As in other industries, the UK referendum to leave Europe has sent shockwaves through the music community. My friends at Das Filter, a superb German-language online magazine about music and culture, wanted to respond. And so they invited a number of us to talk last week.

I’ve found myself awkwardly running my mouth about UK politics, which, quite frankly, is not something I am in any way qualified to do, in the way that I would be able to talk about things on the American side. So, British friends – accept my advance apologies, please, and I’m keen to hear your opinion.

What we are qualified to discuss, though, are two things: one, emotions (which was a clever way to open this discussion), and two, specific issues around immigration, migrant labor, and music.

I don’t want to suggest hegemony on this issue. I imagine there are CDM readers who voted Leave – and I do appreciate that there’s mistrust of the EU and the way it’s run, including some criticism which indeed ought to be aired. I would also caution that the Brexit is fundamentally difficult to discuss because the leave referendum is by design unclear on substance. Leave backers have been fragmented or have sent conflicting messages on what they’re asking for. The issues that matter most to us in the music community – like labor movement inside Europe – are very much undecided, even once the UK may trigger its departure from the EU agreement via article 50.

But some of these issues are supremely relevant to CDM – as we discuss here, the entire electronic music community is interwoven with Europe and its institutions. And it’s even directly relevant to CDM itself – I am personally a (business) immigrant to Germany and live in the European Union, the location in Berlin is made meaningful by a lot of elements of European integration, and we sell hardware products (MeeBlip) in the European market.

The whole audio is here if you’re so inclined. But in this panel and other discussions, some particular themes have come out.

There’s cause for deep concerned about racism, misunderstanding, and fear. This is the most important point. Whatever the merits or demerits of UK membership in the EU, there’s reason to be concerned about the rise of racial fears in Europe – not only the alarming rise of right wing extremism, but also the mainstreaming of racial prejudice. And this is something the music community ought to take personally. I would be nowhere personally without my friends and collaborators from Poland, from Romania, from the Middle East, and the list goes on. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to hear stories of racial bigotry or see some in the UK press and political campaigns target or caricature these groups. Ultimately, this isn’t a “Leave” issue or even a European one – confronting fear and hate, understanding where its origins lie and how to combat it, is a task for all of us.

Immigration, freedom of movement, and labor mobility are essential to music and music tech. Part of what makes Europe a dynamic place to live is the ability for those with European passports to live and work anywhere in the EU. It’s not clear whether or not the Brexit will exact a cost in this area, but in the meantime, it has created some real uncertainty – many Leave campaigners specifically criticized migrant labor from Europe, and those rights are back on the negotiating table.

There’s been a good deal of discussion in the music press about DJs traveling around and so on. But it’s also worth noting that there is a specific value working in music technology. This time last summer, I was on a panel with chief executives from both SoundCloud and Native Instruments as they praised the rich ability to recruit staff here in Berlin. NI had an official statement in support of the Remain vote speaking to this issue, but more than that, I also saw personal testimonies from various individuals, unofficially, talking about this. I’ve also had discussions with UK-based makers.

The talent pool from around Europe is part of the reason that exists in Berlin – and even for those of us who don’t have European passports, it has made it more appealing for us to live and work in Europe.And if you think of technology, specifically, I believe it’s even more important to assemble diverse teams. See the previous point. We all know that diversity and immigration are an investment in the economy. We’re not talking some sort of fevered neo-liberal banking dream – we’re talking about building actual jobs and making real things.

European integration has real benefits for small business – including music manufacturers. Europe is home to brands like Propellerhead, Ableton, Focusrite/Novation, Steinberg… the list goes on. It’s also a place where you can build new, small manufacturers, and rely on a European supply chain. So much has focused on the single currency, and while I know essentially nothing about macroeconomics or how currencies really operate, I do appreciate the criticism there. But I can say that it is meaningful for small gear makers that they can hire from around Europe without worrying about visas, move supplies without working about import tariffs, and rely (to some degree) on integrated regulations. (I say to some degree because I think a lot of us would like more European integration, not less. Entrepreneurs including SoundCloud’s Eric Wahlforss have recently advocated more standardized business regulations – that would have actually made it easier for CDM to incorporate and operate here, bu

This has also helped Europe drive forward recycling takeback programs and remove toxins and lead from electronics components – those are complex regulatory issues, but it means that those of us making music gear can have hopefully a slightly lighter impact on the planet.

