Regardless of whether you voted leave or remain in the referendum, this week is huge for the future of the UK.
We know there are more important things to address but, here at HTF, we love music – if you haven’t already guessed. Without causing an argument around the dinner table on whether it was the right or wrong decision, we want to talk about Brexit for one main reason: how will it affect the music world?
As we all know, British music is one the strongest exports the UK has to offer. Selling millions of units in mainland Europe and having the lineups of international festivals filled with British talent, it’s hard to see the demand suddenly disappearing. Even if countries are in a mood with us, are they going to neglect someone like Adele? Nobody can hate that woman. Side note: Adele to lead the negotiations? Just a thought.
Although the demand is always going to be high, the UK is likely to lose the privilege of free trade throughout Europe. At the moment, musicians can sell an album to someone in France or Spain and not have to pay a fee on their distribution deals. The trade agreement is not only essential for music but virtually every other industry too. Not only will it affect the price of your imported Portuguese vegetables from Sainsbury’s, but the cost of music is likely to increase, and the fans are likely to pay the difference.
To most musicians, physical music sales haven’t been a significant part of their income for the past ten years with downloads and streaming taking over the market. Since the growth in download prices – due to the low value of the pound – streaming is now looking the most affordable way for fans to listen. Unless you’re The Weeknd – earning $92million through streams – artists that rely on selling downloads to a small yet active audience – independent musicians in particular – would lose the value of their unit. Could this be the death of the download in the UK? Companies like Apple will probably capitalise on the result of the negotiations, but what about the musician? Record labels might demand more commercialised music, higher price for live tickets or even hold back people from producing music in the first place.
Another area that journalists are predicting problems is in vinyl sales due to the potential increase in the price of production. However, we don’t believe this is the case. Fans who tend to buy vinyl have already committed to the idea of spending a greater amount for their music. The type of person who purchases vinyl knows they are paying more for the nostalgic platform. The price is likely to increase due to most vinyl being pressed out in Europe, but Brexiteers would argue that this could help grow production in the UK. Maybe a niche demographic of vinyl pressing hipsters saw an opportunity and voted Brexit. Perhaps they were tipping percentage?
The Brexit campaign focused one critical area: Immigration. For many, this issue was the core reason for voting, but it was never clearly outlined how our new visa system will work. If we agree on free trade within Europe – which will lower costs altogether – there has to be free movement in and out of the country.
That could be a “shituation” (coined it), but let’s try to think positively about it. With fewer people heading overseas to international festivals because of the cost of flights increasing or a possible European Visa, the British people will have to turn to our prestigious UK festivals. Yes, poor Annie Mac will struggle with the Lost & Found Festival, but this could allow international artists to visit the UK with one big payout. Also, putting a Brexiteers hat on again, this would keep the money in the UK which allows festivals to invest more into the experiences and lineup. But there’s no denying a remainer’s response to the likely increase in the ticket price and other expenses like food or alcohol.
Now, if there’s an agreement reached where we’re allowed movement within Europe, this could mean that little will change when it comes to bands touring. However, because we don’t have Adele negotiating for us (still feel like it’s a missed opportunity), it’s improbable they will reach an agreement where the outcome is for free trade and free movement around Europe. Not impossible, but just very unlikely as things stand. Therefore we could see fewer international stars visit the UK because of the cost of a visa or, if they do decide to tour, ticket prices are more than likely going to increase to cover the costs. Also, merchandise or physical CDs sold on the tour will be slapped with a duty fee. The music world has dramatically changed in the last decade and touring has filled the cash void made from the lack of music sold – good old Pirate Bay.
In the midst of all this confusion, it’s likely that the copyright laws will have to change also and British artists could get stung by torrent platforms – good old Pirate Bay. If something like this were to happen, musicians would be vulnerable, and the even streaming sites might take a hit. Of course, your more commercial top 10 music would be fine, but the independents would struggle. However, you’d imagine that, like the film industry, the music industry will receive tax breaks to help sustain the industry. Is giving tax relief at a time like this where our national health service is in tatters the best idea though?
Unfortunately, until they finish the negotiations, we’ll have no idea what’s going on. 2017 seems to be a shit storm where every week we feel less and less in control of our futures. Remember one thing, when this country faced tough times; musicians used the art form to react and express their opinions or communicate their struggles. With the snap election, the multiple terror attacks, classism is more apparent than ever, be sure we’ll entering a time where we’re sure some of this generation’s best music will be released. So we some idea how Brexit could affect the music industry, but we’re pretty confident we’ll hear about it soon enough from the musicians themselves.