manufacturing and have not been as focused as they should have been. A debate such as this and the Minister's positive response is worthwhile. I hope that agencies such as SFADCo, Forbairt and An Bord Tráchtála will have a more defined focus in future in relation to promoting the Irish music industry abroad. That is extremely important.

Some of our international success stories, such as Sinéad O'Connor, Boyzone and U2, happened because of the quality of the artists involved and because they made their mark in particular niches of the international music industry. However, it is important that our agencies consciously promote the industry. We are always looking for equal treatment of men and women and I hope the Government will take the opportunity when making appointments to some of these boards to focus on people from musical backgrounds with this level of expertise. It is important for their views to be heard in the relevant fora in order to change policies and affect decisions. The Arts Council could also take a more active role in relation to music, particularly traditional music. It is important for all the agencies involved to co-operate with each other.

We are fortunate to have a Minister who fully appreciates the industry and has an overall view of what he wants to achieve. I hope a co-ordinated structure of what he envisages will be in place for whoever succeeds him. I compliment the Minister on his contribution this evening and the Senators opposite for tabling the motion.

I compliment the Minister and his Department on their work to date in the music industry. The report A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry defined the Irish music industry as comprising a wide range of activities — composers, song writers, publishers, performing artists, record companies, record shops, venues where music is performed, royalty collecting agencies and people who ensure that those who hold copyrights are recompensed for the use of their creative talents. It covers a wide spectrum.

A striking feature of the music industry until recently was its fragmented and diverse nature. That lack of unity has often resulted in a lack of purpose. Until recently the industry had no clear vision of its future. The fact the music industry joined IBEC in 1994 was due in no small part to prompting by the Minister who encouraged those in the industry to get together and support one another. The Minister's appointment indicates an awareness of the need to support the arts and culture. Nobody can deny that music lies at the heart of Irish culture and it is often how foreigners identify with us. Music brings many visitors to this dark and rainy country. They hitchhike many miles to get to a pub where they can hear genuine Irish music.

We must realise that music takes many forms. When I look back to my childhood I am reminded of the records my father played for us in the pre-television era. We listened to recordings of John McCormack, Bridie Gallagher and the Gallowglass Céilí Band. Our interest in and love for music has come from that mix of music with which we grew up. However, that diversity led to weaknesses when it came getting economic benefit from the treasure house of talent.

The IBEC report, Striking the Right Note, published in November 1995 stated that this diversity causes great difficulty in assessing the value of the industry. It stated that due to the nature of the industry, relatively low entry barriers contributing to considerable entry and exit, overlaps between categories, particularly composers and performers, the freelance and contract nature of much of the employment and the importance of part-time jobs, variations will take place in the estimates of those employed. According to the Simpson Xavier report, there are up to 10,000 full-time employees in the music industry.

An Bord Tráchtála estimated that the total value of the industry is approximately £100 million. As the Minister said, that value should be recognised in terms of exports. It is estimated that Irish music accounted for 4 per cent of the German market, 3 per cent of the UK market and 3 per cent of the Dutch market. It compares favourably with the amount of food and drink we sell to those markets. Taken in that context, it is an important industry. It is a pity that much of the money does not stay in Ireland.

I commend the Minister on his success in extending the business expansion scheme to the music industry. It is right that we start to build a basic infrastructure so Irish artists and those who support them can make money. By setting up the task force, the Minister has ensured that he is committed to the future development of the music industry. One cannot chart the future of any sector if one does not fully understand what is happening. We can only move forward by building on our strengths and rectifying our weakness and I look forward to the publication of the FORTE report. The establishment of FORTE is in line with recommendations made in A Strategic Vision for the Irish Music Industry and Striking the Right Note. The Minister is listening to those involved in the industry.

I compliment the Senators who tabled this motion. They have hands on experience of the industry. I agree with their call to have more Irish music broadcast on radio stations. It is a chicken and egg situation in that young people are swayed by what they hear on radio and if they do not hear a particular type of music, they will not buy it. Dolores O'Riordan comes from a place close to where I live and her father is a good Irish musician. There is a cross over between Irish and pop music. If one grows up in a home with music, one will produce music. I compliment the Minister and I hope he will continue his good work.

