Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 21 - 39)

THURSDAY 20 MAY 1999

MR CHRIS HODGKINS, MR JULIAN JOSEPH, MR MARTIN FROST AND MS BRENDA GODRICH

Chairman

  21. Lady and gentleman, I would like to thank you very much for coming here this morning. As you will have observed, from your presence during the previous session, there is huge interest in this. A good many of my colleagues would like to put questions, so I am hoping that, while giving you the hearing which we have invited you here for, we can make a lot of progress. Since there are two groups here, I am going to invite each of you to make a brief opening statement: Mr Hodgkins?

  (Mr Hodgkins) I am Chris Hodgkins, Director of Jazz Services and the Honorary Secretary of the Association of British Jazz Musicians. With me is Julian Joseph, musician, band-leader, composer and also a Performing Right Society member. This evidence is presented on behalf of Jazz Services and the Association of British Jazz Musicians. A copy of our evidence has been lodged with your Committee, Chair. Jazz is an important part of the UK's contemporary music scene; it makes a significant contribution to the cultural life of the UK and to its reputation abroad. Over three million people attend jazz events in the UK. Its contribution is not properly recognised by public funding, and this is a view which your Committee, in the previous Parliament, was kind enough to support. Jazz Services and the Association of British Jazz Musicians fully support the Performing Right Society's proposals for the reform of its arrangements for Classical Music Subsidy. There is no justification for the cross-subsidy of one genre of music by another. Jazz Services and the Association of British Jazz Musicians believe that it is appropriate that the Performing Right Society's Subsidy fund should be open to all genres of music; quality not privilege should determine allocation.

  22. Thank you. Is it Ms Godrich or Mr Frost who is going to talk to us?
  (Mr Frost) I have not much more to say than what Chris has said. My name is Martin Frost. I am Chief Executive of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. We represent about 6,000 members who join us in a large number of clubs throughout the country, so we are representative of quite a large body. The folk movement does not receive any funding from Government towards it in any way, so a lot of people rely on the income that comes through PRS, however small it is. And I cannot see the justification why any genre should be cross-supported by another one, and we support what PRS are doing with their review, of trying to make what is like an even playing-field for everyone to have an equal opportunity for the money. It just seems unfair that one should be subsidised at the expense of another, especially when areas like folk music touch so many other areas of music; it just seems a bit unfair.

  Chairman: Thank you. Mr Fearn.

Mr Fearn

  23. Good morning. I do not know who to address it to, but, really and truly, I suppose the whole contingent. What concerns do you have about the PRS proposal to distribute £1 million per year to support all kinds of music?
  (Mr Frost) I think that is a bit fairer than the situation at the moment, because PRS is a representative body of a large number of different genres, from Asian music, African ancestral music, folk music, jazz, and to have a body then that people can apply to, that is very transparent, that you can see where that money is going to, where that subsidy is going, and to have an opportunity to get it at grass-roots level and to organisations that are representative bodies of those organisations, seems to me a bit fairer.

  24. Does it get to the grass-roots?
  (Mr Frost) We will wait and see, when this fund is set up, with, instead of the Classical Music Subsidy, there being a fund to apply to, as to what the results of that are, but at least it is far more transparent and far more up front as to where it goes.

  25. Where does your funding come from at the moment then?
  (Mr Frost) We do not get any funding, we rely on income that comes in from memberships who join our organisation and from fund-raising and general activities, and the Sports Council. It is the old thing of PE and country dance; you must remember, if it rained and you missed football you had to do country dance. At least you got to touch a girl's hand, or a boy's hand, I did not really mind.

  26. And the other question is, would you agree that classical music publishers face unique costs on account of the complexity and size of many of the scores they produce and their need to promote the performances of the composers' work?
  (Mr Hodgkins) I think, any publisher faces unique costs in collecting royalties on behalf of their clients, and I do not see the difference between a publisher who is publishing music by Oasis or by Benjamin Britten. And, as my colleague here, Julian, says, a composer pays for the printing, anyway. So there is no difference; it is a business, that is the end of it. Publishers collect the royalties on behalf of their clients, full stop; it does not matter about the music.

  27. But does jazz suffer from this; jazz composers, what happens to them?
  (Mr Joseph) We just have to take what money we have and make the parts, write the parts and get it done. There is no "Oh, my publisher faces a problem in being able to reproduce the music"; if you want the music played, reproduce it. That is basically what we are faced with; and there is no provision for saying "Oh, well, some other fund will take care of that", you just do it, and when it is performed you, hopefully, get your rightful PRS, which many, many jazz composers rely on, all composers, in fact. And it is often referred to as our pension, but it is what we actually live on, so it is quite unbalanced to see that money that you are earning going away to a subsidy strictly allotted for purely classical music.