European arts funding is significant to many of our projects. Funding from the European Commission is part of a number of projects I and CDM have been involved in, to say nothing of the many artists we cover. In fact, it’s safe to say that there’s a heck of a lot more European-level funding than there is federal public funding for the artist in the USA. This will necessarily be reshaped by a Brexit – though it could also see more EC funds directed to continental Europe. I’m not sure there’s a lot that can be said about the impact of the Brexit itself, but one side effect is that people are suddenly aware of something some of us have known for a while – the European Union as an institution does support the arts, even apart from the rich level of support enjoyed in countries like Germany.

The Brexit could set back shared regulations on copyright and the Internet. We didn’t get to this in the panel, really, but it’s a whole other topic. European cooperation on issues like copyright and the Internet also hold promise. Brexit or no Brexit, a UK that’s going it’s own way makes progress here difficult. (Progress here was, to be fair, difficult with the EU, too, but watch this space.)

But greetings from Germany anyway. Part of the reason I’m in Berlin is that, EU or no, policies here toward immigrants (including me with a non-European passport) have been in my experience moving in a positive direction. There’s a community that’s increasingly diverse, and German locals in the music scene have embraced international influence and cooperation – including those native to Berlin (or East and West Berlin). Those issues are ultimately global ones. But I’m grateful both to the community here and the government (for all the flaws of each) for providing such a terrific environment to work on those global issues. Of course, I know some people are saying that very backdrop – or cities like London – are a bubble, out of touch with growing anti-international sentiment around the world.

And I think far wider reaching than the Brexit itself, we need to find a way to talk about how issues like international cooperation, international law, and immigration impact people’s lives. In music, we already have a “nation” of globally-minded people – I see it everywhere I go. Now the question is whether we can act as effective ambassadors.

The panel includes:

Melissa Taylor: Founder of promotion agency Tailored Communication
Jay Ahern: Founder of Irrupt Audio
Mathew Dryhurst: too many things to list, from artist to thinker – but one topic I didn’t talk about was his Saga platform and decentralization. Mat has plenty to say about online communication and where it might go, and so we’ll definitely need to invite him back on CDM on those topics.

  • Well the EU ain’t perfect. The new EU VAT (since 2015) law for example is the worst thing you can imagine for anyone with a webshop. It seriously harms business. Things are not going well at the moment. Is this because of the EU? Not sure. We have to see.

    • Sorry, which things are not going well at the moment?

      I agree that the EU isn’t perfect. On the other hand, as I said, I think hiring, distribution, and supply chain in Europe benefits greatly from integration, broadly speaking. I can’t imagine any music maker operating in Europe wanting the UK to be more separated from the rest of Europe. But as I say above, the main thing we have to cope with now is just uncertainty.

      Also, many of the economic criticisms of “the EU” I note have to do with fiscal policy, the single currency, and austerity measures. Those do impact things like how many Eurorack modules you might sell (if you want to go there) or how healthy your larger community is, but the UK isn’t at the center of any of those questions. (One possibility I have read fairly widely of course is that the Brexit *might* mean more aggressive European policy on behalf of the remaining 27…)

      • The politicians, all they care about is money, economics. Same with brexit. They have forgotten about the people. People are loosing their trust in politics because in Holland we had many, many scandals by corrupt politicians. The truth behind MH17 is kept secret from us. Heath care is bloody expensive in Holland now (used to be cheap and for all of us available, now only for those who pay can have good heath care… how shitty is that?). We went to war and got terrorism in return. We are not safe! Culture and arts is no longer being sponsored like they used to but we are more rich as a country then ever before. Many theaters and makers have given up. And piracy is a real problem, Holland working with NSA and capturing private date for millions of Dutch people. And terrorism has showed us that police departments in Europe don’t work together (between Belgium and France? no way! between Netherlands and Belgium? no way!). It’s just utterly shitty.