I support my colleagues and thank the Minister for the work he is doing which will make a valuable contribution to the development of jobs in this vital business and which will generate revenue for the economy. Although I am a relative amateur compared to my colleagues, Senator Mooney and Senator Cassidy who have wide experience of this business, I have close friends involved in the music industry and some family members involved in the teaching of music in schools in Limerick.

Over the past number of years music has been treated as a second class subject in secondary schools. I recall that when somebody wanted to take music in the leaving certificate they were discouraged as it was considered to be too difficult and they could not make a living out of it. We all know of people who were discouraged from getting involved in the music and entertainment business because the attitude in the past was that they should get a job in the Civil Service or public service or that they should teach. However, attitudes are changing.

The Minister has a great opportunity to set down the framework for the expansion and development of the music business because there is relatively little legislation in this area. In doing that, he should protect and conserve traditional music. It might have died in the west were it not for the work done by Ciarán MacMathúna. Traditional music in the western counties is stronger now than at any time in the past 70 to 100 years thanks to people like him and the late Seán Ó Ríada. Thankfully, that tradition is being continued.

Unique work is being done in Limerick University by Micheál Ó Súilleabháin and Bill Whelan, who was involved in some of the productions which brought recognition to Irish talent. They are cleverly blending traditional and modern music; that is the real secret. It is almost like the Commissioners of Public Works who when restoring Dublin Castle, were able to protect the best of the environment while building a new conference facility which is being used for EU Council meetings at present. People like Bill Whelan and Micheál Ó Súilleabháin are building on the strength of Irish traditional music and, at the same time, are not afraid to take bold new initiatives. The present conflict between those who say a jig or a reel must be played as it was 100 years ago and those, such as the people involved in "Riverdance", who transform basic traditional Irish music with new ideas, is unnecessary.

However, this is a high risk business of which we have all had experience. Recently, I talked to the Clare County Enterprise Board about providing support for three people from west Clare who where interested in forming a band. Their main difficulty was that people would not invest by way of the BES in such high risk business. The enterprise board, which was not sure whether it should support such development, was not prepared to give them grant aid. To get established, these people needed to invest in equipment and instruments but they were not in a position to show to the enterprise board, bank or financial institution that what they had in mind would create revenue and cover whatever the loans or investment. There is a difficulty in this area which needs to be addressed. It could be dealt with by way of tax incentives. I am sure this has been looked at by the Minister and that new initiatives will be considered.

I am encouraged by the present state of the music industry in Ireland, the prospect of further permanent jobs being created and the revenue that will accrue to the State. I look at the success of Patrick Cassidy, for instance. This unassuming man has lived in Shannon for a good number of years and has brought an international dimension to music. I believe he recorded not so long ago with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Tremendous work has been done in that area and it is encouraging to look at people like John O'Connor, Bill Whelan and Micheál Ó Súilleabháin as the nucleus of a vibrant industry, one which can build on the strengths and foundation created and supported by people such as Ciarán Mac Mathúna, RTE and local radio.

Local Clare radio has made a dramatic impact on the local scene since its establishment. It has transformed the music and entertainment business and news broadcasting and made a dramatic impact on the county. It has had considerable influence in encouraging the industry develop and advance.

I was in Government when the 1988 Bill was brought before the House. It was never intended that legislation would be the be all and end all of local broadcasting and the Minister's Green Paper affords further opportunities to underpin local radio stations. I urge him strongly to avail of the earliest opportunity to direct funding from the RTE licence revenue to the local independent stations. Section 20 of the 1988 Act allocated £500,000 of licence revenue to fund the first two years expenses of the Independent Radio and Television Commission. There is no reason that mechanism cannot be continued and a small amendment to the 1988 Act would ensure that local radio would continue to get part of the £60 licence fee which RTE will get this year. A portion of that revenue, £4 million, £5 million or £10 million, would be well spent if it enabled local radio to continue its work, support their commercial activities and underpin their valuable contribution to industry and employment.

