UK Music has defended the appointment of former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson as chair of the trade body.
Watson has replaced respected industry veteran Andy Heath in the role. UK Music says claims that Watson will be paid £60,000 for 40 days’ work a year are inaccurate.
Opponents of Watson within the music industry, including Mike Batt, have been organising a campaign against his appointment.
A report and accompanying leader column in the Times today (April 24) highlights concerns about Watson’s suitability for the UK Music role. It also flags up the BPI’s apparent lack of support for the appointment.
The BPI has declined to comment. But the labels’ trade body did not voice its congratulations along with other organisations when the appointment was announced and Music Week sources indicate the BPI was the only UK Music member organisation to vote against the appointment. Music Week understands the labels trade body's concerns centred on whether Watson will be able to command support for the music industry from a Conservative government he spent so long opposing – although Tory politicians, including Matt Hancock, also welcomed his appointment.
Complaints from others reportedly concern Watson’s lack of relevant experience and his role in a bungled police investigation into historical sexual abuse claims. Watson has previously hit back at “inaccuracies” in an official Metropolitan Police report that criticised his influence on the investigation. Sir Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini were among high-profile figures who faced false allegations.
The Times also suggests Watson benefited from “cronyism” among Labour supporters within the industry. Former Labour MP Michael Dugher, who stepped down as CEO shortly before the appointment of Watson, praised Watson as “a loyal & passionate champion of music” and predicted he would be “a superb chair”.
UK Music responded to the report today.
A spokesperson said: "The post of chair of UK Music was extensively advertised across a range of media including The Sunday Times and The Guardian, as well as major online music media publications. More than 80 applications were received before the deadline in mid-January.
“The UK Music Board tasked a representative cross-section of all UK Music’s member organisations to carry out the selection process. The six-member panel drew up a shortlist of six candidates for interview. Tom Watson was chosen by the panel and his appointment was ratified in March by the UK Music Board.
“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.”
UK Music represents more than 190,000 people who work in the commercial music industry.
The spokesman 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.”