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Music occupies a special place in Ireland. It runs to the core of society and is a crucial part of our national identity. So inherent is music to our lives, to Ireland’s international image, that at times, the economic impact of the sector can be overlooked.

Why is that? Is it because the value of creative industries can, at times, be difficult to quantify? Is it because we view music as something that is carried out as a hobby, rather than as a viable career? Is it because Ireland is so good at producing world-class music, that it’s something we take for granted?

These are the questions that we need to consider and respond to, as a priority, if we are to continue to ensure that Ireland maintains a thriving music sector.

Ireland’s music industry supports 11,500 jobs nationwide and is worth close to half a billion euro annually to the economy. Music is something Ireland does well, sitting at the nexus of both how we see ourselves, and how the world sees us. It draws tens of thousands of visitors to our shores each year, and along with our poets and storytellers, is a unique piece of Ireland’s heritage that remains a vital part of modern Ireland.

Like many other industries, the music sector has been impacted in recent years – as a result not just of technological changes, and the impact of the economic downturn, but of a need for a clear and coherent strategy to support the sector. At IMRO, we believe that now is the time to develop a real plan for Irish music, involving all stakeholders – Government, industry representative bodies, musicians and songwriters themselves, among others. This is crucial if we are to optimise the economic and social return of the sector.

Late last year, we consulted with artists and labels, publishers and songwriters, retail, broadcast personnel and management companies, on their priorities for, and concerns in relation to, music in Ireland. The resulting report – the Socio-Economic Impact of Ireland’s Music Industry, carried out by Deloitte, demonstrates the potential for Irish music and highlights a number of recommendations in relation to finance, market access, intellectual property, training, and collaboration.

The report recommends the establishment of a joint Government-Industry Music Industry Taskforce, with representatives from Government, business and the industry, which would reinvigorate the music sector and encourage collaboration to maximise its contribution to the economy. We are suggesting appointing a focused group, for a short term, to provide direction, strategic thought and leadership. It will be crucial initiative to guide the sector and help ensure the report’s recommendations are implemented.

While the overall value of recorded music sales in Ireland has been impacted by the downturn, we are beginning to see signs of improvement. Overall sales stood at €72 million in 2008, falling to €33 million in 2012, but last year, overall figures stood at €42.5 million. While the economic impact has significant, there is gradual improvement, some of which can be attributed to rising digital sales. We can continue on this upward trajectory.

Against a backdrop and given the increase in popularity of streaming and digital music services, it will be important to examine intellectual property legislation and ensure that the current regime is fit for purpose, in this quickly-changing sector. Therefore, we recommend the appointment of an ‘IP Tsar’, to consider the impact of Intellectual Property and copyright legislation, and enforcement in both the music and technology industries.

Like any other sector, music needs R&D. We need to make a career in music attractive as an actual job, rather than something people do in their spare time.  We would like to see the development of more advanced training courses for music professionals to focus on ‘business of music’ education, particularly for early career musicians.

To co-ordinate all of this, the establishment of a music office – Music Ireland – would provide a focal point for the music industry, similar to the Irish Film Board.  This office would provide assistance to individuals in the music sector and those looking to enter new overseas markets, encourage greater collaboration between the music, tourism, gaming and technology sectors, and ensure greater support for musicians, many of whom are self-employed, in accessing finance and ensuring that fiscal supports are effective and appropriately structured.

These kinds of supports and initiatives are already in place in countries like Canada, UK, New Zealand and Sweden, and the knock-on social and economic dividend has been significant. Given our musical heritage, ability, and our cultural and musical DNA, Ireland’s opportunity is arguably greater than these nations.

By examining issues such as IP and finance and planning initiatives for training and cross-sectoral collaboration, we can help our artists and songwriters grow and develop and tap into new export markets, to maximise the real potential of the sector. In its recent publication “ A Digital Single Market for Europe” the European Commission states that;

An effective and balanced civil enforcement system against commercial scale infringements of copyright is central to investment in innovation and job creation. In addition the rules applicable to activities of online intermediaries in relation to copyright protected works require clarification, given in particular the growing involvement of these intermediaries in content distribution. Measures to safeguard fair remuneration of creators also need to be considered in order to encourage the future generation of content”

We now have an opportunity to position Ireland as the world’s leading location to create music.

By investing in our music, we’re investing in our economic future.

Victor Finn, CEO of the Irish Music Rights Organisation June 2015

 

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