I thank the Minister for his lucid, concise and perceptive view of the music industry and acknowledge the introduction of the BES scheme as a first step in the taxation area. I am sure that the Minister appreciates the high risk element to which Senator Daly and Senator Taylor-Quinn referred and will keep this under review. I would hate to think that the Government, because there may not be a sufficient beneficial fallout from this initiative, would shy away from any further initiatives in the taxation area. I understand the Minister's reason for extending the BES. I hope what we asked for in the context of the artist's exemption would also be extended. I do not see why that should not happen. Why, for example, should the poet — I appreciate the Minister has risen to poetic heights and has a certain sympathy in that area — have little difficulty being established under the artist's exemption while somebody who might compose music which will be heard worldwide is treated differently?

I want to touch on a point to which the Minister referred, I appreciate it is not within his brief but it was central to the two reports, that is, the question of copyright. The final strands referred to the urgent need for copyright reform. As copyright law is a highly technical and complicated subject and while I have left it to this stage in the debate, I do not wish to diminish its overall importance to the future viability of the Irish music industry. Both reports devote separate chapters to the copyright position and make specific recommendations to the Minister. I acknowledge that a number of the recommendations have been acted on since both reports were published as a result of Ireland's adoption of EU Directives in this regard but I am sure the Minister will agree there is an urgent need to bring forward a new copyright Bill to replace the 1963 Act. I appreciate this Act comes under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise and Employment but I would be grateful if the Minister would indicate — I think he has gone some way towards saying that he would support any initiatives in this regard — that he will push the introduction of this legislation at Cabinet, not just in the interests of the music industry but in the interests of Ireland's status as a country which protects intellectual property.

Finally, in both reports is a viable blueprint for placing the Irish music industry on a firm footing and the Minister has taken the first step. Perhaps I sound a little churlish when I say that repeated public acknowledgments by Government and official recognition of the economic potential of the Irish music industry would be welcome. As the Minister said, we have come a long way from the time when issues of this nature would not be discussed in this House. There is a need to provide some form of State assistance for the development of indigenous music talent. Irish music creativity is unparalleled throughout the world and is acknowledged as being unique to this island. I may be going against the grain in stating I am saddened that we must slavishly follow international music trends.

I applaud the success of bands such as U2, the Cranberries, Boyzone and the Corrs, who were not mentioned but who have enjoyed great international success. Such bands operate in an international commercial environment. However, they could have originated in any country because there is very little Irishness in their musical output. Let us be brutally frank. People, particularly those of an artistic nature, are products of their environment. However, because of the context in which the international pop music industry operates, these successful bands, whom we applaud for being Irish and succeeding in an international competitive market, could come from America, New Zealand or elsewhere. Their success highlights the internationalisation of the music business.

Senator Kelly referred to Dolores O'Riordan. The Corrs rely heavily on use of the fiddle which is a traditional instrument. I do not wish my remarks to be misinterpreted. There is a vast, indigenous, untapped creative talent. I include everyone from Sharon Shannon to Christy Moore to Daniel O'Donnell in the wide genre that can be called "Irish". A certain musical racism is practised whenever people refer to such artists who have an established international reputation. It is time for the chattering classes, particularly those in Dublin 4, to stop criticising their success and applaud them, rather than criticising their music. When commentators refer to Irish music, they invariably speak about the rock music industry as if it is somehow all-embracing.

I hope the Minister will be all inclusive in his thinking when bringing forward proposals. The vast majority of working musicians, composers, publishers and recording companies in this country come from the indigenous music sector. They, not the multinational companies, need the greatest help. It is to them we should look for the future protection of our cultural identity and that which makes us distinctly Irish. Most of the bands referred to were successful because they sent their recordings to the international headquarters of multinational companies rather than that they happened to be in Ireland. As such, the Irish music industry did nothing for them. They had to travel abroad to join the international jet set.

We are discussing local musicians and I appeal to the Minister to encourage the Minister for Finance to include many of those to whom I referred under the artists' exemption section of the Finance Act. I commend and applaud the Minister for his work in making the arts and cultural activity central to our national identity.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.