Many of us will remember the first album we bought. That excitement of rushing home and listening to it time and time again.
Though my musical tastes may have changed a bit over the years, that passion that first inspired me as a young boy has remained throughout my life.
Whatever genres you choose to listen to, music has the power to evoke great emotions. Hearing a favourite song on the radio can be like welcoming home an old friend and can instantly transport you back to the first time you heard it.
There’s also few things as exciting as seeing your favourite musician play live, performing the songs you love and inspiring joy and excitement in a crowd of people who may otherwise have little in common.
It’s that passion for music that I want to foster in everyone in the Sheffield City Region (SCR)– from primary school-aged children to established musicians.
We’ve already made a great start. For decades we’ve been home to fantastic, often world-famous bands and artists including Pulp, Human League, Arctic Monkeys, Richard Hawley, Kate Rusby, Bang Bang Romeo, Reverend and the Makers, one fifth of One Direction, Thompson Twins, Lesley Garrett, Heaven 17 – the list is endless.
We have iconic venues both large and small and we are leading the way with production and technology-based businesses. I want to nurture this success and use it to inspire the next generation of musicians, producers, agents, managers and promoters.
As Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, I saw for myself the transformational impact that music can bring to individuals, to places and whole communities. I was therefore determined to realise those benefits for the SCR– where I serve as Mayor, and where I call home.
That’s why, working with UK Music, in 2018 I launched the SCR Music Board – the first one outside of London. Made up of representatives from venues, festival organisers, artists, music educational hubs, our local authorities and music businesses, we’re working together to help shape and grow the region’s music industry.
To identify what more we could do to promote the region’s musical offer nationally and internationally, we asked UK Music to produce an independent report into the music sector across the region.
They found that music tourism adds more than £92 million to our economy each year and more than 830,000 people attend live music in the region in 2017.
The SCR Music Report also identified actions we could take to make the region even more successful. Offering opportunities for emerging talent. It’s important that all young people, regardless of their background, should have access to music in education and should be able to pursue a career in music, if they want to.
We’ve made a good start in this area. We have an award-winning choir in Barnsley called the Barnsley Youth Choir. Run by volunteers, they provide opportunities for young people aged between four and 24 to develop skills and qualities that will support them throughout their lives – using music as a starting point. But there is more that we can do.
Protecting grassroot music venues is key. Smaller venues are the lifeblood of the live music industry and where up-and-coming musicians can learn and perfect their trade.
It’s important that we work with them as much as we can, not only so they can support the next Arctic Monkeys, but so we ensure music venues are accessible for all.
The report also recommended that we work to support the growth of music businesses across the region and support new start-ups. Our Growth Hub team currently provides bespoke help and support to businesses across the Sheffield City Region, but there’s undoubtedly more we can do to point music businesses in their direction.
Transport, too, is important. For people to get to gigs, work in an industry with notoriously unsociable hours or take part in out-of-school music sessions, they need to be able to get around. This means creating a transport system that is safe, that is reliable, and that supports our night-time economy. Through initiatives such as the South Yorkshire Bus Review, and my new Transport Strategy, this work is underway.
We also need to reach out to every part of our diverse region. We need to map out all the musical activity across the whole region would ensure the scale of the industry is fully understood, as well as enabling a targeted approach for how we market ourselves as a hub for music and creativity
My Music Board will now work with UK Music and industry experts from across our region to take forward the recommendations detailed in the report. We’ll work together to develop our region’s musical potential on the national stage, grow our cultural economy and help new talent to shine.