How Brexit Could Jeopardise The Future Of Live Music
Brexit. A word that has been in the mouths of Europeans and non-Europeans alike for what seems now like an eternity. What at first seemed to be one long-running joke with no foreseeable punchline has formed into what could well be a very harsh reality for some – musicians included. Let’s put the underlying political standings aside for a moment and discuss the potential fate that awaits artists.
As a musician and a citizen of the UK (although I have lived in France for a third of my life), I have always enjoyed the freedom and fluidity of being able to tour Europe, with our beautiful little island included. There’s no catch, no VISA requirements, no background checks or border fees on merchandising – just an open opportunity to share our musical efforts across the board with no worries. But with a possible No Deal Brexit on the horizon, this could become a distant memory of better times for musicians and artists around the globe.
What could this mean for the state of the music scene as we know it?
The UK has long held its reputation for breeding incredible artists who never fail to inspire what the rest of the world is doing musically; offering their possible-at-any-time performances around mainland Europe and injecting their energy into the youth of Europeans, who in turn begin to create and to inspire others themselves. Of course, this works both ways: the music scene as we know it is one big melting pot of never-ending inspiration in artistic interchange and it’s nothing short of being beautiful.
Will adding hard borders – making it increasingly difficult to access either side of the channel – throw a spanner into the works of this musical machine? Absolutely.
Major alarm bells are going off with those who are familiar with the gruelling U.S. work VISA process. For those who don’t know, it costs around £1,000 per band member from the UK/EU to obtain a VISA, which takes a lot of preparation and can take months to get approved. Sometimes they are declined and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is a cost and effort that bands are willing to spend to get to the USA, which is the world’s largest market for rock music. If we’re faced with similar VISA costs, will small and maybe even medium-sized European bands be willing to pay that to come to the UK? Given the tight budgets bands are already working within, probably not. Will small UK bands be able to afford to tour Europe? Probably not, unless they have well-paying jobs or generous parents.
Many countries outside of the EU are strict on taxing merch sales. For example, in Switzerland you have to pay tax upfront on the way into the country for all merch carried, and then collect any refunds you might be owed on the way back. If a UK band is made to pay tax on their entire stock before they’ve even left Dover, they are going to struggle.
And then there’s selling merch and music from home. Bands will now face import/export costs when selling CDs and merch overseas via their own online stores. Yet another cost to add to the pile.
The UK is a hotbed for live music and creativity, it’s been the driving force in rock and pop music from the start and a No Deal scenario dangerously threatens its future. Sure, you’ll still have all the manufactured pop you could ever want, but music isn’t born at the top. Music starts from the underground and if new UK bands can’t afford to take their music overseas and grow, they will die. Similarly, our live scene is very much populated with European bands, and if they decide to not play in the UK as it’s not cost effective, we could end up with vacuum in our venues.
Whether you’re a musician or a fan, something we hold dear to us is in the hands of the UK government. Whether it’s voting, protesting, or simply having an opinion on the subject in a chat with your mates, please take on board the threat that cutting ties with the EU carries for music. Let’s also cross our fingers and toes in hope that the UK can continue to inspire and be inspired; and that today’s divisive politics don’t damage this wonderful utopia of music that we all love so dearly.
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