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Musical Space: Brexit

Watching a country tear up its continental agreements has gotten me thinking about how music is an international industry. The U.K. exports more than three billion dollars worth of recorded music a year. Its artists make another billion from live tours, acting as goodwill ambassadors in the process. A lot of this success comes from British artists’ abilities to freely sell their records and live music to other EU countries. But it seems 10 Downing Street has forgotten both how important music is culturally and its part in offsetting the mounting English trade deficit.

[Music: Foals, “On the Luna,” Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 (2019) - On the Hyundai Mercury shortlist this year]


British pop is international at its core. Bands like The Beatles and The Stones fused American black music with a European sensibility to dominate the charts. The same has since been done with punk, hip hop, and electronic dance music - a string of roaring critical and commercial success for more than 50 years.

Among the thousands of things the Brexiteers now have to renegotiate is how U.K. citizens can buy and sell music. At the very least, taxes, travel paperwork and wait time at the border will discourage artists. Nobody knows what kind of tariffs will be levied against records, and it looks like touring musicians will soon have to pay $500 in paperwork just to bring their equipment across U.K. borders. Independent artists will be hurt the worst, and I worry about what will happen with the great international English festivals like Glastonbury, Womad and The Proms.

Unfortunately, this push for British identity looks to punish the very artists who define it.


Listening list: new music coming from the U.K.

Black Midi, “953,” Schlagenheim (2019) - (first track on the album) Wow. Amazing, fearless and original.


Dave, “Voices,” Psychodrama (2018) - This album won first prize in the Hyundai Mercury competition this year. “Political and personal; one of the best british rap albums in years.”


SEED Ensemble, “Afronaut,” Driftglass (2019) - Cool jazz/rap fusion


Fontaines D.C., “Boys In The Better Land,” Dogrel (2019) - Irish post-punk


The 1975, “Love It If We Made It,” A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018)


Jade Bird, “Uh Huh,” Jade Bird (2019) - The brits have copied our rock and rap, why not country, too? What a voice,


Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.