Brexit means Brexit…but what does that mean for music?

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Artists call for the protection of the touring music industry, in the fear Britain will turn into a “cultural jail”.

It’s the new B-word, the dreaded topic of conversation we try and avoid like deadlines. But what’s happens to our beloved musicians and their music when, or if, we leave the EU?

For years the U.K has embraced international sounds, assimilating a celebratory attitude towards musical diversity into the DNA of our country. World festivals, sound-system culture and carnivals have all contributed to the distinct identity Britain holds among other Western powers. Whether you are at Glastonbury’s West Holts Stage, listening to the soulful Malian sonics of Fatoumate Diawara, or find yourself bopping to a Black Coffee banger in a club, the international influence on our music scene is unquestionable.

Image credit Wikipedia

With Bojo insisting Britain will leave the EU, even after yet another postponement, concerns are rising in the music industry about the impact it will have on maintaining the cultural diversity at these events. WOMAD (world of music and dance festival) have already felt the effects of the U.K’s increasingly oppressive visa restrictions on world artists. Three acts were denied entry this year, with organiser Chris Smith expressing his frustrations at the home office for their “humiliating” approach to declining artist invitations, as explained to the Guardian.

‘In the hysteria of Brexit it is easy to forget that Britain has so much cultural dominance in the world of arts’

Leaving the single market could also present problems for British acts trying to tour Europe. The rise in prominence of streaming services is creating a more interconnected world, and the talent from our shores is reaching audiences worldwide. For genres already marginalised by authorities in England, making any money in our country’s Brexit era could prove difficult. Groups like 67, Brixton’s self-proclaimed ‘drillers’, used to rely on shows in Europe for any revenue, as police often shut down their gigs in England under the 696 risk assessment form.

The government told BBC’s newsbeat it’s “committed to protecting” the British music scene when Brexit happens. Michael Dugher, the boss of ‘UK Music’, says there could be a “practical solution” to the potential challenges of playing in Europe; talks of a touring passport has crossed the lips of industry experts, but this could still prove to be expensive for up and coming artists with a following abroad. Lily Allen, at last year’s Mercury Prize, joked that had she won the prestigious award the £25,000 would have been spent on ‘visa applications after Brexit’.

Image credit NME

As well as his Brexit boat battle with Nigel Farage, Sir Bob Geldof is another musician who has been extremely vocal about how damning leaving the EU could be to Britain’s music scene. His open letter to, the then prime minister, Theresa May protested that the vast reservoirs of musical talent we have on our Island will be silenced in a “self-built cultural jail” if we say au revoir to our European counterparts. In 2017, British revenue in the creative industries rose by 10.6%, bringing in £92 billion, growing at twice the rate of the national economy.

Organisers of European festivals initially voiced concerns when the outcome of the referendum was announced, but Alfonso Lanza (co-organiser of Primavera) admits “we can’t do this festival without UK bands and fans”; in the hysteria of Brexit it is easy to forget that Britain has so much cultural dominance in the world of arts. An eighth of albums brought in 2017 were by a British artist, so it is scary to believe one of our largest grossing exports could be in jeopardy if we are to leave the EU.

The last three years have been a period of political uncertainty for everyone, whether you are pro-leave or pro-stay, but one of the other great cultural debates of our time, is how on earth our tiny island produces the array of musical talent it does. If there is one certainty that should be playing on your mind, it’s how is our our nation going to function without the annual boozy night watching Eurovision?

Liam Cattermole