        I don’t think an exit is a great idea, brexit I believe might be a mistake, but I understand where those feelings are coming from. The economical crisis which happened in Amerika, well Europe didn’t protect it from happening here as well. Which is strange, because what was Europe meant to do? Things are much worse then they were before 2001 here in Holland. Democracy doesn’t seem to work anymore. Somehow because democratic tolerance have made many intolerant people to step up and find their way to power. But the main thing imo is this: utterly shitty politics. Politicians who don’t know a flying fuck about internet and don’t care about the people. Our prime minister doesn’t know how a smartphone works for example. We think that’s funny? He’s as conservative as Tchatcher.

        I was against the Euro but I now think that changes things isn’t smart. But something needs to change, that is for sure. And don’t blame the people. Don’t blame the voters. Don’t tell them they are stupid. We are the people. And we need more humanness.

        But it’s all speculation. The UK leave the EU might be the best thing ever. You know Germany lost the war right? Lost. The. War. Well, look what happened! You are in Berlin. … Things can change where you would never have imagined them to happen! I think Global. There’s not a single rule in Europe which is great for me as a business. But that EU VAT for webshop is a killer for me. Such a mistake. EU!?

  • NRGuest

    I’m really disappointed in this. Not only did the panel not really discuss the future of music in the face of the brexit, there was no pro-brexit representation on the panel.

    Aside from a few moments at the beginning discussing new barriers to touring musicians, the conversation was entirely focused on the political aspects, and not the musical ones. What does the brexit mean for me as an independent musician in America? Does it make things more difficult for distribution companies like Bandcamp or CDBaby? Will it make it harder to collect royalties? Will it increase the cost of my gear, or possibly damage the companies I purchase from? What about smaller companies trying to sell software? Will it be harder to do business online? Will internet musical communities be effected? There are so many relevant questions that were never addressed. I know a lot of this is new territory, but the panel spent the whole hour talking basic politics and touching on almost nothing music specific.

    As far as the second point, surely some pro-brexiter might be able to posit benefits to English/European musicians and culture? Almost no issue is as one sided as this panel made it seem. While I was also opposed to the brexit, I think it would have been valuable to have someone on the other side state their case. Especially in light of the conversation near the end about the media and Facebook only providing news that backs the opinions of the viewer, doesn’t it seem somewhat hypocritical to complain about that but not diversify the panel?

    If you wanted to discuss the general failure of the left to prevent the
    brexit, or the merits of the EU and the downside of the UK’s decision
    that’s fine, but aren’t there better websites for that than CDM?

    • I don’t disagree with any of that criticism; those are all fair points. But that’s why I reiterate the points I do here. The fundamental issue I have is that the Leave campaign didn’t define what leaving was. And then in the twilight hours of the campaign, they made immigration the main focus. So in Berlin’s music scene – or indeed in music in general – good luck finding anyone who thinks restricting immigration or labor movement is a good idea. Among artists and music technology, that mobility has only been a good thing.

      And to be clear, we weren’t there to debate the Brexit (especially as the vote had passed when this was recorded) – but rather to try to cope with the aftermath.

      And then if we don’t go into specifics, it’s because the UK hasn’t. Now the incoming PM continues to talk in platitudes about getting the “best deal for Britain.”

      I would have liked to go more into policy… but in short, the answer is: for now, nothing changes, but a whole lot is uncertain. With even basic trade and migrant policy on the table, the particulars of how things like copyright law might advance get totally lost.

      In Thaddeus’ defense, then, he focused on feelings and bigger issues I think to gauge our initial reaction.

      • NRGuest

        Fair enough, and I agree that it would be hard to find a qualified pro-brexiter to sit on the panel.

        Still I didn’t get anything out of the conversation I didn’t hear on fivethirtyeight or any of the other news sites I visit. When I come to CDM, I’m looking for things specific to electronic music. I just think there was a lot of missed opportunity to provide a different perspective on an important issue.

        • Well, to be honest, I tend to agree. That’s why I added the points above.

          It may simply be too soon to even ask the question right now — because of the disorder in the UK government. “Brexit means Brexit” is of course the silliest thing ever … a bunch of separate treaties are renegotiated.

