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Musicians warn of Brexit’s “self-built cultural jail”, call on Theresa May to consider a more positive future

By | Published on Monday 8 October 2018

Brexit

Bob Geldof’s attempts to thwart Brexit have not been particularly fruitful or even helpful to date, but hey, I guess at least he’s trying. His latest ruse is to get a load of big name musicians to write a letter to Theresa May informing her that the UK leaving the EU is “a serious madness”, which I’m sure she must already be aware of. Specifically, the letter warns of the effect exiting the EU will have on the UK’s music industry.

Among those to sign the letter are Ed Sheeran, Damon Albarn, Simon Rattle, Brian Eno, Jarvis Cocker, Rita Ora and Sting. In it, they warn that Brexit threatens to place us in “a self-built cultural jail”, making it very difficult for artists and behind the scenes staff to continue to make British music the “huge global cultural influencer” that it currently is.

“Brexit will impact every aspect of the music industry”, they write. “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 – [which are] all now materially higher than before – and not forgetting that squeezed household incomes means [there is] 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”.

Unlike those right-wing mouthpieces of the Jacob Rees-Mogg and Bonzo Johnson variety, who have tended to diss Theresa May’s proposals for Brexit without providing solid and viable alternatives of their own, Geldof and co do have clear alternative approach. Though that approach is abandoning Brexit entirely and then trying to overcome the issues with the current structure of the European Union instead. Yes, there are issues, they write, but turning our backs on those issues and just running off isn’t the British way.

“We must reform and restructure the EU”, they write. “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”.

I’m not sure Theresa May is particularly interested in a rock n roll EU – or even a rock n roll Brexit – judging by her music taste and dancing style. And obviously, she’s made it very clear that ignoring the result of the 2016 referendum – or having a second vote to check the current mood of the nation – is not on her agenda.

Meanwhile, given recent sparring between the UK and the rest of the EU, it may no longer be in a position to lead wide-ranging reform of the Union’s institutions. Though, having a good go seems like a much more positive proposal than any of the various Brexit options currently being considered. Nevertheless, we know May will never go for it.

There’s a big anti-Brexit march coming up in London on 20 Oct, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you. And you can read Geldof’s full letter here if you so wish.

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.



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