For the past five years, if you wanted to know what the UK music biz was thinking, you called Jo Dipple.
Of course, the various strands of the business were rarely thinking the same thing. But that they more often than not arrived at a common purpose and unified voice is testament to Dipple’s unique skills.
Her surprise departure as CEO of UK Music, announced yesterday and due to take effect in June, not only scuppers Music Week’s long-running plans for a column called A Tipple With Dipple, but also seemed to come so suddenly that it apparently caught her own employers on the hop (after all, only last week, she was unveiling her hopes for the music biz in 2017 in the pages of Music Week). More worryingly, it could potentially leave them wrong-footed at a stage when the music business needs, more than ever, to present that united front.
The Brexit process is likely to be a fraught one for many aspects of the music biz – and one in which, as Dipple herself pointed out, getting the attention of MPs and government officials will be harder than ever for representatives of an industry that’s never got the attention it deserves in Westminster. Dipple – with her political background and her close relationships with many MPs – knew how to get that attention.
Similarly, as the biz’s battle with YouTube enters its end game, music can ill afford any cracks in its resolve to see effective legislation in Europe and a fairer approach to payments in Google’s accounts department. Dipple was one of YouTube’s most effective critics, capable of fighting the war of words in a language the public understood, politicians reacted to and even her opponents respected.
Music Week sources suggest that one recent meeting between UK Music and YouTube ended with minimal progress. Maybe frustration over such eternal, infernal negotiations contributed to Dipple’s decision to depart. Or maybe the perpetual struggle to get UK Music’s member associations – a diverse, sometimes diametrically opposed band of unlikely brothers than includes UK Live Music, PRS For Music, the BPI, AIM, BASCA, the FAC, MMF, MPA, MPG, MU and PPL – to agree on anything beyond the sky being blue took its toll. Maybe she developed an allergy to acronyms.
But, while the exact circumstances surrounding her departure remain a mystery, one thing is clear: her successor will need one hell of a skillset. Heading up UK Music is like being Prime Minister and England manager at the same time, requiring equal measures of charm, tact, diplomacy, obduracy and luck.
Most of all, though, they’ll need Dipple’s ability to not only mix pop and politics, but make both seem of equal importance. Let’s hope Billy Bragg is polishing up his CV…