Thursday, February 03, 2005

FRANZ CALLS FOR NATIONAL ASSISTANCE: Alex Kapranos' call for more government funding for music is well-meant, but we're not sure that it's the best answer for ensuring British music remains vibrant and exciting. We've seen quite a few results of pumping in public money to rock and pop concerns, and quite often they're dreadful, and usually worse than that. For example, we recall enormous sums being pumped into a project in Liverpool called Braveheart - and their 'edutainer' band Jezzebelle; the project flopped badly while the similar privately funded Atomic Kitten did much better.

Public funding means accountability, which creates extra acres of paperwork; that tends to move the project into the control of people who are good at filling out forms and reporting spending rather than people with great talent and exciting ideas (not always impossible to find the pair of attributes in one person - but can you really, in all honesty, see, say, Bloc Party taking the time to fill out a fifteen page lottery application?

It also provides a cushion which separates the artist from an audience - I think it's fair to say that part of the reason The Picket started to do badly in Liverpool was it had funders underwriting it for its social good, which lessened the need for it take commercial decisions and put together shows which would attract audiences. Sure, everyone got a chance to play, but often to small audiences.

That's not to say that there isn't a place for government support - indeed, until the Tories started to turn the role of the dole into stickybeaks and personal action plan gurus, unemployment benefit was a really effective way of underwriting Britain's artistic community. They got a living wage - just about - and the space to be creative; the money wasn't dependent upon them producing a business plan or ensuring they managed to tick some boxes about social inclusion. University grants - which freed students from the need to do temporary jobs and allowed them much more time to just dick about with guitars - was another form of unacknowledged subsidy. Trying to fund "music" is always doomed to fail. Providing people with a little bit of cash to explore their dreams, though, can have marvellous results.