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How Will Brexit Impact Artists in the UK?

Protestors gather outside the Houses of Parliament

Above: Protestors gather in defence of musicians

With last month seeing Theresa May’s deal suffering a third crushing defeat in the House of Commons, and with any kind of reasonable resolution to the Brexit chaos being anything but near, it seems that yet another overlooked consequence of leaving the EU has come to public attention; what does Brexit mean for the music industry?

As it stands currently, simply boarding a plane with a guitar is enough to secure a gig in all EU countries. The free movement system that is now in place makes touring abroad a fairly easy and pain-free process for both UK and EU musicians. However, it seems that Brexit now threatens to end this free movement and to begin placing a whole lot of quite alarming restrictions upon border movements, which presents an impending nightmare for musicians on both sides of the Chanel.

According to the British Phonographic Industry, British musicians earned £365m around the world in 2016, up 11% on the previous year. Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, there have been growing fears that this statistic may be under threat. Although major- labels artists will probably be largely unaffected by the changes to free movement policy, the primary concern lies with upcoming and DIY artists, who rely on smaller first-time abroad gigs to kick start their careers. It is the ability to build a multi-national following that is essential for artists attempting to grow beyond the confines of their country, and yet it's set to get a lot harder to do this under current post-Brexit plans.

Above: Damon Albarn of Gorillaz hits out against Brexit during BRIT Awards acceptance speech

But it’s not just UK musicians that should be concerned with the after-effects of Brexit. According to a policy paper released by the government, it could be the case that musicians may be required to have a salary of over £30,000 in order to qualify for UK entry.

UK Music have expressed concerns at this: ‘Requiring musicians, songwriters, and producers from the EU to earn salaries of at least £30,000 to work in the UK poses a major threat to the music industry where music creators earn on average £20,504), way below the average for other jobs’.

By placing such restrictions upon foreign artists coming into the UK, an inevitable retaliation by EU countries is bound to see access for UK artists entering EU nations being unnecessarily more difficult.

One such solution has been proposed by the Musicians’ Union (MU), who have been strongly urging the government to introduce an EU touring visa that would be ‘affordable, multi-entry, admin-light’ and would guarantee musicians across the country access to EU countries in a post-Brexit world. There has been no comment from the government concerning this suggestion, but the idea has gained much momentum with various petitions being signed in order to have some kind of assurance for musicians put in place.

An end to free movement is not just a matter of financial concern for the music industry; post Brexit changes threaten to undermine the key principles of collaboration and diversity that the system of free movement between nations currently encourages within the music industry. By making it harder for artists to tour in EU countries and play at festivals overseas, it could be the case that the creative atmosphere of Britain’s overseas music market could be irreversibly soured.

Above: Kevin Brennan MP supporting Musicians' Union in their pledge to protect touring rights

Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Deborah Annetts has said that “The end of freedom of movement will have a devastating impact on British musicians. The introduction of harsher immigration rules after Brexit will cause declining diversity and creativity in the British music industry. It could also potentially lead to the introduction of reciprocal immigration rules by EU countries.”

As with almost every aspect of Brexit, literally no one understands what the full consequences will be, but it’s safe to say that there needs to be considerable more attention paid to how musicians will be affected by leaving the EU, before permanent damage is done.

If you would like to get involved with the protection of musician’s post-Brexit rights, visit the Musicians’ Union website.

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