          But I think of all these issues, policy around Internet content would be the one to watch closest. So I certainly take your fair criticism to heart, and that would be where I would propose looking most closely.

  • lala

    In music, we already have a “nation” of globally-minded people.
    That state of mind may save us from populism but not from people that vote for free movement of people is bad. We have to deal with this reality.
    Stop touring the UK,
    they don’t want us to life there so no shows for you.

    • I agree this is tough; there’s a disconnect in perceptions…

      I’m not convinced that we’ll see a policy change, though, because the UK may not want to risk trading away the freedom of movement of its own people. That sounds like political suicide to me.

      • lala

        they voted for suicide, they shall get it.
        folks voted for “change” now the uk politics has to come up with something that is change,
        they didn’t have the € before, so no € in the future isn’t change.
        the basics of the EU are free movement and €, they don’t want that.

        • lala

          I hope their change their minds if they get isolated,
          they voted democratically for isolation, there aren’t much options left.
          they said no to another referendum because, lol, what was it 51%, or 52% for leave, another referendum would surely have changed those numbers, but there is no way back right now.

          • Alex Keegan

            It’s a shame you feel the need to punish us for choosing to leave the EU. You do realise that probably the entire creative sector and most of the middle classes (those who engage with music, culture, the arts etc) voted to remain? I feel like arguments from sites like these are almost a lot of wasted energy. Everyone knows people like Peter and the communities he (and I) operate within want a pluralistic, multicultural society with freedom of movement and all the middle-class benefits this brings with it (ease of going on holiday or travelling, more interactions with different peoples from different cultures etc). However, it is these very things that a majority of the leave voters have been disillusioned by, especially because the influx of low paid workers from the EU and wider has stripped many of the domestic workers of their jobs, with ruthless employers being able to undercut decades of employment rights established for domestic workers in favour of worker exploitation and domestic unemployment. The true intentions behind the Shengen agreement was to mobilise cheap workers for businesses in prospering countries (let’s not forget the EU is essentially a free trade agreement with cultural and social policy added on to make it more appealing). I am sad we are leaving but I don’t think anyone believes it is actually good for the creative, industrial, scientific etc sectors. It was a fucked up vote with fucked up arguments from both sides. Now we’ve got to deal with it and try to get the best, most progressive outcome for Britain.

            And Peter, it’s not freedom of movement for our own people that the government is worried about (and the main reason why freedom of movement is likely going to remain a policy). It is that there are currently 2 million EU workers in the UK, most of which provide labour in sectors such as agriculture and healthcare that we are entirely dependent on. To get rid of them would be the true political suicide as it would completely gut our workforce of an essential tier of workers. Also most projections predict that with an ageing population, we will require 1.1 million more EU migrants by 2020 to sustain our production capabilities. Every sane politician knows these numbers and that the migration ‘problem’ put forward by the Leave campaign is a moot point because we rely on migrants for our economy to survive. Its just as some of the weakest in society, they made a useful scapegoat for those elites to achieve their political ends.

  • Lindon Parker

    OK well here goes. I am British. I voted in the referendum. I am a musician, I own a music related business(audio plug-ins sold on line) and I voted LEAVE.

    First some context about the vote then some music specific stuff. The saddest thing about these post Brexit vote discussions, either about a specific industry as here, or more generally is Europeans(who have less excuse) and Americans(who probably have more excuse) absolutely failing to understand what it was we Brexiters voted for. But then its probably no surprise because what we voted for(in some ways) was rooted in exactly this european inability to listen to what the British have been saying for nearly 10 years. We voted for Democracy, or more specifically more democracy not less.

    51% of the British voted LEAVE, its insane to now say 51% of the British are racists. I’ve lived all over the world (USA, Europe, Hong-Kong, Australia) and the UK is one of the LEAST racist places in the world. It’s just as bad to say the majority of the British voted leave because they are “anti-europe”, most Leave voters LOVE europe and europeans, many of us angst-ed long-and-hard about giving europeans this view if we voted leave, its a wrong view but its a consequence so it is what it is. Further most leave voters are not “anti-immigration” per-se, they just want more democratic control over immigration.

