Concerns Loom Over U.K. Music Business' Future in Wake of Brexit Vote


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Two weeks on from the U.K.'s historic decision to leave the European Union, no one is any the wiser about what or how big an impact it will have on the nation's economy, 64 million population or future.

The only real certainty is that there will be plenty of uncertainty in the months and years ahead, with the potential impact on the British music business ranging from restrictions on touring in Europe to fears of a slump in record sales in a key export market.  

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To address those concerns a new working group has been set up by The Creative Industries Council (CIC) to specifically examine the impact Brexit will have on the music, film, television, tech, arts, fashion, publishing, advertising and gaming industries.

Headed by John McVay, chief executive of independent film and television association Pact, the group will be tasked with identifying problems and opportunities for each creative sector caused by the June 23 referendum, which saw a 52 percent majority of the U.K. population vote to leave the EU, triggering the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and sending the value of the pound into free fall.

"This is a key moment for the creative industries to create concrete proposals that can bring benefits to the U.K.'s creative industries and ensure that one of the U.K.'s most successful sectors remains at the top table," said McVay in a statement.

One of his first tasks in the new role will be recruiting other members of the Creative Industries Council to join the working group, which has been tasked with delivering its initial responses to the CIC and Culture and Business Secretaries by mid-August. Members of the CIC include umbrella trade organization UK Music, Arts Council England, British Film Institute (BFI) and the U.K. government department for Culture, Media and Sport.

According to the latest government figures, creative industries contribute £84 billion ($108 billion) a year to the U.K. economy and account for just under 3 million jobs in the wider creative community. Exports alone add up to just under £20 billion ($26 billion), while the sector is growing at just under 9 percent a year making it the U.K.'s second fastest expanding industrial sector, says the CIC, which this month published its five-year "Create Together" strategy.

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Written before the EU referendum was held and seemingly devised on the presumption that the U.K. would choose to remain one of the EU's 28 member states, the strategy document identifies "eight key drivers" for building future growth, including major improvements to digital infrastructure, greater diversity within the creative industries, increased financial investment in the sector and "a strong, clear and actively enforced intellectual property framework."

Within the latter category, there are a number of recommendations related to the EU's Digital Single Market proposals, which aims to provide better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe and create a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish.

Echoing numerous letters to the European Commission from music trade associations in the past several months, the Creative Industries Council calls for "clarification at EU level" to ensure that platforms which host and market music content "do not benefit" from safe harbor provisions.  

It also seeks clarification from EU officials that platforms are "liable for infringing content on their services" and that service "take reasonable steps to reduce infringement" including effective "notice and stay down" systems.

Exactly how much influence a post-Brexit U.K. will have in devising and implementing the EU's Digital Single Economy and ongoing copyright reforms is not yet clear, although the process of withdrawing from the EU is not a quick transition and could take well beyond the two year time frame dictated by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, according to experts.    

"The UK's creative industries are open for business as usual," Nicola Mendelsohn, industry co-Chair of the CIC, said at the July 4 Create Together strategy launch.

"We have long been an engine in delivering economic growth, new jobs and service exports to the U.K. We now believe we can be instrumental in shaping the new growth agenda in the post-Brexit world and play an important part in economic development of all parts of the U.K.," said Mendelsohn calling on the British government to negotiate favorable access to the international and digital single market as its begins the tricky task of now putting Brexit into action