UK Music defends appointment of Tom Watson as its Chair

UK Music has defended appointing Tom Watson as its Chair after the move prompted criticism from within the music industry.

The former MP, shadow culture secretary and Labour Deputy Leader was appointed to the position of UK Music Chair in late March, and said that he believes that UK Music “can be the Prime Minister’s calling card to every country on the planet”.

The appointment has been greeted with a mixed response, however. A report by The Times late last week claimed that Watson’s new role had “alarmed” the British Phonographic Industry, whose members account for 85% of music sales and who are among the ten music groups with directors who sit on the board of UK Music.

There is reportedly concern in some camps about Watson’s knowledge of the UK music industry, as well as the reported cost of his annual salary.

The singer/songwriter Mike Batt, who is a former deputy chairman of the BPI, is quoted by The Times as saying: “If Mr Watson remains as chairman I would urge the BPI to leave.”

The report also cites a number of controversies which occurred during Watson’s parliamentary career, particularly in terms of his support for false allegations of child sexual abuse such as those disproved by the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in February.

There have subsequently been calls to block Watson from receiving a parliamentary peerage.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson is the new chair of UK Music (Picture: Getty)

UK Music responded to the reports and the criticism in a statement on Friday (April 24), in which they revealed that there were over 80 applicants for the role of UK Music Chair and that six candidates were interviewed for the role.

“The UK Music Board tasked a representative cross-section of all UK Music’s member organisations to carry out the selection process,” the statement reads, adding that Watson was selected by the six-member panel.

“Tom Watson was Shadow Culture Secretary for more than three years before he stood down from Parliament. He was a founder member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music. During his time in Parliament, he worked on many cross-party campaigns, including support for the reform of live music licensing and fair ticketing.”

A spokesperson for UK Music added: “All UK Music’s member organisations were actively involved in the extensive and widely advertised recruitment process for the new Chair which culminated in the appointment of Tom Watson.

“The appointment was ratified by the UK Music Board in March and widely welcomed across the music industry.”

Earlier today, Music Venue Trust launched a new campaign, ‘Save Our Venues’, in a bid to stave off the continued economic threat to over 500 grassroots music venues throughout the UK