Today (March 29th) Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered Article 50, beginning the process of removing the UK from the European Union.
It’s a political decision caused by last year’s hotly contested referendum, and will impact on every area of British life.
Music is certainly not immune from this – indeed, Britain’s position as an international pop power draws much strength from our ability to trade and swap information freely.
Since the referendum result last year the Brexit decision has already caused subtle shifts in the way music is made and consumed. Here’s five ways Brexit has already made itself apparent in your listening habits.
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1. The price of an iTunes download has gone up.
Apple aims to set the price of an iTunes download as an international standard, but it does this by pegging the price against the dollar. Therefore, if the currency of an individual currency fluctuates against the dollar, then the price of a download must be altered accordingly.
Brexit caused chaos on the currency markets, and the fall of the pound against the dollar caused the music platform to take action – the Guardian reported earlier this year that the price of a download is now set to rise by around 25%.
2. Small labels are finding vinyl pressings much more complicated to achieve.
Most small labels in the UK use continental pressing plants when creating vinyl runs, with plants in Germany and the Czech Republic fuelling Britain’s love affair with black wax. However the pound’s Brexit-fuelled fall against the Euro has made this noticeably more expensive, and with independent labels operating on such short margins that has already had an impact.
Clash spoke to Fortuna POP! founder Sean Price earlier this year, who repeated concerns over the impact Brexit is having on British music, and revealed that this re-affirmed his decision to shutter the much-loved indie institution.
3. Venues are concerned over the loss of EU funding.
When not guiding Britain out of the bosom of the European Union the Conservative party have also found room to slash funding towards arts-led projects.
Venues such as London’s Village Underground are members of Trans Europe Halles, a project that aims to prompt international co-operation and the exchange of new ideas.
Pitchfork reports that in 2015, Village Underground received $20,000 from Liveurope – if this monetary stream is withdrawn independent venues are placed in an extremely precarious position, with little sign of remuneration from the present UK government.
4. Festivals have been forced into a corner.
The EU referendum presented a divided country, with younger voters – the Easyjet generation – more likely to vote in favour of formal union with our European neighbours. This is also reflected in the festival calendar, with British music fans able to jet out to Primavera, Outlook, Sziget and countless other continental hotspots.
Fluctuations in the currency market, though, have made 2017 an exceptionally difficult season to plan for. Tickets priced in Euros have steadily become more expensive for British fans, while ongoing confusion over what Brexit actually entails have dented long-term plans. If there’s a silver lining in all this, though, it’s British fans could decide to stay at home, and give local events a shot in the arm.
5. Long-term touring plans have been thrown into doubt.
Britain’s exit from the EU means an end to freedom of movement, which isn’t particularly great news for touring artists. Instead of simply packing up their van, buying a bumper box of Pot Noodles and hitting the road, a band would then need to apply for separate Visas for every country they enter.
This hasn’t had an impact on emerging artists yet, but it’s already interfering with plans for major tours. If Britain hits its deadline of exiting the EU by April 2018 then the teams around big name acts have to anticipate a minefield of paperwork based on grounds that have yet to even be defined.
Ultimately, the Brexit decision will have significant impositions for almost every area of the UK music industry. At the moment, though, the most damaging area of the Brexit process is the one most difficult to define: we simply don’t know what Brexit will entail, meaning that the rulebook could yet be torn up once more.
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