|Carwyn Jones AM|
|David Melding AM|
|Delyth Jewell AM|
|John Griffiths AM|
|Callum Lewis||Rhwydwaith Hyrwyddwyr Ifanc/Forté Project|
|Young Promoters Network/Forté Project|
|Ethan Duck||Rhwydwaith Hyrwyddwyr Ifanc/Forté Project|
|Young Promoters Network/Forté Project|
|Joss Daye||Rhwydwaith Hyrwyddwr Ifanc|
|Young Promoters Network|
|Spike Griffiths||Forté Project|
|Mared Llwyd||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Martha Da Gama Howells||Clerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Ymchwiliad i gerddoriaeth fyw||2. Inquiry into live music|
|3. Ymchwiliad i gerddoriaeth fyw: Datblygu Talent||3. Inquiry into live music: Developing Talent|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:32.
The meeting began at 09:32.
Welcome to this meeting of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee. I'll start with apologies and substitutions. We do have an apology from Mick Antoniw. There is no substitution. Are there any declarations of interest? There aren't.
Therefore, we move to our main item, and that's to continue the inquiry into live music in Wales. I'm delighted to welcome John Rostron to today's proceedings. You're very experienced in the field. I think, indeed, that you've given evidence to the committee previously—or whatever type of committee existed covering culture years ago. Anyway, you have appeared in the Assembly, so you'll perhaps be aware of the type of session that we will now have, and the range of questions that we'd like to put to you.
John is the executive chair of the Association of Independent Promoters. He has a range of really relevant experience, including being co-founder of the Welsh Music Prize, a freelance writer and art associate of the Arts Council of Wales. So, we are really grateful for your time this morning, and I'll ask Delyth Jewell to start our session.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. I'm going to ask a couple of questions in Welsh, if you want to just check that the headset—
Dwi wedi dysgu Cymraeg.
I've learnt Welsh.
It's channel 1 for the Welsh translation, and if anyone requires amplification, that's channel zero.
Ydy e'n gweithio'n iawn? Chi'n gallu clywed yn iawn?
Does it work okay? Can you hear?
Grêt. Roeddwn i eisiau gofyn yn gyntaf beth yw eich barn chi yn gyffredinol am y sector yng Nghymru.
Great. I just wanted to ask, first of all, what your opinion is, in general, about the sector in Wales.
I thought that one of the things that—. I've read all of the evidence that has been submitted thus far, and I've been watching the evidence sessions, which have been really great. One of the things that I thought was quite interesting is that there have been lots of opinions about the health of the sector, which is fantastic, but there has been only one piece of evidence about health, which came from UK Music, which was—. The start of this is around live music, particularly in reaction to the closure of venues and the issues around venues—that was your sort of starting point. So, there are lots of great opinions, and I can add mine, but I think the really important bit was that UK Music came in with a piece of evidence, which was ticket sales. That's one way of measuring how things are doing, and the ticket figures they had was the first time that we had collated those kinds of things in Wales, and that's a starting point.
So, my view mirrors things that you've heard, which is there's been a lot of closures of venues, and clearly there's a sort of venue crisis and we need to do something about considering those spaces, what they are, who needs to be in them, where they should be and what they might look like. I'm encouraged that Creative Wales are doing a mapping of the venues. But then also, if you look through the evidence that you've got, there's massively conflicting opinions about 'Do we have enough venues or not?' So, PYST, for example, say—. They work in Welsh language music and they're saying there aren't enough spaces for Welsh language performers to perform in. And then you have Trac who look after the traditional music of Wales, which is actually quite a lot of music in the Welsh language, and they're saying, 'There are too many or enough venues; there are 172 spaces.' Are both of those things true? Can both of those things be right or not? I'm not quite sure.
Clearly, we need to map the spaces. I would argue that if Creative Wales's focus is on the creative industries, then we should also be considering that these spaces aren't just about creative industries. One of the roles I have is working for Making Music, which supports leisure time music groups. Leisure time music groups are choirs and choral groups and chamber orchestras that don't just number three or four people, they might number 30 or 40 people, and these people require spaces to rehearse in and places to play, and they probably wouldn't be covered, or they wouldn't be covered, by Creative Wales's mapping. So, we should be looking at how that mapping can cover all of the people who use those spaces.
I think there are lots of positives that are developing out of this problem. Cardiff council's response to the crisis was to go out, commission Sound Diplomacy, as global experts in the music sector or creative sector, to put together the strategy, the ecosystems study and the strategy recommendations. They've called for a board, the board meets next month, and that's wonderful. There's really clearly a plan of action. It's made the news that Cardiff are now going to consider creating a new signature event for music that's going to be in the autumn and it will involve Sŵn festival, the Festival of Voice and other things, and that seems really positive as well. There are some new initiatives like Anthem, the music endowment fund, which I believe they're capitalising on, and that feels really exciting too, so there are some really positive things coming, but there's perhaps still a lack of, 'Where's that going to go?' and 'Are we collecting the right data?' and 'Where's the strategy going to be to make sure that we can keep moving on?' Because Cardiff has got a good strategy, but that's just—. That's really important, it's our capital city—
That's just one city.
Thank you for that. I was going to ask whether your general view of the health of the sector has changed over time, but from what you're saying it sounds like you think that things have had at least, or have got to a more worrying point, but that that is actually in turn spurring creativity, and that means that with creative solutions, at least in some places, a positive can come out of it. Am I putting words in your mouth here? Is that a fair summary?
That's about right. There are several sides to the artistic journey, aren't there? There are the performers and the artists and the writers and they always seem to be around wherever. Some would argue that the best writing comes from the difficult times. But we shouldn't be putting difficult times on people so that we can get great songs. But behind that—. There was a really great Michael Sheen radio documentary about his journey through Port Talbot. He said that the aspiration is that everyone should be a star, and he said, 'Well, we can't all be a star.' He said, 'I'm a star because there was a supporting infrastructure. There was the amateur music group and the theatre group, and there was a place that I could perform at. And it was these people, who will never be stars, who enabled me to be where I'm at.' And that's the bit—. If we talk about the health of the sector, I think we will probably always have great artists, or I hope that we will, but we need to ensure that those enablers are there, and those enablers may be physical spaces—so venues is one thing, it might be rehearsal rooms—but they might be people: it might be managers and promoters and bookers, and it might be things like PYST, like distribution services to enable the music to get out there. Those individual people, perhaps, will never be the stars, but they'll be the pathway.
Yes, it's not that anyone could be a star—I don't mean that at all—but there are people out there who could have been stars who maybe didn't have the right support structures there. And certainly, for someone to make it, all the support structures have to be in the right place at the right time for them. So, it's just making sure that—
Yes. We don't want a barrier where somebody begins to set up a festival and, because of a lack of some kind of support or infrastructure can't get there—they have a good idea—or an artist can't get their music heard. Music is, as we all know, subjective. I love some great albums that have barely sold. There are other records that have become superstars. So, we can never control that, but we at least need to make sure the barriers are down. And venues are a great example of that. Great artists can't come and play in your city if there isn't a space for them to play. So, if you open the space, then you can work on making sure they can be here.
Thank you. And I know that some of what you were talking about there, in terms of making sure that the structure's there to support emerging talent, that will be something that Carwyn Jones will come back to later. You mentioned that you think that it's great that Creative Wales are mapping the venues. Have you, through your work in any way, been involved in that mapping exercise?
No. I was aware that they were going to put out a tender for it and I was aware of the tender, and I was asked by a couple of companies to be part of their tender application and we weren't successful. I followed the process. So, it's a company out in west Wales that's secured it, a research company, and they looked fantastic. They looked like that's what you want. Research was their field of expertise—not music, but research and data mapping—and that's what the thing's about. I was running into venues and asking people, 'Have you been contacted yet?', because I knew the timeline, which originally was starting in July and finishing in September. And at the point that I was asking people, nobody had been contacted, which seemed highly unusual, because part of the tender process was that you would ask the venues certain questions to gather data. Your evidence sessions have been going on past that deadline, and I'm aware that you've heard the same things. I haven't asked anybody recently to know where it's at. So, that's where it was at.
That's really useful to know. Thank you.
Yn olaf, byddaf i jest yn gofyn un peth arall yn Gymraeg. Yn olaf, rŷch chi wedi dweud am rai o'r pethau da sy'n digwydd, yn enwedig yng Nghaerdydd, ydych chi'n meddwl byddai fe'n beth da i ni gael fforwm ledled Cymru yn ceisio cynnig rhyw fath o ffordd i bobl ddysgu o arferion da, dysgu beth sy'n digwydd yn dda, fel y bydd mwy o venues dros y genedl i gyd yn gallu buddio o hynny?
Finally, just one further question in Welsh, if I may. Finally, you mentioned some of the positives that are happening, particularly in Cardiff, do you think that it would be a good thing for us to have a Wales-wide music forum, trying to provide some means that people can learn from good practice and learn what's happening out there, so that there will be more venues available across the whole of the nation that could benefit from that?
Yes, absolutely. I think there are two versions of that. There's a really quick and easy one, which is to get everybody round the table. So, in Cardiff, one of the recommendations we made was for a music board, which they've now recruited; it meets next month and it's 18 people. That's only focusing on Cardiff. A Wales music board or some kind of network would make a lot of sense. And that might involve Creative Wales, the Arts Council of Wales. It might include some of the portfolio organisations from the arts council who have a remit for music. It would include representatives from the UK bodies. So, you've had Mark Davyd from Music Venue Trust down here; you've had UK Music here; you've had Andy Warnock from the Musicians' Union; there's PRS; there's PPL; there's the Association of Independent Music. It would help musicians who are going to announce and launch some activity in Wales next year. These are all UK-based organisations that have huge amounts of expertise that Wales needs to be listening to. Quite often, sometimes, those issues then become devolved, but we still want to have a relationship with them. And that could be as simple as meeting four times a year to gather. And then you'd have your key sector people. So, it might be your Motorpoint Arena and Live Nation, particularly with a view to the fact that they're going a build a 15,000-capacity arena. It might be your leading festivals, and then it might be some of your grass-roots venues being heard or a voice for them to be heard. It could be as quick and easy as that, and, if you look at this committee, that's then who you would call. When you're looking to look at, 'What's the state of live music?', you could call that group and they would come in and report to you, whereas you have to sort of—. There isn't the space, right, for you to—? You've had to find all those individuals.
