Keith Harris and Bernard Butler to spearhead new Music Industry Advisory Group

Keith Harris and Bernard Butler to spearhead new Music Industry Advisory Group

Keith Harris is to chair the inaugural Music Industry Advisory Group (MIAG).

The veteran manager and executive, who’s worked closely with Stevie Wonder, will be joined by musicians and producers, music lawyers, A&Rs, and more to focus on mentoring the next generation.

Established by North East-based talent agency Generator, the MIAG officially launches at the Music Futures Summit, at Sage Gateshead, on May 5.

Newcastle-born Harris will be joined by artist, songwriter and producer Bernard Butler, alongside music industry experts supporting the creative hub.

“People say ‘Oh, it's cool because you're giving something back’, but I don't see it as giving something back,” said Keith Harris, who joined EMI in 1976 as head of promotions before becoming the label’s general manager two years later. “I'm learning as much as I'm giving as chair of the MIAG. There are a lot of young people I've met through Generator already, who are doing great things and have fantastic ideas.

“So I'm learning from them. Yes, I can give them some of the stuff that I've learned over the years. But it's not a one-way street. I like to say I’m intermingling, not giving back! And there’s so much to learn from the North East music scene right now.”

Harris left EMI for Motown, where he went on to work alongside Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, The Commodores, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder.

The former chair of UK Music’s Diversity & Equality Taskforce was awarded an OBE for services to the music industry in 2015 and elected Rector of the University of Dundee in 2021.

“I moved from Newcastle to Whitehaven and then on to Wigan before I went to university in Dundee,” he added. “So I’ve always been spread across the country. And one thing you learn in that situation, especially if you’re passionate about the music business, is just how few opportunities there are in the regions.

“One of the main reasons I got involved with Generator and the MIAG is to make sure that some of those opportunities are distributed across the North East. This is a chance for positive change that will flow both ways. People from the North East will see music professionals on their own patch and, at the same time, people from the South East will be exposed to some of the extraordinary talent that exists outside of London.”

This is a chance for positive change that will flow both ways

Keith Harris

Harris added: “When Sam Fender first appeared on the scene you’d think he’d jumped out of a spaceship. In truth, there are more like him in the North East and throughout the regions. They simply need the correct information and support to take their next steps in the industry.”

The Music Futures Summit will focus on how Generator, its partners and the creative community in the North East will deliver on its vision to create a sustainable music industry in the region that ensures access for all. 

The day-long event will also look to address the challenges and opportunities facing artists and the wider creative supply chain and provide an insight into the industry and its plans for the future.

Butler, who has become a regular visitor to the North East after working with Sunderland-based indie rockers Frankie And The Heartstrings in 2013, echoes Harris’ view that it’s time the London-focused music business embraced the opportunity to develop regional talent.

“Musicians outside of London can feel that, just because of where they live, it’s difficult to relate to and collaborate with industry professionals based in the capital,” he said. “That’s wrong. “We should be able to reassure people that it’s no longer about shady meetings in cafés near King’s Cross. We’re so connected as a world now that it’s ridiculous that young people in the North East still feel disconnected with the wider music industry.

“When I bring up Generator, and the music scene in the North East, with people involved in the music business in London they’ll say ‘well that sounds like a niche idea’. Why should supporting regional talent be a niche idea? I think they’re embarrassed that they’re not doing more but they’re also missing a huge opportunity.

“In reality, these people can be enablers. They can help the music industry professionals of the future to spread their wings and fly! In bringing together these influential industry professionals, the Music Futures Summit and the MIAG can enable positive change.”

A limited number of free places are still available for those hoping to attend the Music Futures Summit. Visit for details.

PHOTO: Keith Harris with Generator CEO Mick Ross and chairman of the Generator board David Haley


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