  Mr Fearn: Thank you very much; a very honest answer.

Mr Maxton

  28. Can I just ask you a question I put to the earlier witnesses, which you were listening to, which is the balance of, if you like, other subsidies from the Arts Council, from the Lottery, etc.; do your organisations and your performers get the same level of support from those organisations as the classical music scene does?
  (Mr Hodgkins) No. Just speaking on behalf of jazz, in my submission to the Select Committee, the number crunching shows that, for example, jazz gets round about 15 pence per head subsidy, that is per attender, who attends jazz concerts, and there are three million of them; opera gets something like £12.25 per attender, and there are the same number of attenders go to opera as go to jazz; classical music gets round about £10 per head subsidy. So jazz, at 15 pence subsidy, bearing in mind there are three million punters, or people who attend jazz, it strikes me as being, and that is being very kind, a little bit unfair. After all, as Thomas Paine once did say, there is no taxation without representation, and I do not see why three million taxpayers should be disenfranchised by the curious tastes of public funding bodies.

  29. Could you just add, in getting endorsements from companies, and so on, is that the same there as well; it is easier to get a company to give sponsorship to a classical concert, in my view, than it is to give it to a jazz concert?
  (Mr Hodgkins) No.

  30. Having worked very hard to try to get sponsorship, I have to say.
  (Mr Hodgkins) I appreciate that, and I know the Glasgow Jazz Festival extremely well. I think it is very difficult for anyone to get sponsorship; the crucial point about sponsorship is that it has to be a high-profile event. Many, many jazz events, folk events, other, shall we say, underrepresented musics, take place in small places, many hundreds of small places, and, in total, of course, it is quite a huge number of people and musicians working; but, in terms of what the sponsor wants, which is a high-profile event, it does not quite deliver that. So, in all fairness to everybody, sponsorship is a very hard thing to attract, and, as we know from Glasgow Jazz Festival and other jazz festivals, extremely difficult to attract. Because what usually happens is, and no matter what marketing, shall we say, excuses one can use, it invariably ends up with the chairperson of the company, and/or a relative, who likes a particular form of music, and that usually influences the marketing department, which is only too happy to score a few points in the right places, and then the money tends to flow with the chairperson's or the managing director's personal tastes.

  31. Can I ask you basically to give an answer to the same question?
  (Mr Frost) Yes; the folk movement does not really get any government subsidy in any way. I represent what could be seen as the largest folk organisation in England; we employ three people. There are only three organisations in the country that employ more than one person, folk development agencies, yet folk music touches everyone throughout the country, there are folk clubs on every night of the year, in every part of the country, and there are festivals that everyone has heard of, from Sidmouth to Whitby, and the amount of people that go there is in the millions, yet the representative income that we get in from any subsidy whatsoever is virtually zero. And it is very hard for any art form to raise money, and even harder for those that are underrepresented with government funding, because it is very difficult then to look at ways of getting matching funding. Even the Arts Board tend to refer to classical and then they lump jazz, folk and everything else together, and that does not really give a fair picture of all the minority genres and what audiences they attract in, which is an equal amount to the classical.

  Mr Maxton: Can I ask Mr Joseph, who is a composer as well, I wish you had your piano here, it would be a lot more enjoyable than asking questions, and you might find it the same, too.

  Chairman: It is an idea we might think about, John.

Mr Maxton

  32. But this argument that was being put forward, about the length of time it takes to compose a classical piece, the number of scores that have to be written, etc., presumably you write for a variety of different sizes of orchestras, bands, whatever you like to call them, but what is the largest you would write for?
  (Mr Joseph) The largest I have written for is a symphony orchestra, and if someone calls me up, like the Barbican, and says "Julian, we want you to do several concerts here and play a concerto and play some of your big-band music", then I just sort it out; and if I have three months, I take three months, if I have six months, I take six months, if I have two weeks, I take two weeks.

  33. And during those three months, two weeks, whatever time it might be, you are, presumably, still going out and performing as a jazz musician as well?
  (Mr Joseph) Yes, I have to.