The bigger idea, which I really think is needed, is actually to set up an agency to look strategically at music in Wales, because one of the things that seems to have come from this is that the trigger for this has been live venues and live venues were traditionally seen as commercial music spaces, because they were quite commercial for all kinds of reasons. Music Venue Trust set up in 2014 because things were massively changing and venues were closing. And the thing that you've heard is that these venues are now—. They are—quite a lot of them, their governance is as a commercial venue, a for-profit company, but they're not-for-profit; they're not making any money. And you're seeing a change where they're moving from for-profit companies to not-for-profit companies. So, you've had Le Public Space in here which is, I think, a community benefit co-operative. Clwb Ifor Bach is a community interest company and is looking to become a charity, and that is a trend that is happening in Wales and is going to happen everywhere.
So, their governance is changing. So, who supports them? If you've got Creative Wales, which is about commercial music, well, they're not commercial, and if Arts Council of Wales is for arts, they're not artistic either, because—. So, you've got a space, but there is somewhere in the middle. So, my suggestion would be that Creative Wales puts its money for music—because it's predominantly looking after film, tech, TV—into a new agency, sits on the board. Arts Council of Wales, who clearly support music but this is all new to them as well, this is a new sector for them, they don't have, or they don't appear to have, enough expertise and I wouldn't expect them to recruit to the level to have that expertise. They put their money into the agency and then the kind of people I've talked about would sit on the non-exec board, and that would be the organisation that would support music not just through funding but through having those conversations on a regular basis with the kinds of people we're talking about—the sector in Wales, the sector in London—and the UK and bringing you the advice and support for you to make policy.
We'll now look at support and advice in a bit more detail. I'll ask John Griffiths to take us forward. In the natural flow of things, we've arrived at your first question, John, but I'll let you develop.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Yes, John, you've covered some of the areas I was about to broach with you regarding support and advice generally. Really, I was just going to start off with: is there enough support and advice available? You were chief exec of the Welsh Music Foundation. You've said in your blog that a new agency needs to be set up, and you've just mentioned that now. Is there anything you'd like to add in terms of just a little bit more detail, John, in terms of why that agency is needed and the job that it could do?
Yes. I think—. Because there's the funding side of things, isn't there, which I think I've articulated. You've got Creative Wales, who will have grants, small grants, to give to people—but small grants in music, I think, as you've heard, mean a lot to people: £5,000, £10,000 goes a long way. And Arts Council of Wales is clearly a funding body. The other big bit that's missing that people need is support, advice, signposting, and that comes in a number of ways. The Welsh Music Foundation did some of that. I'm not saying that you recreate that. And that would be—. You'd have a couple of things, really. You'd have a lot of signposting. So, if somebody in west Wales wants to start a record label, you don't sit there—. And we wouldn't have explained to them how to set up a record label. We would signpost them to the Association of Independent Music in London, who are the membership body for record labels, and they would train them, teach them and show them and eventually—you know, give them that good practice. So, there's a lot of signposting.
You would also then look—. You have a lot of enquiries. So, I think, in the last year of Welsh Music Foundation, there were nearly 2,000 enquiries that came in, and enquiries range from things like, 'I've recorded an album. What do I do?', to, 'How do I get a session musician?', or 'I want to be a manager', or 'I'm a manager, but I'm also working in a pizza shop and how do I juggle—?' And you would deal with each one of those in different ways and if there were clusters of issues—. And that was always key; you'd see something emerging. PRS was a great example. As an artist is moving from recording to getting airplay, understanding PRS, we would run workshops—with PRS sometimes—to help them learn how to—. They would sit in the sessions and actually log in and register and then begin to collect their revenue. So, we would run—I think, in the final year, we ran 36 bespoke training sessions. So, that bit is also missing right now. Some people do some of that. So, Horizons, as part of their support for the 12 artists, will do some of that. Forté and Young Promoters Network, who you'll meet later, will do some of that. But Horizons only works for 12 artists, because that's their remit. Forté and Young Promoters Network only work in five boroughs, because that's their remit. So, there are all the other people who can't access that.
I was down at the BBC Introducing event in London on the weekend, and one of the things I'd forgotten is that there is a development agency for music in Yorkshire. So, Yorkshire have what I'm talking about for Yorkshire; we don't have one for Wales.
Yes. Okay. John, in terms of the Arts Council of Wales, you said earlier that perhaps they could pass responsibility, to some extent, at least, in terms of music in Wales, to the agency that might be created. So, I take it you believe the Arts Council of Wales haven't got a great deal of expertise and support available for music in Wales at the current time.
I think the Arts Council of Wales—. They set up the music industry development fund in 2014. That was at a time that the Welsh Music Foundation was also going to lose its funding. That was a really innovative fund; it was really pioneering. But they quite meekly launched it, and it was there because there was this gap that was going to arrive. A year later, Arts Council England launched Momentum, who had a big launch at The Great Escape, and it's been hugely successful. But the music industry development fund was a year ahead, and was really pioneering in its support. But, as you've heard, it's predominantly supported artists, which is fantastic, but it is open and available to venues, promoters and so on. But there are a lot of issues there. They're not being communicated to—. But then, if they were, like they might be through this. If they were, and they were communicated to—the equivalent has happened in England. The Arts Council England fund—the supporting grass-roots music fund—already existed, it was just called whatever it was called—project funding. It was re-wrapped and it was ring-fenced at £1.5 million in May, and so suddenly all the venues and promoters are beginning to apply for it, which is fantastic. The first dozen or so applications that they received were all rejected because they weren't good enough. And that comes from—the sector that we're talking about aren't used to applying for funding. That's an issue. They're really busy—so, it takes quite a lot of time to go through any kind of process for applying for funding.
But then, on the other side, in Arts Council England, have they got enough deep expertise in this sector? No, because this is all new to them. These are venues that were commercial that are now non-commercial, and we're talking about—. Music Venue Trust membership is, what, 500, 550 venues, all with different structures and different you know. So, the Arts Council of Wales are going to be in exactly the same kind of position if they begin to try and look at this sector. And I'm not quite sure how they would navigate that.
So, in terms of that capital fund that England have, we may well have something similar in Wales, John. So, in terms of those lessons, then, how well it's working or not in England, what would you say in terms of how it should be structured here in Wales?
There needs to be—. What Arts Council England do, if you look at one of their other funds, the Momentum fund, they give that, they ring-fence that money and they give it to PRS for Music Foundation, who are—I think you might be aware of them, but they have music expertise cross-genre, and they deliver that fund. And actually, their grant panels are made up of sector specialists, so record labels, artists and managers, who come in, who help advise. That seems to work quite well, because, from an Arts Council England perspective, you've got the sector expertise but you're not having to recruit them full-time into your organisation. Now, this Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund, they haven't done that, and like I articulated at the start, they've hit some issues early on; people are now being successful. But I'm working freelance doing some bid writing for companies in England to help get them money, and we've been successful so far. So, we would either need to have a group of individuals and companies around here that could support the applicants on that journey, or there needs to be something like the PRS situation, where we would pass the money on, but we don't have a thing like PRS for Music Foundation in Wales that we could pass it to. So, I would suggest either a bursary for some people to be able to employ experts to help them on their journey, or look at some way that we could pass the money out, or resource Arts Council of Wales to be able to bring in additional expertise into those grant meetings.
Yes. Okay. John, in terms of the way the grant funding works—and you've covered this to some extent already, but, in terms of the Arts Council of Wales and the grants that it distributes, is there anything you'd like to add in terms of how much artists should get, how much music venues should get, the size of the grants—anything that you think is really important in terms of the way that the Arts Council of Wales operates in that way?
Well, if I was chief executive of the arts council, I would maybe be asking, to start with, 'Is it our remit?' Like I articulated, these are commercial spaces. Actually, a lot of the companies that we're talking about—Le Public Space and Clwb Ifor Bach are the exceptions; they've had the resource or the nous to become not-for-profit. Most of the other ones that you had in, like you had Sin City and Clwb y Bont, they're commercial operations; the very nature of their governance would mean that they would be ineligible, or that would be the first hurdle. And then, if they were to apply—because they could apply as a commercial entity, but they've got to think about a not-for-profit, a charitable project. And these are things that, if you work in funding, you understand, but if you're busy trying to run a venue—and you've got to remember, these people, they run the bricks, the mortar, the staff, they market, they do the whole lot—it's another skill set to bring in.
So, going back to—I think that the arts council, this has come to them like a wave of change. Is it their responsibility or not? It could be their responsibility and they could take it upon themselves, but they should be sitting here asking to be resourced to do so, or they should be saying, 'No, this is an issue that's happened in the commercial sector and it needs to be—'. So, I'm—. That would be my position. I'm not sure if—. I think it's delightful that, in England, arts council have ring-fenced money and taken that on board. I can't speak for arts council—. I would love there to be a pot of money that venues could access. Who is responsible for that pot, I don't think is for me to say. It would seem that it could come from those two bodies. And, in terms of money—the grant system in England, first-time applicants are advised to not apply for more than £15,000. That is what they're going for and it's really useful. Lots of people are applying for pieces of kit—sound desks and new lights and different things. Sound desks in particular—you know, a sound desk with 16 channels can only bring so many bands in and 24 channels can bring in more; it's simple things like that. But programmes of events, £15,000 to underwrite a programme of events allows you—I mean, I've submitted some budgets for some shows—to take a risk with a lot of shows of artists, which is really, really vital and just takes that sort of stress away. So, those kinds of amounts in Wales—you know, £10,000, £15,000—I think would be welcomed.
Yes. Okay, John, a final question from me. Creative Wales—which, again, you've mentioned already—to what extent have you been involved with Creative Wales and the planning?
I'm not involved in anything formally with them at all. I run the Welsh Music Prize with Huw Stephens and they supported—as the creative industries team, they supported our event last year, they came to us and offered us some support, which was the beginnings of what was going to become Creative Wales. I think they wanted to launch last year. They've invited us to apply for some money for three years, which we're in the process of doing, to support the event over the next three years.
Through those conversations and actually by accident, chance, they're going to be now launching Creative Wales at the Welsh Music Prize on 27 November. So, they're going to do one launch in London, and the launch in London will be around film and tv, and in Wales, it will be at the Welsh Music Prize, so it'll be about music.
So, through those conversations—they're quite open about the kind of things they're trying to support, and they're great initiatives. It's great they're coming to the Welsh Music Prize. It's not a commercial initiative, there's no money to be made in the Welsh Music Prize, but we all understand the value of having those moments.
They support the Momentum fund, a similarly great project, they support PYST, they supported a music conference at the Sŵn festival, they're giving some money towards the Forté and the young promoters network, who are here later, to explore their development. These are really great things. None of them is commercial, they're all quasi-commercial operations. My impression is that music is part of their remit, but they're fighting to make the case for the reasons that I just explained.
