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EU Referendum: How Thursday’s Vote May Affect The Music Industry

Thursday June 23: The UK public will be making one the biggest democratic decisions in their lives… To remain in, or leave the European Union.

You know this already. Chances are you’re tired of this already… Over the last two months we’ve been subject to a bombardment of shock and awe tactics from all sides. One-sided, heavily-manipulated figures have been thrown around dangerously and fear has, sadly, been used as vehicle far too many times.

Real facts are thin on the ground, ill-informed opinions are in abundance and a realistic forecast on what might happen if our tiny little island decides it really is better off working in isolation and not part of a major economic force isn’t possible… We truly don’t know what will happen if that’s the majority vote.

But still, that hasn’t stopped up prodding and poking behind the rhetoric and fearmongering and asking four individuals from behind the scenes of our side of the music industry: a label manager, artist manager, publicist and promoter who are all highly active within bass music. From the release to the rave, these are real opinions on how the EU referendum from real people who ensure you enjoy your favourite music and nights out.

SPOILER: This is a long read. Anything of substance regarding this subject has to be.

SPOILER #2: PLEASE VOTE! As the youngest demographic eligible to have a say in this matter, the decision will affect our lives longer than anyone else’s.

 

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Label Manager: Tom Mullett (Med School)

Every innovative artist and release you hear on Med School is down to its label manager, Tom. Consistently developing the brand’s reputation as one of the leading names in progressive, forward-thinking future bass music, and managing pressing and distribution for releases on both Med School and Hospital, Tom works with an international viewpoint and is critically aware of the importance of our vote this week.

“A lot of people – politicians as well as members of the public – are driving home their opinion without a hint of doubt. Which given JUST how complex this is seems very naive.

“It’s frustrating that both sides of the campaign have relied on fear as their main weapon of persuasion. It’s almost impossible to make any sort of informed judgement with so much spin being rammed down everyone’s throat. No wonder so many people are confused.

“You can’t blame people for feeling a bit overwhelmed; we don’t all have a masters in International Economics or experiencing in running a multi-national corporation. However, I do still feel that a referendum is a valid way of approaching this issue because, if it was simply left to a vote in parliament, there would be much more pressure on MPs to ‘toe the line’ and vote with their party.

“This is far too important to be suffocated by party politics; a referendum frees MPs, party members and members of the public to choose what they think is best – and you can’t really make it fairer than that.

“One major concern for me during this whole debate is the way that nationalism has continually crept into the debate. There’s some pretty ugly rhetoric out there and it really doesn’t deserve to be given a platform as when you break it down, it’s a ridiculous stand point that offers no sensible means of moving forward. If someone truly believes that leaving the EU is better for economic/social/democratic reasons then fair enough. But if it’s simply because they’re trying to preserve some vague, unattainable vision of the past, they’re wasting everyone’s time. It’s pretty embarrassing and we’d do well to ignore it and focus on the real world.

“In terms of the music world, it’s difficult to forecast: leaving the EU could make things ten times harder/more expensive…. but it could also make things easier (although I’m not sure how).

“It’s the uncertainty that is the biggest problem. There’s no blueprint for day 1, 2, 3 (and beyond) should we leave – How is anyone meant to plan?!

“For a label like Hospital Records there are so many things that could be effected by huge changes in UK-EU trade regulations, exchange rates etc – it’d take me forever to list them but safe to say, if we left the EU and the worst predictions came true, it would be a real headache for all involved.

“On a personal level: I also manage the manufacturing and distribution of vinyl and CDs for both Hospital and Med School. The majority of both are produced in Germany and distributed worldwide. Vinyl is already a tricky format. Now, if things change and we suddenly have to add extra delivery costs, import taxes etc that process would be made even harder which would put enormous pressure on both the label and our fans… I’m not saying we’d stop producing it – we’d do everything we can to find a way – but the last thing the vinyl market needs is for it to get even more difficult.