    So first thing for all of you to do is get informed: This is the most comprehensive poll post-vote it will give you all a good idea why the british voted the way they did.

    I, and many other British people I am sure, are mystified how the rest of the world dont get this. Europe, the UK, and the USA have spent the last 10 years telling Arab populations that democracy is so good they should take a LOT of pain(war) to get it, and that they would support them in doing so – but that is altogether another debate so lets leave that part – But when the British are faced with a choice between more say (more democracy) over their affairs tied to political and economic uncertainty or less democracy and an as-you-were life they (I’m proud to say) chose the democracy plus the pain. Its naive to think the leave voters didnt know this pain and uncertainty were part of the deal, we were told constantly by the REMAIN campaign. 51% of the UK is neither deaf nor stupid.

    So, trying to get this back to music in some ways, yes music is benefited by free-movement, but it is better served by all kinds of freedom, including the freedom to vote for your government. Of course its stupid to suggest the the EU didn’t offer artistic freedom(it did and does), but it is equally in-genuine to suggest that direct democratic rights are not a direct influencer over who does and who doesn’t produce art , the kind of art they produce and when they produce it. Yes Brexit will have negative impacts on the arts – probably at least as neagtively in the UK as the rest of europe, maybe more as we still have a right-of-centre -arts?-wots-that? government, but now control over arts funding in the UK will be in the hands of a government elected by the UK citizens, as will immigration policy, as will how I charge VAT in my on-line store. And here is a really really good example of where the EU(not europe) failed. The UK was banging on about the stupid ridiculous unpopular EU policy on VAT for over 5 years, the EUs non-elected governing body ignored those concerns, like they ignored nearly everything else, The voice of the EU government was a MASSIVE hole in the referendum campaign, did ANYONE show up from the EU to say “yes we see you have issues, lets work together – we promise not to be so slow from now on”? Nope instead what the UK got was complete EU silence. Business as usual then.

    So do I think my business will suffer in the short term? – Yes,
    Do I think the UK economy will stutter at the very least? – Yes
    Do I think I will be worse off next year? – Yes
    Do I think the arts in general in the UK will suffer in the short and medium term? – Yes

    Do I think having the right to vote for people who set the policy on these and a raft of other issues that affect me is more important than my personal self interest? – Yes

    Your mileage may vary.

    • WetBoy

      You have voiced my thoughts perfectly, I voted leave knowing there will be years of ‘pain’ ahead but believing the country will be better off in the long term.

      We didn’t vote against Europe we voted out of the EU.

      I see what’s happening in the States and saw the EU copy cating its barely disguised dictatorship and disregard for its citizens over Corporate favouritism

    • ArabSpringReverb

      How can you say that “Further most leave voters are not “anti-immigration” per-se, they just want more democratic control over immigration” when the Lord-Ashcroft poll, that you recommended, showed that 80% of Leave voters thought immigration was a force for ill. And please note the question polled was about immigration generally, not about EU free movement or uncontrolled immigration in UK policy. I find it hard to see how to see how thinking “immigration is a force for ill” is any different from being being anti-immigration. And without second guessing their intentions, something the Leave side have rightly chastised the Remain camp for, we must assume they answered the question honestly and meant exactly what they said. 80% is massive majority, so if you want arguments to be based on empirical data, as it should be, we must say find that most Leave voters are in fact anti-immigration.

      Whilst I’m sure your reasons for voting Leave were commendable, I am disgusted by how many Leave supporters have been ignoring the empirically undeniable anti-immigration sentiment found amongst the majority of its voters. Trying to paint most of the Leave voters as having the same pro-immigration or immigration-neutral views as yourself is equally indefensible as the Remain voters who paint all Leavers as racists or idiots. You are putting words in their mouths, when most have freely admitted, not just in this but in many others, that they are against immigration.

