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DRAMA BREWS AT UK MUSIC

The appointment of former Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson as Chairman of UK Music has been met with criticism across the British music industry and in the press. Major label trade body BPI is reportedly particularly unhappy with the hiring.

In a Times article published today, the BPI is said to be in opposition of the appointment due to Watson's lack of "sufficient knowledge of the music industry," and opponents "fear the appointment will damage the music industry’s influence in negotiations with the government."

During his time in Government, Watson, who started his new position at the beginning of April, urged police to reinvestigate claims that a number of former politicians and figures, including Sir Cliff Richard and radio/TV presenter Paul Gambaccini, had been involved in a VIP pedophile ring. The investigation collapsed after it was found to be based on false claims by a man named Carl Beech, who was then imprisoned for perverting the course of justice, fraud, and several child sexual offences.

Singer/songwriter and former BPI Deputy Chairman, Mike Batt, was the first to criticize the hire, wrote an open letter earlier in April that Watson may find it tough to find a sympathetic ear in Government. "He is arguably equally reviled on both left and right of politics. If the British music industry is to continue to thrive, it must have access to a sympathetic ear in Government—currently Conservative. Can the industry be assured of a welcome with Watson as its flagbearer, and if not, is it worth the risk?" 

In the Times article, lyricist Sir Tim Rice weighed in on the debate, accusing Watson of “seriously harming the lives of several people in the music business” and saying that his appointment was “extraordinary.” 

Andy Heath, who founded UK Music in 2008 and preceded Watson as chairman, responded: “The BPI has always been transparent about their opposition to the appointment of Tom Watson and that is completely fair. This opposition was not taken lightly and the board debated at length in the hope that unanimity might be achieved.” 

A spokesperson for UK Music said: "Tom Watson was Shadow Culture Secretary for more than three years before he stood down from Parliament. He was a founder member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music. During his time in Parliament, he worked on many cross-party campaigns, including support for the reform of live music licensing and fair ticketing.

"All UK Music's member organizations were actively involved in the extensive and widely advertised recruitment process for the new Chair which culminated in the appointment of Tom Watson. The appointment was ratified by the UK Music Board in March and widely welcomed across the music industry."

 

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