  34. So you are doing it in your hotel room, late at night, or on a bus?
  (Mr Joseph) Doing it in any spare time I have; any possible spare time I have I work. It was interesting, listening to the fact that we need space to compose; we do need space to compose, but very often that is not a luxury that is afforded, particularly to jazz musicians, although, in certain cases, one can get a commission that will give you a little bit of breathing space. But often it is "We want to hear your music and we want you to do this" and you just get it done.

  35. One last question on that, and just to come into my other fantasies, and that is, nowadays, can you use the new technologies to produce your scores, etc., a lot more easily than you could in the past?
  (Mr Joseph) Absolutely, yes. I have started writing scores now into computers because it helps with producing the parts much more efficiently; because I do find writing on paper much quicker, but in terms of producing parts then I would either have to sit down and arduously go through it myself, to produce parts, or hire somebody to do parts for me.

Chairman

  36. Before I call Claire Ward, I would like to follow up, particularly in the light of your last answer, the question of definition. Mr Maxton put it before our previous witnesses, and they did their level best to answer it, but I am not at all clear still about how you define what. You just pointed out that you compose for symphony orchestras, and, indeed, in New York, last month, I heard the New York Philharmonic, partly under Kurt Masur and partly under Wynton Marsalis, playing music by Ellington; was that classics or was that jazz? Stravinsky and Milhaud, among others, based works on jazz music. We have heard that a number of composers, Britten, Tippett, Vaughan Williams, all of those, used folk music for their works. Stephen Sondheim, accused of writing operas, says it depends where his works are performed, that in an opera house they are operas and in theatres they are musicals. How do you define it?
  (Mr Joseph) If we take, for example, a piece like Rhapsody in Blue, which most people would be aware of, the style of it has a jazz style but the performance of it is classical because everything is written out and everything is pre-prescribed, but it is performed with the feeling of jazz but I would not call that jazz. Now the works of Duke Ellington are jazz because of a very strong improvisational element, which is noticed through the history of the great soloists, like Louis Armstrong and, as our friend mentioned, Bix Beiderbecke, the great soloists, whether it is John Coltrane or Miles Davis. So if there is a strong improvisational element mixed in with the style of jazz, or sometimes perhaps not, then I would call it jazz. And so what Wynton was doing, with the symphony orchestra and big band, or perhaps just a symphony orchestra, was providing both the colours and the textures of the composition and also the platform for improvisation. If the platform for improvisation exists then one can call it jazz; also if it swings.

  37. As Lady Bracknell would say, I ask merely for information. But at this concert that I attended last month, which I understand is going to be repeated at the Barbican next month, when you had the major suite, which was performed by the New York Philharmonic, members of the Philharmonic got up and improvised together, as did members of the Marcel This Is Jazz group. They were members of a classical orchestra playing jazz, you are telling me?
  (Mr Joseph) Yes, absolutely. But also there is a great culture of jazz in America, so that a classical musician in America will have quite a complete understanding of the operations of jazz; therefore, in their attempt to play jazz, an American musician would often get a lot closer than other musicians, from other parts of the world.
  (Ms Godrich) Can I just add, what your original question was, that really does show that jazz and folk inform classical music. Music feeds off other genres, which makes it why our argument would be why should one receive more subsidy at the cost of the others; because without folk and jazz, both of which receive very little public funding—they actually are important to the classical scene, both in the past and contemporary.

Ms Ward

  38. Just to clarify if any of jazz or folk musicians, to your knowledge, receive any grants or funds from the deceased composers' estates?
  (Mr Hodgkins) I spend a great part of my life for ever chasing money, and, to my knowledge, I do not know any musician, or band, or jazz organisation, and I cannot speak for folk but I should imagine that is the same, that has ever received a penny from any of these trust funds set up by deceased composers and their estates.
  (Ms Godrich) We have a library, the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Vaughan Williams was our President, and we have in the past received money from the Vaughan Williams Trust, but that has been declining over the last few years, and I think in two years will cease.
  (Mr Frost) Yes; and that is primarily to support the library's and archive resource, not towards performance or development of new traditions or new work.
  (Ms Godrich) No performers, to my knowledge, have ever received anything.
  (Mr Frost) No, but I do not know of anyone who has got any from the folk world.

  39. You mentioned earlier, Mr Hodgkins, the actual subsidies per head; do you know what the subsidy is per head for what might be described as modern or pop music?
  (Mr Hodgkins) In terms of popular music, from funding bodies, I should imagine the subsidy would be somewhere in approximation to zero, give or take, they do not do farthings these days, do they; but no, is the answer.


 
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