      • Lindon Parker

        do you understand what the term “per-se” means here? clearly, if we spend any time thinking about these questions at all, it’s clear what is being asked was ” do you thing the existing immigration policy is a force for good or ill?” – and there is considerable evidence that the current policy IS a force for ill, something you would recognize I think if you spent any time in north Lincolnshire(home of a considerable part of the UK’s vegetable growing industry) where Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian and Polish immigrants live on subsistence wages whilst living in caravans in frozen exposed vegetable fields. – Great for food prices in the UK but bad for migrants.”free -movement” here is about globalization and corporate greed not about “freedom” – so its not a simple question to consider. It should come as no surprise the the far LEFT of politics recommended LEAVE as well as the nut-bag right.
        It would be foolhardy to suggest there is an anti-immigration sentiment amongst most LEAVE voters that boils down to “all immigration is bad”, sure the far-right think this but 51% of the population? One of the few concrete things the LEAVE campaign offered was an “Australian points based system” for immigration so no one was voting for zero immigration. We all need to think hard about what is being said and not bend the answers to our own political agendas.

        • ArabSpringReverb

          “We all need to think hard about what is being said and not bend the answers to our own political agendas.” That’s what you’re doing, not me. I’m reporting facts based on the poll. Your the one twisting the question to meet your agenda; if they wanted to ask ” do you thing the existing immigration policy is a force for good or ill?” they would have worded it that way but they didn’t. What makes you think you can make these assumptions about people’s agendas?

          And yes I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think that 80% of Leave voters are not just anti-immigration, but also anti-feminism, anti- multi-cultarlism and anti-environmentalism etc., as not just this poll but all serious demographic analysis has shown. In social science these are called belief-clusters and are an indicative element of identity politics. For example a persons income or class is only about 55% accurate in predicting how they voted (only just better than a coin flip) whilst if someone supports capital punishment this is close to 80% accurate in predicting how they voted (for Leave in this case). This is the exact same patterns we are seeing with American split currently. This is kind of voting is about indentyand values more than anything else.

          I do not have a political agenda, my agenda is for people to understand the data. It is you who is being fool hardy and defensive. I’m not saying all Leave voters share these beliefs but multiple datasets are showing around 80%, so unless you can provide some contrary data please do not insult me.

  • Steve

    The problem is that the country didn’t convincingly vote for anything, and the result is threatening to tear us apart. A third of us want to leave, a third want to stay, and a third don’t know or don’t care. Over-65s largely voted to leave, while younger people mostly voted for the European cooperation that we grew up with or had come to take for granted. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay, England and Wales voted to leave. London wanted to stay, many other cities were evenly split, and rural and former industrial areas mostly voted leave.

    There has been much talk of ‘taking back our sovereignty, but in a parliamentary democracy sovereignty rests with our elected representatives, rather than a referendum with an ill-defined question and no minimum turnout, in which one campaign relies on lies and propaganda while the other one barely exists.

    For years, British politicians have used the EU as a scapegoat for anything unpopular, while failing to explain its benefits; then when it relly mattered people weren’t given any information to make their decision on, and had to rely on gut feeling. Thus, areas with low immigration seemed most worried about it, and areas which are net beneficiaries of EU funding thought they’d be better off leaving.

    In this situation, our parliament shoild exercise its sovereignty and make a decision based on the facts – unfortunately though they can’t be seen to go against ‘the will of the people’, even though what the people have said in a loud, clear voice is “we don’t know”.

  • I would like to say that although the UK did vote to leave, the campaign that swung it was based on several rather large porkies, as I’m sure the remain was guilty of too, but subsequently pretty much all the brexit campaign leaders have abdicated, leaving the mess that many foresaw to be dealt with. Its left many of us deeply embarrassed buy the process and they way we are perceived in Europe. I cant see many upsides of leaving, there may be a few further down the line, but right now, its messy and horribly divisive. I do hope things will improve, but its going to be a long journey and for the creative community it appears to go against pretty much every basic instinct. of community and collaboration As to what it means for Electronic music? More expensive equipment, less likely to be able to tour, though this is not happened yet, I believe it is affecting people’s desire to. I suspect that we will be made an example of by the EU Commission, as they will want to ensure others don’t follow suit. I don’t blame them, but the EU does have problems too – as previously mentioned, the VAT laws on online digital sales have become a mess.

  • Pop

    The likes of Simon Cowell has done more harm to the music industry than Brexit ever could.

  • Roman Thilenius

    that is impossible that anyone takes this discussion for serious.