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European Commission

Androulla VASSILIOU

Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

Music: soul of the universe and heart-beat of diversity

Friends of Music – 25th Anniversary/Brussels – European Parliament

15 May 2013

I am delighted to join you tonight for this celebration of music.

I would first like to thank the European Parliament's Friends of Music, for their kind invitation, and IFPI for organising this event.

Tonight we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Friends of Music. Let me congratulate you on reaching this important milestone. You have brought to your annual events some of the best and most talented artists in Europe and beyond. Tonight is no exception.

As a dedicated music lover, I strongly believe that music is a most powerful form of art.

'Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination - and life to everything', Plato said.

Music is the universal form of art par excellence. No other form of art has the same capacity to transcend territorial, cultural and linguistic boundaries.

That is why I am committed to ensuring that music – as part of our cultural and creative sectors - receives from the European Union all the support it needs to flourish and keep on fulfilling its role in our lives and in our economies.

I have repeated several times that cultural and creative sectors account for a substantial percentage of EU GDP and employ millions of people across our continent.

They are a big driver for growth, and they have the potential to do even more.

Investments in the music sector in particular have an enormous ripple effect in society, create growth and jobs and enrich our cultures across Europe.

I find it extremely positive that the music industry is on a path to recovery, aided by recent developments, such as licensed digital music services, and a rapid expansion into new international markets.

New technologies open new possibilities of creating and distributing cultural content that were unthinkable until recently. They also provide new ways of generating value - as mobile devices, such as i-pads and smartphones, and new licensed services - enter into new and untapped markets.

In fact, music represents the lion's share in the digital economy and on social media platforms.

Just to give you some examples (I am sure some of you are familiar with them):

Nine in 10 of the most watched videos of all time on YouTube are music videos.

Angela Gheorghiu's version of Habanera – the famous aria from Carmen – performed six years ago - has been watched over 3.5 million times.

Nine in 10 of the most liked people on Facebook are artists.

Seven of the top 10 most followed people on Twitter are artists. Joss Stone has more than 120 000 followers – that is 20 times as many as I have!

We are seeing at the moment a huge growth of musical offer available thanks to new platforms. And as the offer increases, so does cultural diversity.

But the stakes are high. Let me touch upon some aspects briefly.

In the digital era, when the latest global music hit is only one mouse-click away, some fear that we may be heading towards an excessive homogenisation of musical and cultural taste. They could not be more wrong.

Europeans enjoy music digitally through more than 300 online services, offering tracks from different repertoires from the EU and the rest of the world.

Remarkably, album charts show the importance of investment in local repertoire. In Italy, Spain and Sweden, 8 in 10 top selling albums in 2012 were by local artists; in Germany the figure was 7 in 10, and in France 6 in 10.

The EU promotes and encourages this wealth of creativity, diversity and innovation. Copyright is key in this context and an area on which the Commission attaches great attention.

Last February, together with my fellow Commissioners Michel Barnier and Neelie Kroes, we launched a new initiative relating to copyright: a stakeholders' dialogue called 'Licences for Europe'.

Our starting point is that copyright protects cultural diversity, rewards creativity and fosters innovation, in the internet era as well. At the same time, the knowledge society requires - and Europeans expect - wider and easier access to content. We therefore need to strike the right balance.

'Licences for Europe' is about searching for pragmatic, 'bottom-up' solutions on complex questions such as cross-border portability of content, access to audio-visual works and user-generated content – to name the most relevant here. I wish to thank IFPI for their constructive participation in this process.

In parallel, the Commission is involved in an on-going review of the EU copyright framework, with a view to reaching a decision in 2014 on whether to table legislative reform proposals.

Enforcement of copyright is among the topics that are examined in this framework. The purpose is to analyse how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the fight against piracy – an issue of great sensitivity to the music sector.

Creating the right environment for cultural diversity, creativity and innovation is of crucial importance.

With this in mind, the EU directly supports creative talents in our 27 Member States and beyond – including in the music sector.

Over the years, we have supported, through the Culture programme, projects covering a range of musical styles, from baroque to hip hop, electronic music, jazz and world music.

This support promoted the mobility of musicians across borders. It led to co-productions, tours and festivals. It facilitated the exchange of experience and networking opportunities.

Moreover, we hope to inspire emerging European artists to break through national borders. The European Border Breakers Awards reward the cross-border success of emerging talents in pop, rock and dance music. Just to give you an example, one of this year's winners from Estonia is already making waves in Germany, France and the US. And we saw similar success with last year's winner from Austria.

From next year onwards, these activities will continue under the new Creative Europe programme.

As the European Commissioner of Culture, my key objective is to ensure that EU money spent on culture make a difference not only in protecting our cultural and linguistic diversity within the EU, but also in spurring economic growth, creating jobs and fostering the competitiveness of European cultural and creative sectors.

I hope those present share this objective.

And now, true to the saying "where words leave off, music begins", I would like to leave you to enjoy this very special evening.


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