Music industry on political agenda

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At first glance the Flemish music industry seems to be in good shape. Many pop artists make it to  the hit lists and among the 100 bestselling albums in Flanders last year, 43 were from Belgium. It seems as if the full impact of the economic crisis has not rippled through to the live music circuit, as is evident by the successful foreign tours of young Flemish pop artists like Selah Sue and Milow. If one looks at music participation, it seems that half a million Flemings are regularly involved with music. This does not dampen concern, however, as an increasing number of musicians and composers find it impossible to live from their work alone. The illegal downloading of music remains a blight on the smaller domestic music market, with the income from concerts absorbing only a portion of this loss of income. It’s up to the authorities to jump in and help, maintains the associated music industry organised by MuziekOverleg, the umbrella organisation representing 17 music organisations. After presenting a resolution containing 15 points of action in the Flemish Parliament, the organisation was pleased to announce its approval. The resolution basically contains all the obstacles the 17 music organisations in both classic and popular genres have to contend with. “This is a unique collaboration between the commercial and non-commercial sectors,” says Stef Coninx, director of the sector’s support centre, Muziekcentrum. “The entire music industry is now an official partner of the government of Flanders. This is a great achievement, as in the past we could not speak with a united voice on issues such as accepted sound decibels for concerts.” Coninx further believes the two biggest priorities that need to be addressed are an integrated export policy for Flemish music and the creation of awareness among consumers of the costs involved to produce music. Flemish MP Philippe De Coene SP.A, initiator of the resolution, admits that this sensitisation of consumers “was systematically downplayed” during the past years. Concert organiser Herman Schueremans Open VLD, who introduced the resolution together with De Coene before the Flemish Parliament, emphasizes the importance of exports, saying; “The international cultural policy is not flexible enough. Flanders should be more geared to potential foreign partners”. MuziekOverleg now needs to put a face to their initiative; someone who can network and open doors to opportunities. Now that the resolution has been approved, the music industry has finally put the issue of the Flemish music industry on the political agenda.

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