Former Labour Party deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Tom Watson has been appointed as the new chair of UK Music.
Watson, who stood down as MP for West Bromwich at the 2019 General Election, takes over from Andy Heath as the chair of the umbrella trade body and lobbying group.
In a statement, Watson said his top priority was to secure the future of the music industry during the coronavirus crisis, at a time when many independent artists, labels and venues have expressed serious concerns over their future.
“UK Music speaks with a powerful voice for the whole of the UK commercial music sector. And at the heart of the sector are the songwriters and musicians, many thousands of whom stand ready to serve in the national effort against the coronavirus,” said Watson.
“In ordinary times, the UK’s commercial music sector contributes £5.2 billion to the UK economy and supports 190,000 jobs. The cancellation of live music events has devastated the sector. Thousands of jobs are now in peril and threaten the long-term bottom line of the UK economy.
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“Our urgent task is to work with our colleagues and partners in Government to support the national effort to defeat coronavirus, whilst protecting the jewel in the crown of British culture – commercial music.”
He added: “When we’re through this crisis, UK Music has an important part to play in Britain’s developing new role in the world. We believe we can be the Prime Minister’s calling card to every country on the planet.
“There will be much to say about this in the months ahead but first, let’s deal with this crisis. I will be seeking urgent talks with ministers and officials to ensure that we support the music-makers of Britain and the industry that always sustains us through the good times and the bad.”
Watson will also oversee the search for a new CEO, with Tom Kiehl currently acting in an interim role following the departure of Michael Dugher earlier this year.
Speaking of Watson’s appointment, Andy Heath said: “I’m delighted Tom Watson is the new chair of UK Music. I’m sure he will continue to be a fantastic advocate for the music industry and fight for its future at what is an immensely difficult time.
“I’m hugely proud of all we have achieved at UK Music. We have created a strong and united voice for the music industry that is listened to right across Westminster and the business world.”