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Brexit, The Sound of Silence: How 'no deal' will impact the UK music industry


A no-deal Brexit is looming over the UK, a worst-case scenario that dismantles industry foundations and creative liberties. The British music scene is about to be reshaped to match this new phase of UK policy. The transitional effects of leaving the EU are nuanced and detrimental. It has been the headliners of the UK music scene that have defined its international presence, but the industry maintains a foundation built upon supporting acts, live performances and independent production. This defines the character of British music, but Brexit is threatening to restrain it with new border controls, touring costs and immigration policy.

The digital age has granted artists throughout the world the ability to share the music with anyone, anywhere. Still, the music industry refuses to complete its transition into the digital space. The love of live performances is a defining trait of the UK, a passion that will be tested with the introduction of Brexit. The free movement of EU members has allowed artists to travel to where they are wanted most, collaborating and reshaping the sound of wherever they may go. This is not a part of our Brexit-future, and it is time to start preparing for the worst.

No deal will be chaotic, we haven’t prepared for the legislative changes it will create. The ripple effects will reach the music industry in a big way.  No deal and the integration of World Trade Organisation rules will undoubtedly signify the introduction of carnets to British musicians. These carnets will cost individual artists up to £500 and touring bands up to £2000.  We will also lose access to EU cultural funding, signifying a drop in financial support for music organisations ranging from small indie bands to large production companies. The value of the grants offered to different applicants varies from £3,900 to £1.8 million in value. You may be thinking that this won’t affect your favourite music celebrities, well you’ll be correct. The same can’t be said for small up-and-coming artists who rely on touring to support their careers.

Releasing songs worldwide is easier than ever but that doesn’t bring the income that allows new musicians to pay their bills and improve upon their production quality.  Music streaming develops a demand for live performances throughout the world. Many artists find that their popularity may be in nations far away from their home nation. These seemingly random fanbases keep artist’s dreams alive and the ability to cultivate that fanbase by performing in their countries is a crucial component to this.

The introduction of new potential visa fees only exacerbates this issue.  The fees will vary between every EU nation with no limit on the costs that artists will incur for performing overseas.

This is an immigration consequence that will be detrimental to all UK artists, but Brexit doesn’t stop there. The consequences of leaving the EU will be felt most by international musicians trying to tour the UK. No-deal brings questions with very few answers, but the promises set by the current ‘deal’ on the table paint an ugly picture.

Theresa May’s deal, which has already been voted down once in parliament, has yet to be taken off the table and still remains a very real outcome. The deal is set to introduce an immigration policy that aims to reinforce the hostile environment that the current government has prided itself on. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has attempted to paint a prettier picture by calling it a “compliant environment” but kind words don’t replace harsh policy. Mr Javid has proposed to “slash immigration by 80%”: this will impact the diversity of sound available for live music listeners in the UK.

Whether it be buskers on the street, the acts featuring at Glastonbury or touring classical orchestras it is clear that the country is not willing to accommodate for its performers. It is also important to note that the music tourism industry is not just defined by its performers but the staff that ensure the show can go on. For instance, over 131,000 EU nationals are working in the UK’s creative industries while a further 10% of the 47,445 music tourism jobs in 2016 were filled with EU talent.

These aren’t small numbers. The loss of thousands of experienced technicians, producers and support staff is one that isn’t easily replaced. Many workers are currently struggling to prepare for their Brexit future. EU citizens will have to rely on a restricted number of available visas to ensure that they can continue working to the UK. Many will apply for a Tier 2 Work Visa, a visa which expects a minimum salary of £30,000. This is incredibly unrealistic for many foreign workers who have become reliant on the hopes that their employers attempt to make a Sponsorship License application. This application ensures that employers can continue working in the UK after the Brexit transition.

With this evident attack on immigration, it is understandable that over 1,000 EU-based bands and artists have said that they are likely to stop touring in the UK once it transforms into a post-Brexit Britain. Brexit is set to attack not just the local talent and its capacity to develop, but the international talent attempting to expand its culture. This would be a disaster for the quality of the music scene in the UK which has been globally renowned for many decades. So, what can we do? The only thing left for us to do is to continue the legacy that the UK has built itself on. Support your favourite bands, go to their gigs, buy their merch; they’re going to need all the help they can get.

By Nicholas Marin.

Nicholas Marin is a specialist content writer and political correspondent for the Immigration Advice Service and leading UK Immigration Solicitors.