It's much easier if someone comes in—have we all watched His Dark Materials on Sunday? But if somebody comes in and says, 'I've got the rights to Philip Pullman's bestselling books', that's a commercial—. You can see the value in that, and we can see the impact of that. If someone comes in and says, 'I've got this artist, I think they could be the new Adele', well, there are no guarantees there, are there? So, I think it's really great they're looking to support that, but they're probably, within their teams, struggling to make that case, so I hope you can help them make that case.
That takes us nicely on to talent development, and then, after that, some basic issues relating to planning licensing and the like. I'll ask Carwyn Jones to take us forward on these questions, please.
Good to see you again. Talent development—there are two issues, really, that I want to explore with you and get your view on: firstly, the pipeline, and then, secondly, the resources, in terms of support through sound engineering and so forth, and other support professions, and also resources in terms of rehearsal space. If I could park those for a second, the first question, really, is in terms of the talent pipeline: what's your view of the current state of the talent pipeline? Are there any difficulties? Are there challenges, or is that pipeline unblocked at the moment?
Again, I think if you look at the artistic side, we've got some really good initiatives that look at that, like Horizons and the Forté and the young promoters network. I think they're two really great examples of—they take talent early, in a wide variety of genres, and they have successes. The partnership for Horizons—that's leveraging arts council money with all the value proposition from the BBC, BBC Wales. It's enormous, to have that input, the airplay. You can literally hear the presenters becoming fans of the bands. That's really important, that's wonderful, but it's only 12 artists. It's wonderful, but it is only 12 people.
I think Forté young promoters network is an outstanding project, because it reaches—it wasn't a music project. It started as, 'How do we reach difficult people? We think music is the key.' It's just ignited these young people in these poor areas who have aspirations, and it's completely open. It's not just about artistic—it's people who want to be a photographer or they want to put on a show, and they all muck in and do it.
But it's only in five boroughs at the moment. You're going to speak to them in a minute—I don't know if they're allowed to say this, but they should be a pan-Wales—. If they could be, if they wanted to be and if there was a way, that would be—. That is what is needed across Wales, because when you think about the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, that's at the heart of what Spike and the guys have been doing for five years, and to roll that out across Wales so that everybody in every borough had access to that—. Because they also don't have to limit the numbers. If they're putting on a show, everybody can muck in and do something. So, it's a bit less restrictive in that way.
Naturally, there's become a relationship between them and Horizons, where artists at Forté, who tend to be younger, less confident, not necessarily wanting—they're just exploring their creativity—perhaps build up some resilience and then move into something like Horizons, which is a bit more like the music industry—you're moved about, rough and tough. So, on the artistic side, that would be my big recommendation.
What would you say are the main barriers that young bands, young performers face as they come into the industry?
As they come into the industry?
Yes. If you're starting up now as a young musician, what would be the obstacles you'd have to jump across?
It depends where you live. So, anywhere outside of a hub—. Cardiff has clearly got a hub, Swansea's got—actually, it's called the Swansea music hub. Newport's got a bit going on. But then once you get outside of that—Wrexham's got a little bit going on as well—where do you go and meet other like-minded souls? Normally, rehearsal rooms are the great spaces—they're the little incubators, because you go and practice whatever your music is and you run into other people who are into other bands, and that's where you form friendships and so on. You need all of that catalyst to support you, but then you need people who are more experienced who can begin to say, 'You need to go and see PRS, because you need to sign that record. This is what you need to do. You need to go to this conference. This is the person who books at this venue.' Now, that is something that an agency can do. So, if you have your people spotted around the country, they would signpost you to somewhere. So, that might be to an agency, like I talked about before, but your little sparks are probably something like the young promoters network, because that's what it is in the boroughs that they're operating. If somebody's interested, then somebody would say, 'Go to meet Spike and the YPN', or Ed or Siân or one of his team, and then that's how they would begin to connect. Then you would have those people to talk up to—Siân would talk to Spike, Spike would then talk to Bethan Elfyn at Horizons and so on, and it moves up the ladder, and that's what you need.
You mentioned rehearsal space there, and the need for people not just to have a space to rehearse, but to meet, exchange ideas and understand what they need to do next. Is there an issue regarding the availability of rehearsal space? From what you're saying—you mentioned Cardiff, Swansea, a bit in Wrexham—clearly, it would seem to me that we don't have an adequate network of such places across Wales. Would that be correct?
I wouldn't know, to be honest. It was one of the things that would come up during the time at WMF, but it's not something that I've stayed in touch with since. When we did the Cardiff study, unfortunately that was only Cardiff, and it seemed that that was well resourced. So, that would be a really good question for the mapping exercise to be exploring. But you're quite right—it's in those spaces that you meet a network, and then it's also where the poster is that says, 'Do you want to learn about PRS? Call this person'. That's the little bits that are missing.
Okay. Just to touch finally on the issue of talent, we know that there are fewer students taking music GCSE in Wales. Is there any link at all between the decline in those studying music and the talent pipeline?
I don't know. I would imagine so. One of the things that led to me wanting a role in Making Music, which is a leisure time music organisation, was when I was doing the Cardiff study, we would be meeting with the industry a lot of the time and also higher education and further education, and the thing that I kept hearing anecdotally, and when we met with promoters or artists or bookers, was the role of community music, music education and leisure time music. It was again and again and again. 'The first time that I got given an instrument', 'The first time that I went to a concert'—those are the three bits that were underpinning everything before, and, clearly, that's what sparks the interest, and that interest is then whether you're going to pursue that academically.
Do you think the music—you may not be able to answer this, but if you can—do you think the music syllabus is too geared towards one particular genre of music?
I don't know enough about that, unfortunately.
All right. It's a leading question anyway. The final question from me, then: bands are one thing, performers are one thing, but, of course, they need the technicians around them to be able to perform properly. How are we doing in terms of developing that area of talent? Promoters, obviously—that's in your direct experience—but also in terms of the sound engineers, for example, lighting, and all those people who are needed to make sure the performance is as effective as possible. Where are we sitting at the moment in terms of the availability of those skills?
I don't know how—. The way that I've seen it is that it's in the venues where—. People get into the skills in all different kinds of ways. My 16-year-old nephew is on a music technology course, and he's learning to plug in amplifiers and various things. He's also failed his maths—. He's a classic—he's great, poor soul—he failed maths, he's resitting his English today, he failed maths and he failed English, but music is where he can come alive. So, he's plugging in amps and plugging in things, but at some point, he will need to go into a venue and start to do that.
In my time as a promoter—. I do a lot of shows in Clwb Ifor Bach, and the people who had come from courses or found their way into setting up a stage became the resident front of house engineer. For eight out of 10 of them, eventually what happens and what's so exciting about these spaces is you get bands on the way up, so you put Sam Fender on in the big top to 100 people and now he's playing the Motorpoint, but on the way, what happens is, when those acts are coming around, quite often, they've only got themselves, they're carrying their gear, or whatever, but at some point they need a sound engineer or a lighting engineer and, quite often, what happens is they meet someone that they really click with, or they've had a call that day saying, 'You've got a big tour, you need to recruit someone', and they literally pick up the person. And Clwb Ifor Bach—it would be worth going to them and asking them for an alumni list of the people who were working in Clwb Ifor Bach who now are Coldplay's lighting engineer or Kylie Minogue's sound engineer. These people are touring the world, and they're all from Wales. Coldplay's manager was from Wales. They pick people up on their way around. Muse's guy used to do the Manic Street Preachers. That's what happens.
Is that still happening? I see it from the people that I know. Should we perhaps be more strategic in it? Because I would look at Clwb Ifor Bach and go, 'Is that not a problem? You train them up, you're paying them and then off they go.' And they might say, 'Yes, it is, and maybe we could be supported to do that', but it's also wonderful, because those people will return to the place on their time off, or they'll bring the bands back. So, maybe we need to consider it a bit and be more strategic about it, but we also need to make sure that can happen across Wales.
Can I just put some—I wouldn't say routine and boring, but when it comes to business rates, licensing and planning issues, these are part of it. In fairness to you, you've emphasised how important the whole infrastructure is that's needed and not to focus just on the stars. I think you have said—perhaps in your blog anyway, there's a reference somewhere to it—about business rates, and we've heard evidence that there's a lot of pressure coming from that area, because it's a big fixed cost that's increasing. Do you have any ideas and reflections on all that regulatory side?
I think when it comes to business rates, you've had the best person in, Mark Davyd, from the Music Venues Trust. Their organisation has been hearing about that, studying it, looking at it and campaigning for it. And I bow to their expertise. I can't add anything to what they're saying. Talk to them.
I can talk about licensing a bit. I'm not sure where you're at with that. I saw Bethan Sayed's—. I watched the sessions here and then she was talking to Minty and, clearly, with licensing, you've heard some stuff anecdotally at round-tables. When we did the Cardiff study, we heard it from venues, promoters, we heard it from artists and we heard it from audiences. And we heard all kinds of anecdotal stuff, which will mirror what you've heard. And it's to do with accessing the spaces, or the levels of security given, or even whether the shows can go ahead, or what the experience is like for an audience member. There are a huge amount of problems in that space.
Our way to look at it was to ask, 'Could we get redacted examples', because we thought that would be the way, and people just wouldn't even give us redacted examples, because there is a level of distrust that's been created in that space. So, I want to suggest a solution, rather than—. The solution, for me, would be that—. We're focusing on live music venues, and I think, like Marc Davyd and MVT says, you can do the elephant test. You know that Clwb Ifor Bach is a live music venue, you know that Cardiff Students Union is a music venue, the Motorpoint Arena is a music venue, and so on. Let them look after their licensing; that's it. At the moment, they look after—. They have a legal duty to make sure that everybody in that venue is safe anyway. Clwb Ifor Bach, like I put in my evidence, puts on 217 shows in a year, so every day is different. The people who have to externally protect that venue—so, the police, councils, licensing—they've not just got that venue to worry about; they've got the whole of a city or the whole of a borough to look after. How are they possibly expected to have all the expertise to run that? So, just let them get on with running the cities, which they do really well, and let the venues be responsible for their licensing because, at the end of the day, they've got to be responsible. I think that would be very easy to do, and I believe the mayor's office in London is looking to pilot such a scheme. Give the responsibility to the experts—simple as that.
So, there'd be a general duty to run a suitable venue, and the council would have the responsibility to ensure that those venues that are open are self-regulating properly, and that they would audit that occasionally, presumably, and they'd have some sort of method.
