— Chandler Shortlidge, Intellitix Contributor —
As Brexit looms over the horizon, questions about its impact on UK’s music industry abound.
After all, Brexit has never been popular with the music industry. Almost all UK musicians and labels supported the Remain campaign, according to polls by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Featured Artists Coalition and Creative Industries Federation. Half of all musicians, composers, songwriters, lyricists, producers and artists fear leaving the EU would have a negative impact on their industry, according to data from UK Music’s recent Measuring Music survey, while just 2% thought Brexit would have a positive impact on their chances of work.
Brexit comes at a time when the UK music industry is stronger than ever, contributing £4.4 billion in GVA (gross value added) in 2016. That’s up 6% on the previous year. Jobs also grew in number to 142,208, and as The Guardian shows, the UK music industry has been outperforming the wider economy over the past 4 years.
But the strength of the music industry is by no means a given, and these five issues could cause real harm.
TOURING COULD GET HARDER
“One area where Brexit could have a negative impact is on touring musicians,” the BBC states, citing fears that musicians might have to scale back European tours after Brexit. While British artists currently enjoy freedom of movement across EU borders for working tours, they soon may have to spend more time and money on things like visas if rules are tightened.
Consider that it can cost an extra £46,000 for 13 people to tour the US than the EU, because of visas, carnets for touring equipment and medical insurance. Depending on who you are, that may make touring much harder, if not impossible.
YOUNG ARTISTS COULD SUFFER MORE
Of course, time and money are things that bands like The Rolling Stones or U2 have plenty of. But newer acts who struggle to make ends meet while acting as their own PR, tour management, social media team and promoter will be hit by travel restrictions the hardest. Especially if costs for touring to the EU skyrocket. New artists are the lifeblood of the music industry—they’re potentially tomorrow’s megastars—and any threat to them is a threat everyone should take seriously. This could hurt them the most.
A 2016 Diversity Study from UK Music found that “10% of the music industry workforce hold a passport for an EU country other than the UK.” That’s greater than the estimated 7% total UK workforce who are from other EU nations.
As chief executive Robert Ashcroft of PRS, the UK’s main royalty collection society, states: “11% of our employees come from countries other than the UK. We operate daily in 13 languages. We need the prime minister to give assurances that the people resident and working here can stay.”
Ashcroft hopes that that the UK’s music business is so international that it will be able to transcend possible implications that Brexit could have for Europeans living and working in the UK. And he might be in luck, as news suggest it could be much easier for EU citizens already working in the UK to remain than originally anticipated. Though it seems unlikely that UK companies will be able to attract EU citizens as easily as they do now. Once Brexit happens, increased immigration restrictions seem all but assured. This could deal a big blow to the diversity the music industry prides itself on having, and helps it function across borders so effectively.
POORLY MANAGED EXPORT POWER
As UK Music notes, the massive popularity of acts like Adele and Coldplay have helped bring a boom in foreign sales of British music, and ticket sales to overseas residents for events in Britain in 2015. Of course, travel restrictions may have an impact on concert attendance from European residents. But the strength of UK music exports, rising 3.4% to £2.2bn in 2015, has prompted industry leaders to warn the government against any post-referendum policies that might hurt its export power.
“The UK needs to solidify its new post-Brexit place in the world and music will undoubtedly be part of the glue that does this,” UK Music chief executive Jo Dipple told The Guardian. “Our export profile is astounding which is partly why music, like sport, gives the world an understanding of our small country. UK Music’s goal is to work with the government to convince them to give us policies as good as the music we produce.”