Priti Patel’s immigration ruling brings a sad new dawn to small-level music relations with Europe. Touring in the continent is as natural to any successful new artist. Cultural we are close, Geographically we are closer.
The reality of our harsh new rule is anyone from the EU wishing to perform in the UK must:
- Apply for a visa to enter the UK, at a cost of £244 for each group member
- Provide proof, 90 days before applying, that they have almost £1,000 in savings and so can support themselves, unless they are “A-rated”;
- Provide a certificate of sponsorship from an event organiser – who must take responsibility for them – or a letter of invitation in some circumstances.
With this comes the collapse of musical communities and further troubles for already struggling small music venues. We, as a musical community, rely on Europe as a touring market. Just last year alone the industry was worth £111bn a year to the economy. It is the natural stepping stone to stardom for a successful new band and the perfect advert of our nations cultural capability. This ruling is a backward step. Heck, it is a prehistoric step. One ponders whether the current government even wants culture to thrive, should we all be incoherent robots who lack inquisition? Mere tools for austerity and economical stat boosting?
This is, of course, British policy. However, as negotiations grow uglier, one must assume that such a ruling will be reciprocated. Remember when former culture minister Nigel Adams suggested that the creative industries would be protected post-Brexit? Well, never trust a politician I say!
I want to find anger and irritation in the thought of Priti Patel and Boris Johnson joyously celebrating an immigration policy not seen since the pre-histories. But somehow, when I close my eyes and picture the true beneficiaries of this travesty I see the executives of global (yes global, not British) record and touring companies. It is they, and their artists at the upper end of the touring spectrum, who profit most from this.
Brexit as a concept is just as much about securing the financial exclusiveness of the 1% as it is leaving the European Union. Companies such as EMI, Sony Records, AEG, Warner and Live Nation already hold a monopoly over western music. The big company will want more. With the bottom half of the industry cut-off from the European touring sector, it will be the majors who enter the market it leaves behind. Less musical choice gives them more of an ability to cherry pick the artists they want to push, and force it down your helpless ear-holes. Yet another nail in the coffin of mainstream individuality. This is, in reality, a coup.
Some commentators suggest: why should the rules for Europe be any different. Non-EU artists do just fine, right? Here’s a question: how many American/Australian/Chinese/Japanese (delete as applicable) bands have broke the UK without mainstream investment? Nada, zilch. Why? Geography… Travelling Europe on a shoestring budget is tough, but do-able. Travelling Europe on the same budget, but with added visas and touring licences in the mix. For the working class artists this is all but impossible. Governments do love a bit of class cleansing. Oh, and another win for the major labels, right!
What happens now? In truth, the future of European touring is dismal, much like touring America/South America/Asia is for new bands currently. Our country has no real funding mechanism in place for upcoming musicians to tour the world, no doubt extending to the EU post transition period. Most European governments do but not ours, ours is yet to grasp the meaning of the word culture.
Brexit is a watershed moment for Britain. It has always been about protecting the 1%. For music and culture, the forecasts bring grim reading.
Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres – A conglomeration of EU and world nationals. Brexit threatens to rip this band apart. It’s togetherness and diversity make it special, a unique mixture of inspiration.
The Jacques – A band who have relentlessly toured France and the rest of the continent. They see European crowds as more receptive to the unknown. If the EU reciprocate this ruling, which is most likely, such tours would not have happened.