Cardiff has now got the right structure, because it's got a music board. The music board could be the space that determines what is and what isn't a music venue, because you've got that combination of council and sector expertise. Like I said, we all know that Clwb Ifor Bach is a venue, but, as it gets more detailed, you wouldn't need a set of requirements; they would know, they would self-regulate. And, at the end of the day, the council can always veto that right, so it never goes away. That would work wonderfully. I can't think of a safer space to take someone than a students union. They have a duty of care to young people—let them get on with it.
And is there evidence through more interventionist models, where the licensing department is much more hands on despite the vast amount of venues they may have to then be imposing requirements on, that they just get inappropriate and severe? We've heard that there's an element of racial profiling that goes on, which is obviously hugely problematic conceptually. Is there clear evidence of that happening?
Yes, absolutely. You've got venues that have to submit guest lists to people for approval. You've got evidence where a show might have been on sale for six months and nothing's—. Clwb Ifor Bach might have 217 shows in a year, so imagine how many shows are on sale at once, and you've not had any call. And then, when you get closer to a show, if a show's not selling out, you might be running some additional media, or the artist might do something, and then the photograph of the artist might appear. That is when the call comes. There is a difference. One conversation you could have would be to ask those people to give evidence of the shows where they've intervened and the shows they haven't, and then look at the artists where they've intervened and look at the artists where they haven't intervened and see if you can spot any patterns. But all that's going to do is bring you evidence of what people have been talking about.
If you look from their point of view, while we were doing the system, we met with licensing, we met with police, and so on. Put yourself in their shoes. They're responsible for a city. I couldn't identify most of the people on the Radio 1 play list, and I like music. Imagine you're working in another department and you've got to try and identify all of these. Two hundred and seventeen shows at Clwb Ifor Bach is probably around 500 to 600 artists. You can't be an expert on all of that, so you're having to make very quick, rudimentary shouts about whether a show might be safe or not; you can't possibly do it. They probably don't want to do it; they want to get on and worry about everything else that's going on in the town.
That's a very interesting reflection. Then, on planning law, there's obviously been a shift to the assumption that current venues are there and are part of the area, and changes around them shouldn't then have a direct impact on them necessarily. In some city-centre areas, for instance with more housing development and the conversion of some buildings, for instance, around existing club venues, are we in a good place there? Do you feel the planning system is now reasonable? Or do we need a more protective approach with cultural zoning or something as direct as that?
The biggest issue has been in Cardiff, and you've got a music board—it feels like a really good place now because you've got a group that are talking and are going to be responsible for that. And I think, in Cardiff, cultural zoning is on the agenda and clearly makes sense in a city that's moving and building quite quickly.
I was working at the Point venue, which has been brought up, which closed in 2008, but that was the moment when you started really noticing that happen. The Point was a church, designed for people to sing and amplify praise, except we were now putting on the Misfits, or whoever. But then the buildings around it, engineering and construction techniques allowed people to build higher, until the point that there were flats above the roof, and that's that. The £65,000 the owners spent was never going to be able to dampen that noise out.
That's the kind of issue, elsewhere in the country, and the kind of considerations that we have to have, where some of these spaces, like rehearsal rooms. In setting up a rehearsal room, you're going to have not just the noise within the space—you need to do that right—but you can imagine the traffic of bands coming and going and loading, and the hours. Bands will be loading really early in the morning having toured, and bands will quite often want to rehearse, and the busiest time is post work until midnight. So, you've got to really consider that.
I know what you mean by protect—so, just being careful. It's not necessarily always about protecting a space in that way. Minty from Cardiff speaks very passionately about Gwdihŵ as a building, but what's more important, what the mapping should do, and what the mapping we did in Cardiff should do and what the mapping in Wales should do, is to recognise what spaces you need. So, if a space is going to go for good reasons, you understand its importance and you're ready to put another space in its place, you need to make sure that you can do that without all the interference of the things I've talked about, and noise is a big part. That is interesting. I think the committee next door are talking about housing and planning, so I had a word with them. But that's the kind of consideration we need.
So, like when Brains closed the Dempseys pub, that's fine; it's up to them. If Gareth Bale wants to run a burger bar, that's all right. But what we didn't know, or what they didn't recognise, or the city didn't recognise, is that there was a 100-cap space there that was vitally important. And just with conversations, if planners had been around the table, they would have said, 'We're going to close that in a year's time', and then the council could have found another space. The same with Gwdihŵ. And that's what we need to do.
Okay, that's very helpful. I think we've reached the end of the questions we wanted to put to you, but is there anything that we've not captured that you can usefully add or feel that we perhaps should have asked you?
I had a couple of ideas, recommendations, which I'd like to put forward to you, but I can do that in writing. Just a couple of other schemes and things that I think might be useful as you're thinking, because particularly I think somebody asked the question about resources, and I think one of the things in this is, 'Have the arts council got enough, and where is that resource going to come from?' And, in particular, I think that some initiatives—. There's one particular initiative where I think we could do something that would also build infrastructure but capture resources so you don't have to go to the public purse again. So, I'll put those in writing.
That would be helpful. In your evidence, you have tried to illustrate solutions. In our experience, we get a lot of analysis of problems but less of schemes that might solve them. So, I think, in that vein, we would welcome further contact in writing. So, John, thank you very much. I think it's been a really useful session and it's been of great benefit to us to tap your very extensive experience but also your insightful understanding of the industry. So, thank you very much.
Committee, shall we adjourn for 10 minutes and then we'll start our second session? Thank you very much.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:25 a 10:35.
The meeting adjourned between 10:25 and 10:35.
Welcome back, colleagues. We now go into our second evidence session in our inquiry into live music and developing talent. I'm delighted to welcome, from the Forté Project, Spike Griffiths and Joss Daye, and then two young performers, Ethan Duck and Callum Lewis. We are really pleased to see you all here this morning. We are looking forward to this session.
Just for those watching, the Forté Project is a really exciting development, covering, capturing and supporting new music as it emerges in south Wales. The Young Promoters Network, which I think is hosted in Rhondda Cynon Taf, is part of that. So, there is some really interesting evidence ahead of us, I think, and I'm going to ask Delyth to start.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Good morning. Could you give me and overview, I suppose, or your general view, about how healthy the live music sector is in Wales? So, if you've got experience comparing it with the rest of the UK, or wherever you feel that your expertise is—.
Okay. Can I start? So, in terms of health—like a health check—I think that we have seen good and bad and, at the moment, it's changeable. Why I say 'changeable' is because we work particularly with young people, aged 16 to 25, and, in that context, there's a lot of good work being done, and there are a lot of good organisations quick to support young people. There are lots of schools, lots of colleges doing really good work to reach people through music.
I'm sad to say, however, that, unfortunately, we are still—my colleague Josh and I—encountering young people who are impoverished in many ways. I think that we find a lot of people who are disadvantaged and are in conditions of hardship. In that sort of hardship, it is very difficult for them to flourish creatively. So, in relation to music, we see a lot of young people who possess wonderful talents, but they've got no access to the music industry, they've got no sense of what they can do in music, and they've got no music community to gravitate to. So, we still see a lot of people who are underprivileged, a lot of people who are vulnerable and, going back to this, we see a lot of young people whose aspiration is quite low, ultimately. We were talking also about other elements as well, weren't we?
Yes, definitely. I think that, particularly with some of the young people we work with and where we come from—. I suppose it's true of young people all over the UK at the moment, really, but I think that they can perhaps sometimes feel quite overwhelmed with the amount of things that are on offer from schools, colleges, et cetera, and social media now, as well. I think that information is thrown at our young people constantly. They are constantly bombarded with it.
I think that, picking through that noise, and tuning into the frequencies that matter to you and finding out what is out there and how you can develop and become somebody that you want to be, ultimately—. I suppose that's where young people, whether they are involved in music or anything—. You know, they want to grow into people who are in control of their lives. I think that trying to pick your way through that at the moment is quite difficult for young people. Having a clear pathway is vital, really, and we're quite lucky in how we get to provide that and do that for our young people, particularly where we come from, in RCT.
Yes. I don't really want to paint too much of a negative picture, because there are positives, but we are also encountering a lot of people who are struggling with their mental well-being, and I think that's really something for young people. They don't have the toolkit to be able to unlock some of those personal issues that are prevalent to them, and we also were talking about that lack of communications skills, weren't we?
Yes. I think understanding oneself and exploring your ideas of who you are as a person is something that music in particular is excellent at doing. Particularly for me, it enabled me to find out who I was, what I wanted to be. I tried lots of different things and worked many jobs before I realised—. Well, I suppose I always knew I wanted to be involved in music, but until—. It gave me that passion and that drive to find a job and to happily, luckily, be where I am today. I think through that, through performing, I think that building up my communication skills, working in teams, working with people, working with lots and lots of different people, working with people that are perhaps older than you as well— learning how to relate to adults properly and in a working environment, I think that is integral.
I think that young people at the moment, especially young people I find I work with, a lot of them do struggle with that. I think they do find it quite difficult in a world where perhaps school is very geared towards exams, exams, exams. By the time you've done your exams, you leave school and then you either find a job or you go to higher education. And I think there needs to perhaps be a link, or we try to provide a link between the real world—industry world, the music industry world—and young people having a safe space to explore those ideas and explore that industry. Yes, I think it's difficult for them, isn't it? It's quite challenging to navigate.
It's interesting, because—. Sorry, Calllum, Ethan, I'm really keen to hear your thoughts on this as well. But I just wanted to make an observation that our last inquiry that we were looking into with the committee was focusing on the—well, one of the last inquiries we have conducted—links between poverty and cultural expression and the arts. So, some of what you've said there—that's so interesting, that—.
And I don't want to talk too much about talent development, because my colleague, Carwyn Jones, is going to be coming back to that, in terms of some of the barriers facing young talented people in the industry, but could I just ask specifically about, Spike, what you were saying about mental health barriers and how—? Well, are there any further observations that you have, either in terms of people that you've encountered—? I don't know Callum and Ethan if you want to talk about either—. I don't want to put you on the spot to talk about your own experiences, but maybe people that you know. Do you think that there is more support structurally in the sector that could be made available about that?
I think it's becoming increasingly—. Organisations are becoming increasingly aware and becoming equipped. It feels like a bit of a new phenomenon. It feels like a new—maybe a sea change in thinking. I've been working as a youth music development officer primarily in Rhondda Cynon Taf for around about eight years, and the work we do is under the Sonic youth music industry banner—very, very unique in Wales. When I go to meet people and I tell them what I do there's always a raised eyebrow, as if, 'What, that job exists?', and it's more weird that it actually exists within the local authority. So, we are trained as youth workers. We work—. Primarily, whatever we do, the young person has to remain the centre of everything. We get trained, we go on coaching training, we understand the difference between mentoring and coaching and counselling, and that's what we try to do. We can offer that safe space, where young people can feel they can be trusted and they have good people they can turn to.