“In terms of events, right now in the EU the model we all know is relatively straight-forward; our artists play and we host shows all over Europe. Throw VISAs, withholding tax etc into the equation and the landscape could become very different, very quickly. Think of just how many UK partners are involved in club nights, festivals and conferences across Europe – they’re all linked and stand to be affected. Some events may simply not be viable anymore and if you’re having to add money to an artist’s fee to cover additional costs, it will only make bookings harder for all involved which will naturally impact the artist’s earnings and career.

“The bottom line, though is this: For years and years politicians have pretty much ignored the demands and needs of young people – and why is that? Because they don’t vote!

“The elderly turn out in huge numbers but for an array of reasons, 18-25 year olds don’t bother and as a result, policies have shifted in line with this. Think, from a politician’s point of view, why would they bother engineering policies that will benefit a demographic that don’t even turn up on polling day?! That’s why we see pensions protected whilst investment in young people’s education and future thrown into the gutter. But that can change! One of the main motivations for politicians is to get in / remain in power and if there’s an influx of young voters in this referendum, they’ll be forced to reassess the way they do things – otherwise they risk losing the vote of a new, energised group of voters. It’s a real opportunity to give them a kick up the arse.”

If someone truly believes that leaving the EU is better for economic/social/democratic reasons then fair enough. But if it’s simply because they’re trying to preserve some vague, unattainable vision of the past, they’re wasting everyone’s time. It’s pretty embarrassing and we’d do well to ignore it and focus on the real world. 

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Artist Manager: Jef MethLab

In the last three years Jef Oswald has developed a highly influential footprint in bass music with his MethLab Agency; the management company behind leading tech pioneers such as Billain, Current Value, Rawtekk, Skynet and many more. He’s also hosted and promoted events across Europe, has launched the MethLab record label and curator brand Terminal.

“My personal thoughts are that essentially it’s a mistake to leave this decision to an unqualified public who are unequipped with the necessary expertise to make the decision. The only reason that it’s gone to referendum is because it was an election pledge that Cameron thought would secure extra votes. Now that we’re here, my gut feeling is one of fear. The largely isolationist UK public, who can be influenced by a biased media, may vote based upon the propaganda they read – not the objective facts.

“And this truly is the ultimate issue: lack of facts. No-one knows what the outcome of a departure from the UK would be and I don’t think that the leaders of the Brexit movement who suggest that money saved from involvement in the EU will be spent on the NHS, when they mostly have a record of wanting to destroy and privatise it, are being fully honest. What we have in a lot of their rhetoric is information being presented as fact: the Brexit campaign throws around large figures in terms of money leaving the UK each week, but fails to mention the tax rebates and income resulting from the economic advantage of being a part of the EU. I find it really hard to believe most of the ‘facts’ being presented from either side, because they are not being presented objectively.

“For me, it comes down to a fairly simple thing – as a person living in the EU, I see the incredible advantages that freedom of movement brings to all of the member states. It creates a genuine community of people from various nations into a greater depth of contact with each other and personally, I’m all over integration.

“The history of the human race is full of bloodshed, and it will probably long continue to be – but the stability of the European Union has led to a period of time where wars between nations within that community seem unthinkable, which is remarkable following the regularity of wars between those nations historically. I think of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot when I consider forms of nationalism, borders, xenophobic cultural outlooks, isolationism – if we want to move into the future and survive as a race, we need a greater degree of collective behaviour, but one that respects individual identity.

“The European Union is full of problems – like any governmental system, there’s plenty of redundant bureaucracy, some nation states leaching a bit from others – perhaps most importantly the disproportionate advantages of membership – the primary member states definitely have more to gain. However, the principle of making a greater entity that upholds human rights, funds art, cultural and education projects, enables freedom of movement and gives the overall European perspective a greater stance in the world is one that I fully support – I’m much more into the idea of Brenetration rather than Brexit – fixing what we have, rather than running away and becoming once again isolated (probably without Scotland), dragged by the dream of how proud the nation once was in the day of the great British Empire (those days drenched in blood and genocide).

