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Jo Dipple: Reflections on a year at UK Music

Digital piracy controls, copyright reform, live music liberalisation... Jo Dipple’s first year at the helm of UK Music has found her dealing with issues that will define the industry’s long-term future.

Although the past six years have seen her immersed in policy world, Jo Dipple’s career was forged in Fleet Street.

Joining Mirror Group in 1993 as an assistant to the group political editor, she progressed to become Trinity Mirror’s head of public affairs. Taking her political acumen into government, she served as a special adviser to the Brown administration, prior to assuming a similar role with UK Music – the umbrella organisation that represents all stakeholders in the UK’s commercial music industry – in 2008.

Dipple succeeded Feargal Sharkey as UK Music’s chief executive in January 2012. Reflections, then, on your first 12 months running UK Music… I can’t believe it has already been a year! We have had an incredibly busy and exciting year, with the Olympics, in particular, representing a huge event for British music and a way of showcasing what we do best to a global audience of billions. Other important developments include the introduction of the Live Music Act and our co-operation with the government around the issue of copyright reform. We have also been working with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on a new education campaign geared towards secondary schools. The Live Music Act – which relaxed the rules surrounding the staging of small-scale live events – had been floating around in one form or another for several years. How significant a moment was its introduction on October 1? Or ‘Rocktober 1st’ as we like to call it… The Live Music Act is going to have a hugely positive impact on grassroots music and the development of new talent. We’re already working on one baseline study that will track its impact over the course of 12 months. The research we gathered at the start of the programme revealed that 78% of small premises are unaware of the passing of the Live Music Act, so we will be working with the Musicians’ Union on an education process so the full potential of the Act is realised. Less positively, Digital Economy Act (DEA) measures to combat music piracy were delayed until 2014. How serious a setback was this for UK artists and producers? The DEA was passed in 2010 [during the final days of the Brown government], so the fact that we are still facing delays at the start of 2013 is certainly disappointing. As an organisation, one of the key things that we want to see is the continued development of legal markets [for digital music] and that is part of the DEA, so obviously we would like to see it implemented as soon as possible. But plenty of other things have been happening [outside a legislative framework]. Those developments include a new education programme, MusicBiz, devised in co-operation with the IPO. Would it be fair to say that the problem of conveying the anti-piracy message to young music fans is partly one of terminology? We took the shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman, down to the University of Hertfordshire to talk to music students, and she said that she found it very difficult to talk to young residents in [her parliamentary constituency of] Peckham about copyright infringement because the language is so chronically out of step with what they understand their love of music to be. Part of the aim of MusicBiz is to make it very easy for students to get to grips with the creative process – be it in the form of creating music, writing or film – and how it all works. But yes, it’s clear that the language needs to be addressed. Training opportunities for musicians and technicians have expanded considerably in recent years, but is there still more that can be done? We require a workforce with diverse skills coming into the industry, so training is a huge priority for UK Music. Our rehearsal room scheme – which has so far attracted 33,000 young people keen to develop new areas of expertise – is one aspect of our ongoing work in this area. Initiatives including the DEA should help artists and producers to gain fairer remuneration, but what about another of their pressing concerns – file quality? Are we going to see a move away from heavily compressed formats? The quality issue is a big one, and I think that in a mass digital market quality will rise to the top. As more legal markets with more licensed products emerge, I expect those quality products to occupy a larger place in the global digital music market. The Music Producers Guild is one of our core members, and continues to have a great impact on debate about this and other topics. With all this vital policy work going on, have you actually had time to get out and see some live music yourself? Bruce Springsteen is a hero of mine so it was great to have the chance to see him play in Hyde Park. I was really impressed by [fast-rising folk/soul singer] Lianne La Havas at the Mercury Prize ceremony, but meeting Dizzee Rascal at UK Music’s summer reception may have been my personal highlight of 2012!

Story: David Davies