So, in answer to your question, we do see a lot of young people who struggle with mental well-being and we try to put a framework and infrastructure, particularly with Forté, to combat that. I work with a—. In new ways of thinking, I think Forté has been good at—. And one of the things we pride ourselves on is that I bring in a personal development coach. She works with the WRU and she works with the Ospreys. So, it's that way of thinking—using different industries to try and help one another and, in this case, obviously sport helping art, and vice versa. Very different young people coming from different sectors, of course, but intrinsically it's the same thing. What my colleague does—she helps Dan Biggar confront fear, anxiety and issues around that. So, we're translating that into a music arena—
It's performance. It's performance, it's doing your best, it's making the right decisions, it's being confident, it's an understanding of values. And all those things then provide a wonderful foundation, one that's going to carry them on for the rest of their life, not just for the year of which we have them within Forté. And from that point then, they can grow confidence, self-esteem can increase, and the sense of, as Joss said, who they are. So, that's how we try and frame it within our project.
Going back to what Spike said about the involvement of a—[Inaudible.]—approach, it's the stuff that goes on behind the scenes in music—so facilitating that growth as an artist. So, on your journey through being a band and climbing the industry, it's a really important thing to confront—your mental health as an artist. You're constantly going to be bombarded with fears of success and failure, and managing that—you know, that's—.
It was really good—she taught us a lot about mindfulness and just pre-show meditation and stuff like that. It does work for getting rid of anxieties and all the pressures that come with being an artist and putting your heart into your work and your art for it to ultimately just—not be judged, but you're constantly taking criticism and stuff like that, and it was just really, really handy for dealing with that, collectively.
That's really powerful. Thank you so much for that. Thank you. I've got some other specific questions about venues, but was there anything else anyone wanted to add before I move on about that? No. That's great.
So, in terms of venues for live music across Wales and your knowledge of them, do you think that there is a gap, in terms of do you think that the provision is there across Wales for, not just the large bands, but emerging artists and artists who are in between on that journey?
For us, we are mainly operating at a very small grass-roots level—we're in 80- to 100-capacity venues. And we use a lot of venues in RCT with the Young Promoters Network. So, we do speak in a south-Walian capacity, ultimately. With Forté, we are fortunate enough to use bigger venues, because the artists are gradually rising in their profile and therefore they're getting bigger audiences. On our own turf, as I said, we're using venues like Clwb y Bont, which has 100, and it's where these guys started out when they very young. So, I think venues—yes, we need those stepping stones. We need them so they can aspire, gradually, when the right time is to move up that ladder.
In terms of venues themselves, there's been an awful lot of expertise spoken on that, so I don't want to go back into it, but maybe the functionality of a venue needs to change as well. If we talk of bigger venues, we can't just think they'll be grand cathedrals. We need to think of them, maybe, as multi-purpose. And there are some really good examples of that. Somewhere like Tŷ Pawb in Wrexham is a good multi-purpose space, has a lot of dynamic things going on. If you look across the water, somewhere like the Oh Yeah centre in Belfast—again another space in which there's a lot of music business start-ups there as well as a venue as well, as well as recording, as well as a guitar-repair shop; there are a lot of things. There's also, I think, an exhibition there, showing off Belfast's musical heritage.
And then, on a bigger scale, you have the Roundhouse in London, which I've been and visited quite a few times. And then you have a wonderful dynamic there, going right around where you have young people who are accessing that space on a daily basis to record, rehearse, collaborate, write. And that feels good. That feels like a wonderful new way of thinking. It's not just open for a gig—it's open all day round for different people to maybe experience it, and maybe that will be a way in for them.
So, to answer your question, inevitably, there have been concerns about the gaps. We just really cherish the small spaces, because they get us off the ground, they get us going. We care about them and it's where we cut our teeth.
For us in Young Promoters Network especially, I think, very much so, we agree with Spike, in terms of we create a scene and a community around our gigs and that is intrinsically linked to the venues in which we operate, and having a good relationship with a venue such as Clwb y Bont ultimately extends further to it just being bricks and mortar. It becomes a place that young people recognise as, 'This is somewhere I can begin my journey, continue my journey. One day, I hope to go on and play, perhaps, Principality Stadium', and that's how they should be thinking. They should be dreaming that way. But, ultimately, I can look at Clwb y Bont or places such as Clwb y Bont and recognise that without those and without the ability to make mistakes in a safe environment and operate within somewhere that welcomes you as well—I think it can be quite hard for venues to welcome young people to events and stuff, but, when they do, it can work really well, you can work hand-in-hand with venues, and I think that relationship is intrinsic just to the scene overall, the music scene overall, and that community is where young people like Ethan and Callum come from and I think that's the most important for us, really.
And just making sure that those spaces, especially the smaller spaces, are nurturing environments, like you were saying, that it's not just about the physical space, it's about so many different things that they provide.
Just to give you a little background, Joss was a young man when I met him. He came through the YPN and through that he cut his teeth as a musician and as a technician. Callum was also—he still is a young man and has now had a chance to operate the sound desk for the first time in Clwb y Bont. He's now doing a—. What course are you doing?
Live event and sound production.
In Coleg y Cymoedd. Is it Coleg y Cymoedd?
University of South Wales.
University of South Wales. Callum didn't have any GCSEs enough to get him into there, but the experience he got from working in Clwb y Bont, and then through some work experience we gave him in the council in Rhondda Cynon Taf, allows him to be where he is. Ethan—again, these guys were in the same band when they were eight years old. We allowed them to come together in the rock and pop workshop that we put on. They were on Jools Holland, Thursday. It wasn't the full thing, it was a snippet of a few seconds, you know, and it had, 'The Pitchforks, RCT', which was amazing. So, going back to Ethan, the fact that he, again, was someone who experienced the YPN as a band, then thought, 'Hang on, I can do this for a living'—. So, where are you now?
Doing events management in Birmingham and Bristol.
And they've just set up their own company, and they're only 18. And the space for us was Clwb y Bont, but there can equally be a space up in Conwy, Wrexham, Rhyl. If you have the right way of thinking, you have the right expertise and the right way of safeguarding a young person, these are shining examples of what can happen.
So, we need to think about spaces, but we also need to think about the mindset and the way we inhabit those spaces and the way that the operators within those spaces welcome young people and interact with them.
That's really helpful. Thank you so much. I'm not sure whether this is relevant, so no worries at all if it's not, but I know that the Welsh Government has been conducting a mapping exercise in terms of grass-roots venues across Wales. Have you been part of that?
We're aware of it, but, because we don't operate a venue, we don't really have a stake in it. But we do welcome it because the fact of the matter is, if we can provide a map that shows where all those venues are, then young people who have a band, like these guys, they can maybe start to put together a tour or they could play to an area where they would have never considered playing. And if the intent and the information comes back, the data that's collected about that venue says, 'There's a wonderful scene here', which really is in keeping with them, then, of course, they're going to go to there and try it out. I think it's also good because bigger promoters, larger promoters can look and they can recognise where there might be a folk scene in Bangor or a drum and bass scene in Swansea and they might not have known that. So, again, outside promoters can look in and start to see if it's worthwhile to go to those places.
What I was about to ask—. Actually, that links in really well. John Rostron, who was just giving evidence to us, was singing your praises and saying how important the work is in saying that it would be so fantastic if an initiative—either your initiative or an initiative similar to it—could in some way work across Wales. Now, I don't want to—. Well, if you have any comments on that, then that would be welcome, but, equally, I know that John and others have called for there to be a Wales-wide forum. I'm guessing that would be beneficial. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but can you say whether that would be beneficial, and how?
I think a Wales-wide forum, obviously, would bring a lot of voices to the table to establish what the issues are in different parts of Wales. They're very different. What we experience in RCT and the surrounding Valleys areas are very different to the city. However, there are some common themes, and I imagine there'll be some common concerns that would come from that.
Yes, we really welcome it because, at the moment, there's a lot of work in silos and there are a lot of organisations who sometimes are doing the same thing. They're competing against each other and not sharing good practice or ideas. So, if there could be a space where there could be some unlocking of some of those problems, then that can only be a good thing.
To go back to the mention of us expanding, it's always been a thing that I would really love to do. I think what we do is not an overnight way of thinking. We've been in RCT, primarily under the Sonic Youth music industry programme, for nearly, I think, 20 years, and it was really then that my old director had the foresight to understand how important music was to where we come from. A lot of young bands were emerging and going global, and it was her good work, her thinking, that should safeguard that. So, we are supported by, again, predominantly, the Families First initiative, and every year we're incredibly nervous whether we're going to get that money. So, we're very anxious about whether we can sustain what we do and provide opportunities for guys like these. We can't get out of that without support and funding.
Thankfully, within Forté, I have been able to get out of it, and the reason why is because I presented an idea, the Forté Project, to five local authorities. And I said, 'Look, I've got an idea that will hopefully fill a gap', which we could see—talent emerging and not knowing where to go. So, we kind of came up with this idea, or I came up with this idea, and it was welcomed by five local authorities, and we came with a memo of understanding under the Arts Connect banner. So, I now operate in five local authorities. They are Merthyr, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Vale of Glamorgan and RCT. So, it's possible.
In terms of the music board, the music forum, I think, for us in YPN, and particularly the young people I work with, I know sometimes they feel that if they could get advice from something that was nationally recognised, that there was somewhere to sound ideas and somewhere to look towards to set trends, really, and in terms of ideas and working within music, then, yes, I think it'd be really helpful—definitely. It's definitely something we could use.
Yes. Speaking as someone who was lucky enough to be a part of the Forté Project and the Young Performers Network, having those connections for advice and everything was amazing and crucial, to be honest. I don't know what we would've done without constant guidance from Spike and Joss and everyone else at Forté. Yes. There are bands that aren't lucky enough to have those immediate connections, and having that Wales-wide forum for people just to get advice and seek help in anything to do with the music scenes, yes, it would just be—
Yes, it would be the thing that steps other bands up that level without having the connections to Forté and everything. So, I think it would be very good and very helpful.
Thank you. Callum, do you agree, as well, or is there anything else that you'd add?
Definitely in terms of the support and guidance frame that we've been given. It was very much crucial in evidencing our success as well with venues. So, it was, you know, moving up the scale from a 100-cap venue in Ponty to—what's Clwb Ifor Bach?—350, is it?
Two hundred and fifty.
Two hundred and fifty. It's a way of evidencing success as an artist as well, so it's important.
