When Prime minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 on March 29, she started what will be a two-year negotiation with the EU about the United Kingdom’s exit from the Union.
As Sam Cooke said in his famous soul classic: Change is gonna come. Although it will take about two years to finalise the terms on which the UK will exit, it is clear that the nation won’t be able to enjoy the same benefits as it does now.
While it is still unclear what the terms will be, speculations and predictions have already been made. Some industries and businesses might gain from the EU exit, but an industry most likely to see negative consequences is the UK music industry.
As of right now, the European Union represent a major export destination for the music industry in the UK. In an interview in 2016, Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry and the BRIT Awards, spoke on the importance of the Union:
“Music and the wider creative industries are a major success story for the UK economy. Given the importance of exports to Europe to our business, we believe that the prospects for British music are brighter if the UK remains within the European Union”
In 2015, UK artists accounted for over a quarter (25.9%) of album sales across Europe. When looking at the six largest music markets throughout the European Union after the UK, these being Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, British artists had a 17.4% market share of albums sold. That is almost one in every five albums sold.
Before the referendum last year, the British Phonographic Industry did a survey among its members, asking whether or not to remain in the European Union – to Brexit or not to Brexit. The results were clear and speak for themselves. Over two-thirds of the respondents believed that voting remain would be in the best interest of the British music industry. This figure rises to nearly 80% when filtering out respondents who didn’t know or preferred not to say. Although the terms of leaving have yet to be negotiated, it is clear that the music industry knows that Brexit will in some way harm British musicians and workers in the industry.
One immediate effect, which will affect both British and European musicians, is the freedom of movement between EU member states. Being secluded from the European Union, British citizens could face expensive costs when wanting to travel to other countries within the EU. As a result, separate visas could be required in order to travel within the EU, if an individual trade-related agreement cannot be reached.
On top of that, the introduction of the so-called carnet, a document specifying every piece of equipment transported, would make touring in Europe even more expensive for UK artists. The carnet will most likely cost between £1000-£2000 and will be eligible for 12 months. Acquiring both visas and carnets will not only prove to be time-consuming but will also be extremely expensive for smaller, up-and-coming artists wanting to tour around Europe.
Furthermore, the knock-on effect could be that British artists will face problems when trying to book shows in EU countries. In an interview with Pitchfork, booking agent Isla Angus said: “if promoters also need to be visa sponsors they could be far less willing to take a risk on artists”. Of course, this won’t have consequences for international superstars such as Adele, Coldplay or Ed Sheeran, but will hit smaller acts trying to break through in new markets.
While emerging British talent is extremely reliant on the European live market, up-and-coming artists from all over Europe is also dependent on UK venues to further their careers. Many UK venues receive funding from EU initiatives to help them put on shows for emerging European artists. In 2012, UK applications for arts funding had a success rate of 46% – almost twice the average success rate of 24%.
UK venues and artists do not rely solely on EU funding. The BPI and the Performing Rights Society for Music already help artists and venues with funding, but these funds tend to be limited and are often only for artists with an established fan base in the UK and Europe, making it harder for emerging artists to access these funds.
The decision to leave the European Union will affect many aspects of British business life and the music industry is no exception. There is no doubt that the UK music industry will adapt to the changes following the exit of the European Union, but it will most likely make the lives of emerging artists harder, more time consuming and cost-prohibitive than before.
Remember to register to vote in the General Election on 8 June – you can register right here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
By Louis Andersen-Risager