“In terms of the music industry, I actually don’t know what the exact repercussions would be here because no-one does yet – the EU was instrumental in enabling more open competition on flight routes, and thereby making it cheaper. This has obviously been a great situation for promoters and DJs and it’s meant that it’s been easier to export UK music culture elsewhere in Europe. We don’t know what kind of costs new air service agreements would result in, but any increase in international travelling costs is bad for both DJs and promoters. It’s not like there’s a huge amount of money in drum & bass – it’s mostly not commercial at the highest level –  so it all makes a difference.

“Losing the advantages of free trade agreements will definitely have a negative impact on business, too; the pressing plant we use is in Germany, for example. It’s already hard enough to make vinyl cost-effective – additional costs will result in fewer vinyl releases.

“That said; a Brexit might positively affect the creative industry. A lot of great art is born out of despair. If the pound becomes weaker, travelling becomes more expensive, the mindset of the country turns inward – no longer a part of a greater entity, and then the right-wing get unfettered access to finish off carving up national services, dividing society financially with their razor sharp austerity scalpel whilst rubbing in the ointment of lies about the importance of ‘Big Society’… Then despair will be the result. It could even be worse than in Thatcher’s time. No wonder the free party scene is doing so well!”

I’m much more into the idea of Brenetration rather than Brexit – fixing what we have, rather than running away and becoming once again isolated (probably without Scotland), dragged by the dream of how proud the nation once was in the day of the great British Empire (those days drenched in blood and genocide)

Promoter: Pete Jordan

Pete Jordan is a key UK party promoter for many years with his Spectrum brand – one of the country’s leading HQs for bass music throughout most of the 2000s. The director of events company Weird Science, he’s behind key festivals such as MADE and has acted as a booker for many brands including Arcadia, Global Gathering and Ministry Of Sound.

“My main concern – above and beyond the fact that we really do not know what will happen if we leave and there is are no hard equivocal facts to forecast – is why would we want to run away? For all the EU’s downsides, and there are many, we should embrace the union between countries and we, as voters, should aspire to be more knowledgeable about MEP elections so we can try to vote in people who actually care about the future.

“I know that the Leave campaign have been pinpointed for their scaremongering and fear tactics but I do think the Remain camp are guilty of this, too. Travel and the complications of VISAs and borders have been discussed by a lot of people and, to be honest, I’m not as concerned about that as others. I firmly believe that we will still be able to travel within Europe with ease. As a regular traveller to America, I don’t have many difficulties getting into the country besides having to fill in two additional forms.

“I book for my own events and events overseas with a lot of talent from around the world, inbound and outbound. We pay all international artists – European and beyond – through the Foreign Entertainers Unit which coordinates tax laws from every country anyway. That will still be in place and I can’t see there being a new directive if we were to leave.

“In fact I believe that no one will closing their doors even if we do leave. People came over from eastern Europe, for example, in the early 90s and we could travel to eastern Europe very easily. You’d just end up with more stamps on your passport. On a wider note, we have a massive tourism industry here in the UK and encourage international businesses under own UK laws to come over here and develop their business. Just on these two principals of the UK economy alone, the doors won’t close and our country will still remain open and attractive to international visitors, entertainers and businesses.

“I think we will remain anyway; I think a lot of this has been overblown by a misguided minority. I think the younger voters will come through and we’re not as close to having a country run by racists and xenophobes as some people think. That said, I can’t stress how important this is…. Everyone must go out and make their voice heard. This is the most important issue we’re being asked to vote about in our time and for a long time to come. This isn’t party politics, everybody’s referendum vote is weighted the same… This is your chance to have your say and you’d be crazy to waste that.”

On a wider note, we have a massive tourism industry here in the UK and encourage international businesses under own UK laws to come over here and develop their business. Just on these two principals of the UK economy alone, the doors won’t close and our country will still remain open and attractive to international visitors, entertainers and businesses.

