EU Referendum and the Music Industry

Unless you’ve been under a rock for a while, you’ll be aware that next Thursday the UK will host a referendum on whether to continue to be a member of the European Union.

Like us, you’re probably bored of some of the tit for tat, scaremongering and prophecies of doom by both sides.

It’s one of those really difficult things as facts are unfortunately scarce, there is no real “use case” on leaving the EU and then negotiating new trade terms.
We can point to Switzerland and Norway for pros and cons of either argument, but neither of those has been previous part of the EU.

We are seriously concerned about the impact that this vote could have on the music industry.
I don’t want to scaremonger, or exaggerate – there’s been too much of that in the press – but to share our concerns.
We do use the word “could” so will try to explain the possibilities.

The music industry has had a lot of problems in recent years. Some it hasn’t always tackled the best way (Metallica suing Napster springs to mind) and on the whole, the music industry will get through whatever happens, but, will have to adapt and change again.

A vote to remain would do little to improve the music industry, but, a vote to leave would likely throw up a lot of extra barriers which would make it more difficult for smaller bands, niche bands, DIY labels, DIY and small promoters.

At the moment – we have free movement with the EU. This a free movement of people, goods, trade. Impact to any of those will impact the music industry.

While many point to Norway or Switzerland – they have the free movement of people, goods, trade as part of their agreement with the EU.

So. Potential impacts.

Last year, British artists accounted for over 17 percent of album sales in the six largest European markets after the UK—Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands—where they enjoyed nearly a third of the share.
Any tarrifs brought in on exports of music would cut the revenues for the labels and ultimately the artists.
At a time when artists are seeing lower sales, often blamed on the rise of the internet.

This would have a biggest impact on smaller or niche markets – it’s not that I don’t care about Adele, but, there is a big appetite for alternative rock, metal, Goth, Industrial and associated in Europe and it’s the smaller acts, niche labels, DIY, who are likely to feel the pinch more.

If bands are receiving even less revenue from their records than present, many more will be unable to afford to contine.

For companies like us, it’s obviously in our best interest that bands are making money from records as that is what keeps them afloat.

I may, one day, document how little bands actually make from touring. Obviously Iron Maiden do alright, but I mean – well – any band asking £20 or less per ticket.

Any restriction on movements of goods and/or people would increase the cost of touring.

This is of course where we are most concerned.

First off. Bands would be required to produce a Carnet.
A Carnet is published documentation stating all of the equipment a band will be touring with.
It costs between £1000-£2000 (depending on circumstances) and last just 12 months.
This is 2 way for European bands coming into the UK and for UK bands going out – so – a band doing a 10 day UK tour has an extra £100-£200 per show to cover – the only way to cover this is in a fee and this will inevitably push ticket prices up. Again, top end bands, say, Nine Inch Nails, can probably absorb this fairly easily – a band doing club shows to 100 people per night asking £14 per ticket instead of £12 is going to be noticable to fans and, of course, may start to put some off.

This would also be fairly costly and restrictive for UK bands to tour within Europe – detrimental to their development and denying them of experiences.

This also adds in complications if gear is broken/lost on tour, or if new gear is bought to complete the tour, the band will have to pay taxes at customs upon leave/return.

And, of course, the risk that every time you cross a border or checkpoint that someone could ask to do a full stocktake of all your gear on board.

Older bands may remember the days of the Carnet, queuing at each border and then a risk that every piece of gear would have to be unloaded and checked against the serial numbers which is both stressful and time consuming… and if there’s any discrepancies, bands can be sent back to the previous border point – which can end up wasting half a day or so.

This is of course before I mention every band’s most hate word…. Visas.

I deliberately didn’t mention this first – because – well, it’s possible for a trade deal to continue to allow free movement and if bands can come and go without a Visa we don’t have much problem, but, they may of coruse still need the Carnet above.

Any restriction to free movement “A points based system”, “Paperwork” whatever is extra work for the bands (when they should be practicing and writing new songs!) and of course the extra expense involved.

In the past 18 months I am aware of a few visa problems.
Our own problem was with Eric Martin who, in December 2014, was refused entry to the UK on the paperwork. We still do not know what was wrong.
This caused financial loss to Eric, to the touring support act, to the agent, to us. This caused inconvenience to the fans who’d made arrangements for the tour, booked trains, hotels, time off work, etc.
This is always a concern when visas are involved.
We also have other examples, The Last Dance were detained on their way to Whitby Goth Weekend and of course Zardonic did not receive paperwork in time to take his slot at Resistanz Festival.
Going the other way, Surgyn had to delay their part of the Aesthetic Perfection US tour as paperwork didn’t come through in time and they are one of many bands who has forked out a lot of money for Visas that were either delayed, restricted, or denied.

In order to get a visa as a band, you often have to prove you are a real “credible” band and for niche bands this can be quite hard to build up enough evidence.

This is before we get into things like filing taxes on tours, copyright agreements, or of course that the whole of the EU is currently open for bands to choose where to print flyers, posters, records, merchandise in order to find the most appropriate deal for them.

The best case scenario in the event of a leave is that all free movements remains in place – and leaving just becomes a pointless tickbox exercise.

The absolute worst case scenario
– Bands will receive less for music they sell outside the UK.
– The impact of this being they don’t receive the income required to stay afloat
– It will be more expensive for European bands to tour the UK (and depending on Visa changes, could make it more expensive for all non-UK bands to tour the UK)
– As a result, more bands will omit the UK
– And others will see higher ticket prices
– Which will put more strain on risk on small venues and independent promoters
– It will become more expensive for UK bands to tour in Europe
– Alternative genres like Rock, Metal, Goth, Industrial are likely to be affected the most

We suspect the actual result in the event of a leave to be somewhere in the middle

There is a lot more to the referendum than music.
Some of you will read this and feel that it’s still a risk worth taken or believe you will be better off and thus be happier to pay more to see bands play.
I don’t want to be argumentative.

But – we are an independent promotions company which is not our main source of income.
We can not afford to absorb price rises and believe higher ticket prices for small/medium bands would lower turnouts and have a knock on effect to venues and bands.
Regardless of the vote, we will strive to continue. We would of course have to consider new negatives when considering any shows to book.
We just want to put bands on people like, at a good price. We also want our friends in smaller bands to be able to do gig swaps with bands in the EU fairly easily, should they wish, for the fun, experience and development.
From a company perspective, we are In.