Yes. These guys, you know, they sold out Clwb y Bont. They wanted to play Clwb Ifor Bach immediately on day one, and I said, 'No, no, you have to understand your audience, you have to understand your craft, and hopefully even make some mistakes to learn from them'. They were able to go through a small venue, sell it out three times, and then they moved up, out of their comfort zone, which was Pontypridd. You know, they were nervous because young people from RCT had never been to Clwb Ifor Bach before and, in fact, not only hadn't been there, they couldn't get there because of the trains and stuff. They took a punt, and they sold out downstairs—
We sold out downstairs in July of 2018.
And then they sold out upstairs as well, then, a little bit later. So, it's incremental movements that allow them to get to where they are, really.
I'll ask John, now, to take us forward. We have a few more questions on support and advice.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. In terms of support and advice, which you've already touched on to some extent, at one stage we had the Welsh Music Foundation, which was around until about 2014, I think. Is there enough general advice and support around now? Is there a need for a new agency, do you think?
Yes, I think, definitely. I mean, we just said how important it would be not just to me, but to these guys to have somewhere to go and somewhere as a sounding board and some sort of direction. Personally, as well, I would really welcome it, because, at times, I'm shining a light in the dark and this would be good for some business acumen or some ways in which we could think bigger and bolder.
I did engage with the Welsh Music Foundation when it was around. I didn't have the ideas that I do have now and I didn't have the experience I have now, as well. But, look, Callum and Ethan have just said that, ultimately, we can only impact on so many young people and therefore there will be lots of other people in corners of Wales who will need a helpline. When the Welsh Music Foundation closed, my inbox rocketed overnight and I couldn't deal with all these young people on my own. I just couldn't physically get to them, I couldn't meet them. There were parents calling me, there were all sorts of things. But one of the reasons why I couldn't get to them is because they didn't live in RCT. I wasn't obliged to work with a young person who was from Swansea or Neath or anywhere else. So, that's why I created Forté, because I knew they were there, I knew the helpline wasn't there and if I could change that by creating a new project like Forté, I could potentially reach them.
I think a national board can help qualify ambitions for young people. I think if they see that music is recognised nationally as something as important enough to need its own governing board and body that can provide advice and help for young people, and just generally, musicians and performers, et cetera, then, I think it just helps young people feel like they have somewhere to turn. Again, like Spike says, with people like myself as well, signposting. We're not the only people who do projects like this. I'm sure that there are lots of people across Wales who work very closely with young people and young musicians, so I think, yes, it's that signposting and enabling people to feel like they can connect to something and then find a way through, find their own pathway, find a pathway that suits them to go on, definitely. I think it's vital.
Okay, thanks very much. The Arts Council of Wales—what would you say about the arts council in our country in terms of the support and advice they're providing for the music scene?
You work more closely with the arts council.
Yes. We're recipients of arts council funding. It's our core funding and therefore it's a lifeline for us because that's how we established Forté on day one. They've been really helpful in terms of being supportive of the project and they can see the impact that we're having. So, I think they would say that Forté is a sort of—. You know, we're the foot soldiers, we're out there on the front, deflecting a lot of that work that maybe they can't get to, and I think that there are other organisations as well in Wales that are funded by Arts Council of Wales, like Horizons and Tŷ Cerdd, and they are also engaging with young people and giving them the right advice.
So, in some respects, yes, they allow us to do what we do. Maybe I say that from a project officer point of view. In terms of arts council being visible to young people, I think that that might be something that needs to change. I think that maybe there needs to be a better way for young people to access the arts council. We passed it today and I pointed out to them that that's where they are, and they didn't know. So, it's not only that, but it's understanding what the arts council can do, and, hopefully, that's going to change. The funding is changing, and that's obviously very welcome.
I was going to come on to the funding, actually, and the way that the Arts Council of Wales distributes the funds that it has between one genre and another. Does music get its fair share or not? What are the issues relating to artists versus venues in terms of music and, indeed, the size of the grants that are provided? What would you say on that?
For venues, of course, venues are surviving on small margins, and, obviously, any help or any help that is visible to them is going to help them—fixing a toilet or hand dryer or anything from a PA to maintenance of a venue would be really good. Even help with marketing would be really good for those venues. So, having a very visible portal where venues can go would be crucial—capital investment and that sort of thing. So, I think that really has been spoken about in the other committee meetings.
In terms of artists, they did, until recently, have the music industry development fund. That's changed now, because it's merged in their new way of thinking. We hit the ceiling with that four times. I can't apply for any more money. I get £30,000 from them, and £30,000 is not enough. We are meticulous and we really, really work hard in getting that right. We are accountable for that money, but yet, every year, we're quivering about how we can keep it in the margins, because we just don't have enough there. I have 10 acts from five local authorities, I have three personnel. We work tirelessly overnight, and it was very welcome that they could say that they can up the ceiling now to £50,000, which I can apply for next year.
But there are pockets of funding. These guys were recipients of—
Launchpad funding in January this year, which was amazing—a massive, massive help for us. Sixteen to 17-year-olds who weren't—. We couldn't go out and work and earn for the band because we were sitting our A-levels—
In full-time education.
Yes, it was really, really handy to get launchpad funding, but going back to what you said—
Was that through the Arts Council of Wales, that launchpad funding?
Yes, via the BBC Horizons scheme, which is a collaborative thing, so, again, the arts council using another organisation that can really focus on musicians.
I was just going to say, going back to what you said about the venues, I feel that funding for the venues, as well, is just as essential as funding for the artists, because, without the venues, you can argue that you won't have the artists. Venues are those avenues and vessels for creativity, and for audiences to connect with the artists. Any funding or maintenance, like you said, would go a mile. From local venues in Ponty to the bigger venues in Cardiff, it's all—.
It certainly isn't.
So, in terms of how we work and operate, I think what I see is smaller venues sometimes just accessing small pots of money—maybe £1,000, £2,000 to, like Spike touched upon, fix toilets, perhaps upgrading their PA system, increasing the soundproofing, or just basic things like fixing doors and things like that. For venues, I think if they had access to small pots of money that were in regular cycles that could just help with general upkeep and take some of the pressure off the running of a business, that would go on awfully long way.
But I also think the same for young artists, as well. Perhaps when you see on a website that you can apply for £30,000 or £15,000, it seems an awful lot at 18, 19. That's almost an unobtainable amount of money, but perhaps applying for £1,000 to help you buy new equipment, a new bass amp, new drums, these things that can ultimately help you become a better musician, better performer, they seem more attainable and would really, really help young people, definitely.
Two little things on that. I was speaking to Ethan yesterday about the funding, and you were talking about how difficult sometimes that is.
Yes, especially more towards the PRS, and I think there are still—[Inaudible.] The Arts Council of Wales—when you apply, those application forms are extremely daunting, and they often come across as a barrier to get over instead of something that should be exciting, and what's leading you to your next step, potentially. It's not guaranteed that you'll get the money. The jargon and the real industry talk that comes with them—to go back to what we were saying earlier, if I didn't have the guidance of Spike and Joss when applying for Horizons and Launchpad and everything, I would have just been lost. I would have had no idea.
In Forté we try to offer that. A lot of bands in Forté want, want, want, and sometimes we can't give it, but what we try to do is we create fictitious application forms so they can practice and they can really understand, 'Is this what I need right now?' It might be just, 'I need some guitar strings', which are only £6, but they have to put it in and they have to understand why they need that money. Because big sums of money—you get a lot of young people thinking it's black Friday, they go mad, and they can't really understand what they really need money for. Is this what you need right now, or is that what you need right now? So, guidance, going back to an agency, and a person who can help with those funding elements, would be very, very helpful and handy.
I'd also say that probably, we talk about venues and artists—I think there should be funding to maybe train the trainer, funding to help the people who really want to work with young people in music, because people can unintentionally offload bad advice, there can be a conflict of interest, or whatever, and the real reason for supporting young people in that moment is forgotten or is misplaced. So, in the work that we do we try to keep that as a premium. It's always the heartbeat of the work that we do—remembering it's for the young person. So, I think good practice, allowing people to access that, would be good.
Okay, and just in terms of the arts council in England and their capital fund, which you touched on again, we might well have something similar in Wales. Is there anything you'd want to tell the committee about the way you think such a fund in Wales ought to be structured and operated?
I wouldn't, really, because I think that there are people in better places to speak about that. I'd welcome it, of course, without doubt. Any funding, any support in this industry is more than welcome, it goes without saying. But I don't know how it should operate, to be honest with you.
You have said small works are often really important and can make a big difference to running a venue that perhaps is not making as much commercially as they would have 10 or 20 years ago.
Yes, and people understanding, I suppose, their venue, and what they're capable of, and the value of the venue, and therefore maybe how they constitutionalise the venue—that would really help.
Just perhaps one further question from me, then, Chair, on Creative Wales. Have you had much involvement with Creative Wales?
I have had involvement with Creative Wales. They came to see me back at the beginning of the year. I think it's fair to say they recognised the work we were doing, and at that instance they were speaking to a lot of people who were—not patting myself on the back, but who were doing recognisable work, impactful work. So, they really wanted to know whether we could expand, and at the same time the arts council really wanted to know whether Forté could expand. I have had to wait for anything to allow me to expand, and at the moment, we're at that point now where they really want to expand and they've allowed me to go out and investigate some of those ideas and some of those things. But it's only in north Wales. There's an urge for me to go to north Wales and provide some support there, but I think I really want to provide support for all of Wales. So, I really would like to set some time aside and find some funding to enable me to visualise that, to work with people to explore that, and to make that happen, ultimately. But I don't look a gift horse in the mouth. It's really welcome, and I think they have great intentions. And, hopefully, when they launch, they will demonstrate some of those intentions.
So, that expansion, then, Spike, that would be a geographical expansion. So, what you're doing currently within RCT, you might do something very similar, then, in north Wales. That's what they're thinking of, really, is it?
Yes, hopefully. Can we do it? Has it got the right sort of landscape? Has it got the right people? Could it have the right partners? Could we link with the universities? This is all what we do in south Wales. We link up with local colleges, regional colleges, schools, the University of South Wales. These are things that we're doing on our own turf, but can we do it up there? I can't do that. I'd be a tourist in north Wales, so I need to work with the people there and for them to carry that baton, really. It'll take a while for us to understand that and to carry out that work.
Thank you, John. I'll ask Carwyn to take us on to issues around talent development, and you're obviously a shining example of best practice, so I'm particularly looking forward to this part of our session. Carwyn.
