Labour’s former deputy leader Tom Watson has been appointed as the new chairman of UK Music, the umbrella body for the entire commercial music industry.

Mr Watson, who will start his role at the organisation in April, said that his top priority is to fight to secure maximum support for the industry to combat the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

He hopes to get the “devastated” sector into a position of growth as soon as possible.

The former MP said he will seek “urgent talks” with ministers and officials to make sure those who work for the music industry in the UK will be fully supported as the pandemic continues.

Mr Watson, who was also the shadow culture secretary before he stood down from Parliament at the general election in December, was appointed by the Board of UK Music following an “extensive recruitment process”.

Mr Watson said: “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.

“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.”

He said that UK Music’s “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.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson is UK Music’s new chairman (UK Music)

“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.”

He said he is “deeply honoured” to take over the role from outgoing chairman Andy Heath, who he described as a “towering figure in the industry and highly respected in Whitehall”.

“Andy has been at the heart of making UK Music the powerful force it is, and we are immensely grateful for his years of service in his role as founding chair,” he added.

“I am greatly relieved to know that he has agreed to work with me during a lengthy transition period, which means we can draw down on his vast experience and wisdom in this most testing of times for the industry.”

Music executive Heath, who has been the chairman of UK Music since it was launched in 2008, said that Mr Watson “will continue to be a fantastic advocate for the music industry and fight for its future at what is an immensely difficult time”.