Pin It

British musicians call Brexit a ‘very serious mistake’ for UK music

An open letter to Theresa May warns of the negative consequences of leaving the EU for the music industry

An open letter written by Bob Geldof and supported by many of UK music’s biggest names, including Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, Brian Eno, Rita Ora, and Ed Sheeran, calls for a rethink on Brexit from Theresa May. The letter, primarily, outlines the UK’s outstanding reputation for its music (and the associated economic benefit) and how leaving Europe “threatens” the industry’s sustainability.

“We have decided to put ourselves inside a self-built cultural jail,” the letter states, detailing how leaving will complexify Britain’s music industry, and how the hit to the economy is already affecting smaller, or up-and-coming musicians, who are unable to pay for equipment, touring, or recording sessions.

The prime minister’s pledge to abolish article 45 of the EU charter of fundamental rights on Wednesday – which grants freedom of movement – presents a particularly difficult obstacle to musicians wanting to travel to spread their sound, or even collaborate with others across Europe. Massive Attack’s Del Naja, for one, has stressed the importance of travel for developing musicians, saying: “without Europe, we would not be the band we are now. When we played in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the audience there defined what we became. We would never have succeeded or carried on without the privilege of playing those places – that feedback creates your future.”

Auro Foxtrot, owner of London’s Village Underground and Evolutionary Arts Hackney, has seen difficulties becoming more apparent since the vote to leave, particularly due to fluctuating exchange rates. “When the pound crashed, artist fees went through the roof and lots of shows got cancelled,” he explains. “Things develop through exposure of new ideas, different ways of viewing the world, other takes on society. If you close it and slim it down, you cut off collaboration, understanding and tolerance.”

Read the whole open letter below.

To Theresa May:

Imagine Britain without its music. If it’s hard for us, then it’s impossible for the rest of the world. In this one area, if nowhere else, Britain does still rule the waves. The airwaves. The cyberwaves. The soundwaves. It is of us. It is our culture.

We dominate the market and our bands, singers, musicians, writers, producers and engineers work all over Europe and the world. In turn, Europe and the world come to us. Why? Because we are brilliant at it. No one quite knows why this should be but everyone understands it to be so. The sound and the words seem universal. It reaches out, all inclusive, and embraces anyone and everyone. And that truly is what Britain IS! That is proper Global Britain.

But Brexit threatens, as it does so much else, this vast voice. This huge global cultural influencer. We are about to make a very serious mistake regarding our giant industry and the vast pool of yet undiscovered genius that lives on this little island. 

Why are we closing down these possibilities for ourselves and for those as yet unknown to us? Brexit will impact every aspect of the music industry. From touring, sales, copyright legislation, to royalty collation. Indeed it already has. As a result of the referendum vote, the fall in the pound has meant hugely increased equipment costs, studio hire, and touring costs all now materially higher than before – and not forgetting that squeezed household incomes means less money to go to clubs and buy tracks, T-shirts, gigs and generate the vast income necessary to keep the up and comers on the road and musically viable.

A massive 60% of all royalty revenue paid to the UK comes from within the EU. And at home, ANY increase in import duty will mean that ANYTHING that comes to us from outside will cost significantly more. We have decided to put ourselves inside a self-built cultural jail! The very opposite of wall-destroying, prejudice-denying, ideas-generating that is the very essence of contemporary music. And yet it is the much-mocked freedom of movement that so effortlessly allows our troubadours, our cultural warriors, to wander Europe and speak of us to a world that cannot get enough of [them], and which generates countless billions for our threatened institutions.

This is all a serious madness. We must take back our future.We must reform and restructure the EU. When Europe is in a mess, the Brits get stuck in. They don’t withdraw, they double down. They get in close and messy. Make Europe the continent that we and the people of Europe want. Not the one dreamt up in another time by the ideologues, or by the undemocratic fiat of mediocre politicians or the dull exhortations of a pallid bureaucracy. A new one. A different one. An exciting one. A rock’n’roll one.

Let’s rock Europe and let’s save our music, our musicians, our music jobs and our songs. Let’s save our voice.

Yours, Bob Geldof and friends.