Council budgets are under pressure right now and so much of our city is in need of regeneration. This is why many have been shocked at the Labour council’s decision to blow a whopping £425,000 putting on an MTV concert featuring Alicia Keys. Not content with bank bailouts, we are now getting music industry bailouts as well. This seems all too typical of a town hall that seems obsessed with style over substance.
The council has attempted to justify the event by claiming it represents millions of pounds worth of promotion and it is a ”great advert” for the city. It’s difficult to see how they arrived at the figures of £6.6 million. Also, given that Alicia Keys has been promoting her new album, if you follow the council’s logic, all of us in Manchester have subsidised £6.6 million worth of advertising for ”Girl on Fire ”. Much was made of a mention in the Washington Post, an article which is not currently available online anymore. It’s worth pointing out the coverage was far from blanket praise, the Independent described the event as a ”washout”.
What is particularly shameful is that £250,000 of the bill came from a European regeneration pot of money, the Manchester Evening News reports. This money belongs out in our neglected communities, not in the pockets of the music industry.
It’s not just the council that are at fault. The Pirate Party has always warned about the big labels’ demands on government. In an attempt to sure up profits they have pushed for laws that threaten to snoop on people and chuck them off the Internet, they have pushed for website blocking powers. We even have the Serious Crime squad investigating RnB blogs, when most people will surely want them to be concentrating on their real job of dealing with gun crime and people trafficking. Now recording label fat cats want subsidies too.
Of course we want cultural events and things for young people to do in Manchester. Something like our International Festival produces great work and a real legacy for our city and for culture more widely. But there is no reason why we should be footing the bill to promote an album. We should ask ourselves what image we want to send out to the rest of the world. Our Manchester music scene is about much more than the ever increasingly trivial commercial pop world. It certainly sends the wrong signal that we value flashy events over regenerating our city.