Publicist: Matt Learmouth

Matt Learmouth has worked in music PR for over 15 years and developed the profiles of the biggest acts in electronic music including Annie Mac, Above & Beyond, Swedish House Mafia, and Tiga. He’s the PR behind the biggest names in drum & bass right now: Andy C, Noisia, Sigma, High Contrast and Roni Size among others. 

“Dance music and club culture opens doors; it doesn’t close them. You’d have to be something of a closet bigot or masochist to work in the dance music industry and vote to leave Europe.

“Independent of my job, I feel very strongly that we should remain. The idea that we should leave a huge trading community in the 21st century is utter madness. The impact on business and the economy could be catastrophic over the long term. The UK has delivered the lowest economic performance post-recession in over 100 years, so the short term effects of Brexit have the potential to immediately worsen the precarious situation we’re already in.

“That aside, the Leave camp is dominated by xenophobes, and racists – the same for groups in France, Holland, Austria and beyond. Farage has been photographed campaigning with known EDL members again and Brexit is going to give these groups a huge boost. The Leave campaign’s public figures look well dressed and coherent, but fascists always come wearing suits – the classic tattooed skinhead stereotype is what the TV cameras focus on, but as with the National Front in the past, if you’ve seen Britain First or UKIP out on the doorsteps campaigning they’re usually ‘ordinary’ people, all anoraks, cords, and the sensible shoes you buy in the back of downmarket weekend supplements.

“I think this should have been a decision for parliament, not the general public. Leave plays on people’s fears, insecurities and outmoded ideas of ‘sovereignty’ – an imagined past that people seek comfort in but never existed. Too many people don’t know – or don’t want to know – the truth about the EU and the UK’s relationship with it – you’ll see ‘facts’ bandied about, but these are the results of globalization and a lack of inward investment by UK governments. If you want to talk about decimation of British manufacturing and factory closures then Thatcher is the main culprit.

“This is a decision that will change the course of the country for the rest of this century. The average Leave voter will likely be dead in the next 20-30 years, while younger voters – Leave and Remain – will have to endure the outcome for the rest of their lives. The problem, as with all elections, referendums etc, is apathy – young people just don’t take these things seriously enough – the figures on voting registration make this clear.

“In terms of the industry and my own role, I don’t think there will be an immediate effect on my job itself – anything that happens will be gradual. Industry-wise, visa rules will change, there’ll be way more bureaucracy around areas including sales, logistics and accounting.

“Directly it will affect press trips and business trips for my business. They won’t become impossible, but things will be harder to organize and waste more time. But to be honest, most business meetings now are conducted via video or tele-conferencing – business has sped up so fast that constant communication is more important than setting dates in calendars.

“Above all, inbound or outbound numbers of clubbers will surely be affected, the former for mostly London. Driving around the country to see a British DJ play to 300 people in a provincial town defined clubbing travel for a lot of people in the 90s, but since that period Europe has offered so much more. Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, and beyond are now part of a weekend clubbing. You can kid yourself that this has nothing to do with the EU, but it’s a direct result of a borderless approach to culture and lifestyle that being part of Europe has encouraged. Freer movement brings cultural advances and new business opportunities – you’d have to be an idiot to turn your back on that.”

This is a decision that will change the course of the country for the rest of this century. The average Leave voter will likely be dead in the next 20-30 years, while younger voters – Leave and Remain – will have to endure the outcome for the rest of their lives. The problem, as with all elections, referendums etc, is apathy – young people just don’t take these things seriously enough – the figures on voting registration make this clear.

These are just four opinions on why your vote is one of the biggest decisions we’ll have to make as a nation for a generation. Please don’t waste this opportunity and represent your voice this Thursday. For objective details and information, Full Fact is a trustworthy resource: https://fullfact.org/europe/

  • Aurora

    i still dont get what is up