Brexit: what could it mean for your group?

What, if any, are the potential implications of Brexit for the leisure-time music sector? And what could be done about them?

Making Music took no stance on Brexit prior to the referendum, nor afterwards. Our members, and their members, come from all areas of the UK, from all walks of life, from all kinds of professional and social backgrounds, and therefore will have voted, most likely, in line with the overall UK result.

It is not Making Music’s business to take a political view, but it is our business to make sure that the outcome of this vote does not have a negative impact on the leisure-time music sector, and that it continues to have the best possible environment to flourish.

And a question from a member brought it home to me that we haven’t spoken to music groups at all about Brexit. Has there been any discussion in the arts about Brexit, he asked? Just a bit! It can be summarised as:

  1. Why, oh why?! There’s been a lot of that and it has shown me that there is a massive disconnect between most professional arts organisations and their communities. This is not so music industry specific.
  2. OMG it’s going to be a disaster. There’s also been a lot of that, too, and the disaster areas are issues of European funding; free movement of artists; and other practical ones (copyright, VAT, double taxation, etc.).
  3. How can we mitigate any potentially disastrous outcomes for our industry? Finally, a sensible, practical question.

A number of organisations have drawn up lists (literally) of the matters that need to be addressed in negotiations, in order for the industry to continue functioning from Day 1 of post-Brexit. These are mostly practical matters: What will be the paperwork/cost involved in moving an orchestra across borders post-EU? Who will administer it? How do I bring a musician over from Europe at short notice if my Carmen has a sore throat? What kind of visas will there be for artists? How can I plan my artistic programme beyond March 2019 if I don’t know if or how I can engage them? What will the situation be in terms of health insurance, sales of music or CDs, intellectual property? Etc.

These lists are being brought to the attention of government by sectors vying with each other to collar individuals in the currently totally understaffed Brexit department. The arts are reasonably successful with this as the government does understand the importance of the creative industries to employment and the UK balance sheet, and as a soft diplomacy tool which they are going to need in the next few years. So there is hope that the issues of relevance and importance to music will be addressed during negotiations – if there is enough time and (wo)manpower to do so (both big questions).

As far as we can see the issues, and opportunities, for leisure-time groups specifically are:

  • If you want to tour to Europe post-Brexit, this may well entail more bureaucracy and cost than now. So it may put more of you off touring abroad. [On the other hand, as a soft diplomacy tool, music groups are hard to beat – an opportunity, maybe?]
  • You may find it too hard or too expensive to engage or present musicians from the EU, e.g. obtaining working visas, sponsorship costs. And you simply cannot plan ahead beyond March 2019 as you don’t know what the requirements will be. [Being able to plan is even more important to the professional live music sector and they are pushing this issue very hard.]
  • The Philip & Dorothy Green Young Artists scheme usually includes a number of artists from the EU; if that is no longer possible, will there be enough home-grown talent of the same standard to continue the scheme? [Is this an opportunity to bring home the message to government about the need for more widely available and better UK music education?]

We’d love to hear from you if you have any other concerns or issues you think will make your group’s life more difficult – or better – after Brexit, so do contact us or leave a comment below.


I am most interested in your analysis of the impact of our EU divorce on the culture of music and exchange.

Where am I coming from? For many years now, I have had responsibility both as Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society (KCMS for short). Last year, being privileged to have a small holiday home in Aigues-Mortes in the Camargue, France, I established the Association of FIMCAM (Le Festival International de Musique Classique d'Aigues-Mortes). I am now preparing my second international festival for the weekend of 9,10,11 June 2017. Based on last year's inauguration, I know that this year's festival will be well recieved with musicians and artists from the UK, Eire and France.

However, I don't see FIMCAM as having just another brief year or so to live. I would like it to continue to benefit from all the network that I can access through KCMS, itself drawing on both international, but also UK talent, if plans so permit.

If the Government's negotiations do not maintain the existing freedoms of movement and engagement, the Brexiteers will have done a significant disservice to the UK and to developing the opportunities to perform in France. Personally, I was deprived of my right to vote as my ballot papers (despite all my efforts) did not reach me in France, where I was staying for my festival inauguration. I hope that all the existing benefits can and will be maintained. But the idea of turning one's back on one's EU neighbours is about as unthinkable as anything that I have witnessed before as a UK citizen.

May I wish "Making Music" well in its lobbying for the maintenance of the freedom of EU artistic movement and engagement. I would be pleased to share further thoughts on this subject, if you so wish.

Peter Thomas
Co-Chairman, KCMS & Président, FIMCAM's picture

I just read an interesting article that revealed Vladimir Ashkenazy, one of the most revered figures in classical music, has called on musicians to strive to keep up British links with Europe in the face of Brexit.

“I am sorry about it, and I know it will be difficult to get used to a totally different situation, but for musicians many things will remain the same, simply because we we will work to find a way to make agreements for the sake of music,”