Thank you, Chair. Morning, all. The first two questions from me, really, lead on from the evidence you've given already. First of all, what does the talent pipeline look like at the moment? Are there any blockages, and how could they be removed? And, secondly, building on that, then, what do you think are the main barriers that young people coming into music actually face?
I'll pick up on your first question, and these guys can speak about the second part. I have a little—. I may be an anomaly, but I think the idea of a pipeline is a misleading one, to be honest with you. It's an idea that we think of in heavy industry—that we wait for this pipeline and things flow out the other end. But I really feel, if we track it back, the idea is that we need to create—and maybe this is unusual—but a sort of gardening scenario: lay the right soil; lay the right ingredients for those artists, bands, or whatever, to prosper and grow. That takes care. You can't let your garden overgrow, you've got to keep on there. It takes a lot of work, which we've been doing, not just overnight but for a while.
We've been helping to support young people that have moved gradually up that ladder, and they've moved on. I created Forté because I had a brief experience working with Horizons, which was a good one, but what I did notice was there were young people who were generally going into the first year or second year who weren't ready. So, I rewound the clock and thought, 'Well, what can I create in the middle of those tiers?' We had the young promoters network, which I created many years before that, but that was primarily for young people, professionals, who wanted to sample the industry, not necessarily by performing. So, the work that we do in YPN is—.
Yes, it's the grass-roots stuff. It's going back to the grass roots. It's like grass-roots football or grass-roots sport. It's exactly the same. You have to have somewhere where you can go and, possibly, play quite badly at first, but to feel that there's always going to be someone there who will turn around to you and say, 'Excellent. Well done. That's a great gig. Really cool. How are we going to be better for the next one?' And that's the young promoters network in a nutshell, really.
In terms of a pipeline, I kind of agree with Spike. It is a little bit slower. When bands come to us, or a young artist comes to us, they might be 15 or 16, and it might be the first time they've every forayed into playing outside of school, outside their youth club or outside their house. So, it really is a case of nurturing and finding out—more about the young person, who they are and who they are as people, way before how talented they are and are they musicians, are they this and are they that. I get a lot of young people coming to me with ideas about being the next rock star and they leave as a brilliant stage manager. We touched upon it earlier, but Callum came to me and said, 'I really want to have a go at sound. I want to try sound engineering.' He's now better than me, and I will hold my hands up and say he's a much better sound engineer than I'll ever be, and that's because I taught him what I knew, he went off, he learned these things, he invested, he took the advice, and any of the workshops we would set up, he would attend, and he went and—. He used that environment and made best use of that environment, and I think expanding and looking at the environment that we create.
As a model, I think we do quite well. I think we're quite lucky that we are where we are, and in Rhondda Cynon Taf especially, there's a massive want for people to perform; I think it's just there—it's just ingrained in us. I think allowing young people—I go back to something I said earlier—to make mistakes and feel that they can grow in a safe environment that is nurtured, I think that's the key. Sometimes, I think staying with them on that journey is just as important as passing them off and trying to find them a new pathway or different pipelines or passing them to new institutions. I think being with them and offering advice can sometimes be—well, what would you say to that? Would you say that was quite helpful?
You came back, didn't you, recently to provide advice for young bands?
Yes. It was either this summer or last summer. Young promoters network did some one-to-one workshop classes with artists, and you could see the improvement in the bands like that, straight away, just with that sort of tutoring and that instant feedback, and meaningful feedback—just honest, not harsh, but you've got to be honest.
It's the time, isn't it, I suppose? It's having that time and being able to input that time into someone, and give them that time. Just to give them your time, I think, that's key for us.
The pipeline is obviously important so that everyone's going towards a definitive goal, and now I feel that from YPN and Forté, they're moving into Horizons, it feels like. There's a clear stepping stone, but only available to certain people. When they get to Horizons, it's a Wales-wide project, but YPN and Forté aren't—you know, they've very localised, ultimately. And then, moving out of Horizons, there's a PRS Momentum fund, which the arts council has been instrumental in supporting, and then it's potentially going a little bit more global.
So, we have to do some groundwork, really, before we get to the end pipe flowing. You can see that in the Welsh Rugby Union—you can see that with Gatland, the work that he's been doing in the regions, in schools and everything, and that's not just overnight, it's however long his tenure was. That mindset changed the way, and Wales really did well in the Rugby World Cup. It's not overnight thinking, but it's obviously trying to do the long game, and by 10 years' time we might have someone who's really working with them where they didn't expect to be.
Interesting. I'll come back to you in a second, Joss, if I could, about the issue of physical space. Just one more question for you on the talent garden—I like that analogy—and the pipeline. Is there a link that you can see between bands and performers and music GCSE? We know the numbers are dropping of those that are doing music GCSE. Has that had an effect on the numbers coming forward, or is the link weaker than that?
I'll give you a little bit of background. When I was in school, I went to take music GCSE. The class wasn't large enough so they didn't run the class, so it was quite unfortunate for me; I was gutted, in all honesty. I'd spent a long time planning and got to a point where I was told, 'Yes, you can do this, you can do whatever you want', and then they said, 'We can't run the class—there's not enough of you.' Ten years later, roughly, I've recently been approached by a school in our locale who have asked me to go in and provide some after-school extracurricular stuff to do with music, to do with hosting your own gigs, because the young people there are struggling to—. They don't have—. The GCSE music class, (1) they were without a teacher but (2) they are struggling to have that relationship with industry. Part of their course is putting on a live event—a real event in a real world venue. So, I think GCSE music perhaps needs to change in terms of how it's set up. I think it's quite traditional, it's definitely geared towards the more traditional, classical music. I'm not sure that it perhaps integrates pop, modern music and the music industry as well as it could. I think that perhaps is quite a large barrier for a lot of young people, because it seems like something that is perhaps outdated and perhaps not quite in keeping with what they want to do. They might watch YouTube videos of producers making songs in their bedroom studios going viral and making these tracks, and think, 'I can get there', but then when they go and they see music in school it's very much maybe 20 people in the class with keyboards, learning scales, talking about Baroque music, which is—. I love all those things also, and I think they're vitally important, but could it be updated? I think 'yes'. I think it is perhaps a barrier to some people, particularly where we come from, and is perhaps seen as a little bit unobtainable, really, isn't it? What's your experience of it? You're the best to speak about that.
Yes, I did music at GCSE and A-level in the last three years, and there was no nurturing for rock and pop. For A-level, I did two years of western classical and musical theatre, and in GCSE you briefly touch upon Welsh pop and rock and something like that, but there's no real thing for it: it's just, 'Learn this and regurgitate it.' It'd be a very rare case, I think, where someone could learn about it and then feel inspired by it.
What you're saying there—. A long time ago, when I was in school, music O-level, as it was then, and A-level, were geared specifically at classical. That's what they were there for. It was the people who played in the orchestra who did music, and it was all to do with—. It was successful, but it was all to do with orchestral music. And, from what you're saying to me, there's been a little bit of a change but not enough—not enough examination of different genres. And, because of that, I suspect a lot of young people think, 'Oh, this is a bit old fashioned, a bit—'. Because there are very few people who are actually interested in classical music when they're a teenager. I wasn't listening to Beethoven when I was 18. As you get older, it gets a bit different, but—. So, I can see that the appeal then—. Would it be fair to say, Ethan—you've just done it—that the appeal of it is much less than it would be if you were covering—you've got to do classical, but—a range of different genres? Would that be fair?
Yes, I think definitely. By the end of year 13, there were three of us in the music class. So, we saw a significant drop off, from—. I just think, like you said, there was a lack of interest. Primarily, I think it is because of the course and the stuff you cover.
On the flip side, Callum didn't do GCSE music and therefore he found a different way into accessing the music industry. We encounter a lot of young people who do that. They feel that the course or the school isn't for them and they want to get involved and they want to cut their teeth in a different way.
There are some great examples of schools doing really good work, though—Lewis Pengam in Caerphilly. I'm there quite frequently, and I see—. When I was in school, all the young people wanted to get to the yard to play football or rugby. In Lewis Pengam, all the young—because it's Pengam boys school, all the boys—line the corridors. You can't work your way out, because everyone's playing music in the corridors. It's a great example of a teacher who's motivated, has a great vision, young people who can connect with that teacher, and they have great facilities because that teacher goes out seeking funding.
One of the young people from that school, Owain Felstead, he's also in the Forté project, he's a wonderful young man in his own right, but, in terms of music, he's performing in the Royal Albert Hall next week, and he won a competition, a national competition, to perform there. It's from that school constantly—and they have a wonderful track record of young people coming from there. So, it's a mindset, again, and it's also facilities, funding and all that, and the school supports the department because they cherish how great it is and the outcomes.
There's another school closer to here, in Penarth, Albert school, and they have Reid's Digital Music on offer. So, after school, you have a lot of young people working on digital music, using means to create digital music. Again, that's another new, innovative contemporary way of thinking and creating music.
Touching on the subject of music CGSE, obviously, I didn't do music GCSE or A-level, but I had friends who had. Looking in, using that as my backing to what I'm about to say, it was very classical based, the stuff that they were doing. It wasn't gearing pupils, or people on the course, for the industry, which—. Inevitably, if you did want to follow music through to university and be a teacher or something, there were classical routes for that, but not for the current state of the industry, with changes in technology, changes in the way that people consume music. I didn't see that being taught on the course, you know.
There was no touch of industry at all. It's all very 'music theory' and—.
Thanks for that. I just wonder whether it's worth us looking further at that. I'm not going to ask you the name of the teacher, but it sounds like an inspiring model. I just wonder whether it might be worth listening to how that model has worked in Lewis Pengam and possibly any others that you can think of. I don't know whether they have a—. If there are any other examples you can give us, perhaps in writing—.
Okay. That's interesting. Thanks very much.
Rehearsal space, not just for—. Some of the evidence that we've heard has talked about the need to go somewhere where you can practice and make mistakes and be nurtured and not get laughed at, especially when you're a teenager. But, on top of that, evidence has also been given to us that there is also a need for a physical space so that people can go and practice and play, but also to know what steps they need to take next. If I want to go and play a few gigs somewhere, who do I talk to? You know: 'I can play, I've been told that I can play well. Where do I go?' So, in terms of places like that, are there enough of them? And, secondly, are they spread properly around Wales or do they tend to be concentrated in bigger population centres?
So, firstly, sadly, I don't think that there are enough of them. I think that there are many, many great buildings in Wales that we could perhaps utilise, in terms of a little bit like what Spike touched on earlier, about the Roundhouse and having a venue operating recording studios and rehearsal spaces in one.
