Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Musicians' funding under threat

By Rodrigo Davies and Georgie Rogers
6 Music News reporters

Alan McGee
Alan McGee founded Creation Records thanks to government money

A government scheme that helped launch the careers of James Morrison and the Zutons is under threat.

The New Deal for Musicians gave the unemployed access to instruments, and was supported by Sir Paul McCartney.

The new scheme, which launches in October, will only be open to those who have been out of work for over a year.

Alan McGee, who founded Creation Records and signed Oasis, said he was disappointed to see government funding for music under threat.

Speaking to 6 Music, McGee said he'd been given his start in music by the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, which was started by the Conservatives, but is pessimistic about the prospects for young people hoping to forge a career in music.

"I think it's a terrible time to be a new band, because record companies are falling to bits. I don't think there is a business model right now.

"I know a lot of kids who are great entrepreneurs and they would have done well in the eighties and nineties.

It's a terrible time to be a new band, because record companies are falling to bits.
Creation Records founder, Alan McGee

"I came along at a time when it was good to be a music entrepreneur. I would think it's very difficult to be successful at that in this climate. That's not to say that people won't do it."

James Morrison used money from the New Deal to buy a guitar, while it was also influential to the development of Jem, who sold 300,000 copies of her debut Finally Woken in 2004.

In return for help from the Government, the musicians had to spend a minimum of 30 hours a week honing their skills or learning new ones.

New Deal replacement

From October, several of Labour's New Deal schemes will be replaced by a single Flexible New Deal.

Under the plan the unemployed will be referred to private or charitable organisations (paid by the Government) after a year out of work for help with finding work.

In a statement, Employment Minister Tony McNulty said: "The Flexible New Deal will be tailored to each person's employment and skills needs. This could include support for a specific talent in music, so long as it does not limit someone's job search."

McGee said he could understand why the government was considering reducing the amount it spends on musicians.

"I don't think it's good that it's stopped. It was a good thing that the government was able to implement, and it's been a good time. It's just the economics of this country.

"I think people should be worrying about whether the government has enough money to pay the dole money for the three million people who are going to be made unemployed. I've got my doubts."

'A load of rubbish'

Rock group The Rifles have been active since 2004 and released their second album, Great Escape, on 26 January.

Rifles frontman Joel Stoker
Paul Weller joined them on stage last year to perform The Jam's Eton Rifles

They had no assistance from Government schemes like the New Deal For Musicians; frontman Joel Stoker said it was the "opposite".

As his band priorities increased, he says, the local Job Centre was unimpressed with his burgeoning career.

"They said 'you need to be signing on for over a year' - or something stupid like that - 'before you're entitled to that' [extra help].

"The Government are saying they're helping people and basically you've got to scrounge off them for at least a year before you're even going to get anywhere near that New Deals thing."

"They turned around and said that if, for instance, you'd been in prison you might be given special treatment," the musician continued, "What's that all about? It's a load of rubbish."

However, Stoker does not reckon the future of music will suffer without the New Deal: "I don't think so. You can always sit indoors and write a song.

"I'm sure they did that in the 60's. I doubt they had New Deal schemes then and they wrote some of the best music ever."

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