What Brexit Means For The U.K. Music Business

For the music industry, the outcome of the national vote carries huge consequences and has the potential to impact on everything from touring to record sales to copyright legislation.

Thursday’s historic referendum saw 52 percent of the electorate vote to exit the EU – dubbed Brexit – with more than 30 million people voting, the country’s highest turnout at an election in over 20 years.

The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985. And David Cameron subsequently announced that he is to resign as prime minister of the U.K., with a new PM taking his place by the start of October.

As one of the EU’s 28 member states, alongside France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, British touring artists could freely travel and perform throughout the major markets in Europe at will. Now the U.K. has voted to leave, there is the distinct possibility that acts will require separate working visas for each EU country they wish to visit.

John Reid, the president of concerts for Live Nation in the U.K. and Europe, says Brexit “won’t affect overall business” for the leading promoter, producer and venue operator in the territory. “We just have to pay continual and close attention to currency swings, both long and short term,” Reid tells Billboard.”The bigger picture is: I hope it doesn’t tip the EU Into deeper economic recession.”

British live runs, while increased costs to chartering flights in and out of the U.K. and tighter border controls will impede crew and freight travel for touring acts. The reintroduction of carnets – a document listing a full breakdown of equipment – is also a possibility for British acts wanting to tour Europe.

Joel Crouch, GM of Eventbrite in the UK and Ireland, tells Billboard. “Like any other business, we cannot predict the precise impact of this outcome both on our company and the wider events industry in Britain. For the time being, that means business as usual for us.”

Longtime digital consultant Sammy Andrews, a director of Entertainment Intelligence and former head of digital for Cooking Vinyl, says, “We wait to see how the dice fall on the U.K.’s gamble, but we do know it’s possible we’ll be hit with potential visa requirements, additional administration burdens, new trade agreements, potentially complex tax implications and levies.

As someone working predominantly in the digital landscape I have concerns over both licensing and investment implications for music tech start-ups. There are also very important questions to be asked about the impact this will have on the ongoing copyright reforms for the digital ecosystem.  The EU are very close to reforming some critical copyright issues and the U.K. is now standing on our own in these arguments.”

Indeed, Brexit also carries serious implications for how copyright is protected and enforced throughout Europe. At present, the European Commission is reviewing copyright legislation, including safe harbor provisions, as part of its Digital Single Market strategy. The U.K. stood to benefit from those regulations and, just as importantly, have a voice in how they are devised. That’s no longer the case, although the country’s newfound independence does raise the possibility of the British government formulating its own copyright regulations, free from Brussels’ restrictions.

The leave camp, led by former London mayor Boris Johnson, had indicated that they would prefer to wait until 2020 for the U.K.’s exit to be completed. The U.K. is the first country to leave the EU since its formation in 1993.

Drew Hill of Proper Music tells Billboard he would “be surprised if anyone knows exactly how this is going to play out. With the majority of British music actually manufactured in Europe, many UK labels will need to pay more to have their stock manufactured, and US labels will make less back from their UK sales.”

The full extent of just how serious Brexit will be for the music biz remains to be seen.

One thing for sure – as only Dylan could have said it “the times they are a changin”


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