For the young people that I work with, and particularly what we're focused on, I think rehearsal space, much like a small grass-roots venue, becomes a community—so, where people can go and perform, they can practice, they can make mistakes, but they also meet other bands. They hear the band next door, and they think, 'Oh, he's a good bass player isn't he? Yes, he's pretty cool. Shall we perhaps write some songs together? Oh, yes. Cool.' And this is how these relationships are formed.
A shining example of this is Musicbox in Cardiff. It is a really, really great rehearsal space run excellently. It's a hub. It is a hub. That is the only way that I can put it: it is a hub of activity, it is a hive of activity, for young musicians, and any musician. When I was playing myself, I'd walk in there regularly. You'd have the Super Furry Animals practising at the end, you might have Bullet for My Valentine just come in and put their gear in from tour, and they're doing their front of house stuff to work out what they are doing on tour. But then you'll have local bands and young bands who have only been together perhaps a year. That space, and being able to meet those people and work with those people and just interact and feel like you're part of a scene, part of a community—for young people, it's integral. Because it gives them that opportunity, and it enables them to believe that they can go on and be something else.
I think, in RCT, we don't have a space like that, really. I think it's quite difficult for some providers of rehearsal spaces in RCT. Usually, what tends to happen is, for a rehearsal room, they might rent a large industrial unit. They are quite expensive to rent. Ground rent tends to be very expensive; business rates also. So, it can be highly pressured and it can be quite tough to run an effective rehearsal space under those conditions. So, I think that if there was help for people looking to set up businesses like that, even it was community-run businesses, community partnerships—. I think that those kinds of spaces are more important perhaps than we realise, and I think ultimately they act as that melting pot where creativity happens, and, without those creative spaces, without those places, well, you end up practising in a shed for two years, three years. How many years did you do it? I've done it. We've all done it. As musicians, we've all spent many years in sheds without knowing how you sound—you can't work out how you sound, you don't know how perhaps you look. You need to, as you grow—. It's fine starting out in a shed, yes, I'm a 100 per cent up for that. I think that's fine, that's where we all need to start. But, within a year, when you're starting perhaps to take a more professional attitude, you're looking to grow as a musician, then you need a space where you can feel comfortable and you can hear yourself, and you know that everything sounds as it does and is an accurate representation of who you are as a band and how you sound.
A quick question on the back of that: is there a culture of the experienced bands helping out the younger ones?
I think there is a bit, yes. Yes, there is, definitely. I think perhaps not so much top level, but that's just because of the nature of their work—they're up and about everywhere, they're regularly touring around the country, et cetera. But I think there is, yes. We helped run a festival at the Wales Millennium Centre called RawFfest. Having been in the industry for a few years, I've got some friends and people I know who are now signed bands, and they're only a couple of years older than me, and these people are role models and they're something for our young people to aspire to. And so they were more than happy to come and help as part of this festival—hold workshops and speak to the young people and just impart advice. I think with spaces like that, yes, then they are more than capable, more than happy to share, and I think there is definitely a community of sharing. Particularly in Cardiff and in RCT, I think bands help each other out, because they know how tough it is—they know how tough it is.
A final question from me—perhaps, Callum and Ethan, you might want to give it some thought. We've touched already on the importance of sound engineers, lighting engineers—all the people that support the bands, that support the individual performers. Are there any barriers to people going into that side of music? What's your experience been of what opportunities there are, and what opportunities there might be, in that field in the future?
One massive barrier for us, that we literally got over this year, was—. Because we started so young, age has been a massive thing. This doesn't apply to every band obviously, but, yes, getting gigs has been a lot of effort, and you've got to really put the effort in and show that you're not just—. Everyone assumes a young band is not that professional and all that thing. You've got to really show and prove yourself. So, that is one massive barrier, but that's personal to us. But, as an RCT band as well, again, you're starting in RCT, you can't just take a plunge with Cardiff, like you touched on right at the start. Bands that start in Cardiff and artists that start in Cardiff I feel have got a massive, massive advantage straight away, because, as soon as you're on that Cardiff circuit, you're making connections like that, straight away, without even trying. And not even to touch upon audiences—you could play any gig in Cardiff and there'll be someone watching. But the same can't really be said for RCT, and a lack of venues in RCT as well is a big barrier, I think.
Yes. Aside from the struggles we face as a band, more on the staffing, technical, production side of things, I didn't realise until I was quite late in my teenage years—I was about 14 when I realised maybe I'd like to do some sound engineering or something and be involved in that industry, and obviously I hadn't taken GCSE music, so I couldn't do the A-level, and these traditional routes didn't really work for me. The stuff with YPN, being involved vocationally, like learning on the job, being nurtured in these small venues, again, making mistakes, being allowed the space to make mistakes at this level—lower level production stuff, gigs and things—helped me to learn the skills and gain the experience I needed to go to university, like I am now. So, YPN and the Forté project, I've been involved on the technical side of both, through YPN mostly. It really helped me overcome the barriers of not having the traditional entry routes to industry work or industry work experience.
And I think, just to say, YPN isn't just about the traditional things of sound engineer, lighting engineer and performer; we're also nurturing videographers, photographers, bloggers, stage managers, event managers—
Everything that comes with it, really.
So, when UK Music spoke about maybe a change in thinking in terms of England, about highlighting the creative careers that could emerge from the music sector at an early age for a young person to visualise, to put themselves in that place and strive for that—that would be a really good way of thinking, I think. It's just changing it up—using a new approach to it would be better.
I don't know where her gets from, with a father who can actually—. Well, I can turn the volume up on things, but—. [Laughter.] Anyway, thanks very much. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Carwyn. A final question from me—it's quite a technical one. We have had some evidence that the licencing schemes are not terribly conducive to young people—in fact, it's been touched upon by Ethan—either as performers or indeed as members of the audience. Is this a barrier?
Yes. Licencing is problematic; it has been for as long as I can remember it. I've worked in different local authorities and it varies from one place to the next, in terms of the uncertainties sometimes that a young person faces in terms of entry to a venue can change. And also—. I have a really heartbreaking story that I'll tell you quickly. The fact is that we were working with a young band from Merthyr, who were cutting their teeth in Merthyr, doing really well. We were supporting them. They were ready to play Cardiff, and they went down. They found their own way to Cardiff. I was assured that one of the parents would be there. They got there, they set up behind closed doors, sound checking, of course. When the manager, I presume, came around, he got cold feet. He thought this band weren't old enough. The band—half of them had relevant ID, but they'd gone there on the pretext this was a younger audience anyway. He froze and decided that they weren’t playing that night. They were there, they were sound checking, so the ultimatum, or even maybe the offer he gave to them, was that they could play, but they'd have to play behind closed doors. So, that young band from Merthyr went all the way down to play to no-one behind closed doors—no-one saw them, nothing. It was their first ever time in Cardiff. They left, they had no way of getting home. They had to get on the train, they carried all their gear back home. They lived in different areas of the valley, and trains are very difficult to get back. And that was all to do with fear of licencing and how it would affect the venue there and then. And that really, ultimately, affected the band—it put them four steps back in a position which should have put them four steps forward. So, it was heartbreaking to hear that the following day, because I was quite keen to hear how it had gone. Their parents weren't happy as well, so I had to cover that area.
Transport's very difficult as well, as I touched upon. We're very cautious about putting on our events at a certain time of night because of not just the night-life economy, or whatever that might mean—we're not too worried about that, because we know we're providing a safe space with community liaison officers, with youth workers, with security, with ourselves; it's very safe—but trains travel so intermittently, don't they? It's just like—.
I think, also, for us, particularly, we're very lucky that we work very closely with Clwb y Bont and we've got such a good relationship with the people who are there. They're happy with our model of practice. We've worked it out—like Spike has said, we work closely with community liaison officers and it all works really well. Where other venues struggle—I think smaller venues tend to struggle—is that they don’t want to take a punt on putting a young persons night on: (1) because they know they're not going to be able to make as much money off the bar, but (2) because they fear licencing restrictions may end up in them getting shut down. I think that scares—it scares venues. Obviously, these people need to make money, it's their livelihood, and I understand that. I think if there was perhaps a bit more leeway or a bit more help for venues that were trying to put on events for young people particularly, then it would benefit a lot of people. It would allow for that space to become a community and it would definitely, definitely ease some of the pressure on venues in allowing us to operate within them, really. Like I said, we're lucky that we've got such a good working relationship with Clwb y Bont.
I set up the YPN on that premise, really. When I did a quick exploration about what was happening on our home turf, I saw there were a few issues, and, actually, venue closures wasn't the prominent one. The issues were fear of our licence: 'What would would happen if we permitted young people to be here?', a lack of understanding and fear, generally, was the—. The other thing was this idea of anti-social behaviour, 'Bringing young people here at a certain time of night—oh, it's going to cause chaos'. The third one, which is interesting but obvious, is that older people were putting on music for older people. There was no entry point for a young person to walk into that venue to see and explore what was going on and absolutely no chance of them performing on that night. So, I took that into my own hands and I came up with the idea of, 'Okay, well, we'll just put on young events and young people will put them on. We'll make sure that they're safe, we'll make sure that everything's good practice', and that's why the YPN emerged. It was to combat that crisis at that particular time, and I'm sad to see some of that crisis is still lingering in certain other local authorities. And, thankfully, it's emerged as a bit of a shining light. So, that was the reason, ultimately.
Having seen—as a band, being able to book ourselves into venues or work with promoters, a lot of it's on the lines of the same thing that happened to The Witching Hour in Cardiff. It's evident that maybe, the way licensing is looked at, it works against protecting venues and protecting young bands and nurturing this culture of music in Wales.
Yes, there have been a couple of times where we've played our set and then been forced to leave just because we're under 18. So, we've gone all the way to Cardiff and we've been handled out the door before we can get paid, like. It's just the harsh reality of it, really, at the minute—
It's off-putting, as an artist.
Yes, it is. You should be enjoying the gigs, you should be excited to, you know—. But—.
And these guys are the ones who sold the tickets. So, the audience is there, they've filled the venue, and then they get asked to leave.
Well, I think that's really important for the committee to hear and I'm sure we'll be saying something in our report about this and how better systems and protocols can be developed, but I don't want to end on a slightly gloomy point, because I know I speak for all my colleagues in finding this evidence session really absorbing and ever so interesting, and it could have gone on. I fear we've got other commitments, so the clock is against us, but I'm really grateful to you for taking time and effort to give evidence this morning and prepare for it. It really has been an enormous help to us. So, Joss, Ethan, Spike and Callum, thank you very much indeed.
Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Right, colleagues, I move the relevant Standing Order that we conduct the rest of our proceedings in private session, unless any Member objects. I don't see any Member objecting. So, please clear the gallery.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:49.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:49.