What will it mean for the EU?

If Britain leave the EU following a vote for Brexit on June 23rd, there are a lot of promises on what will and won't happen, and it's impossible for us to know exactly how things will change until after the vote takes place.

However, there has been plenty of speculation over what Brexit could mean for the economy, for immigration, and for industries of all kinds across the UK.

The BBC has reported, for example, that Brexit could have a massive impact on football: over 400 players could lose their right to play in the UK.

With so much of the music industry built around artists touring across the world, or fans travelling the globe for gigs or festivals what impact will Brexit have?

Navigating the Schengen Area

At the moment, touring around Europe is relatively simple for musicians, and this is because of the Schengen Area.

The Schengen Area is made up of twenty-six countries both in and out of the EU that have got rid of the border controls between them.

This means that you can enter the area in any country and move freely, without having to show your passport.

Anyone can do this, whether they're from one of the member countries or not. The UK already opts out of the Schengen Area, so leaving the EU as well wouldn't really affect freedom of movement for musicians touring Europe while they were actually there.

Just visa me (but please don't tease me)

Artists coming to the UK need a work permit, and that won't change if the UK leaves the EU. However, at the moment, bands from the UK don't need a working visa to perform in an EU country. We all have the right to work wherever we please within the EU.

If Brexit happens, that could all change – touring Europe could suddenly require a working visa for the Schengen Area. This is already the case in the US, and the added administrative burden means a lot more time and planning is needed before you can get out there.

Bands can only tour if there is a promoter making them an offer to perform, and the additional paperwork needed could make European promoters less inclined to bother with smaller acts.

On top of that, a Schengen visa costs €60 per person (£45 to £50 depending on the current exchange rate). Four band members, a driver and tour manager puts an extra £300 on the cost of a tour. It's nothing to Beyoncé, but could break that young indie band's budget.

Regulators mount up!

It's not just visas that cause problems. Touring acts also need a document called a carnet which allows them to import and then export their equipment without paying tax on it. British acts don't need one in the EU at the moment, but they will do if we leave.

This could see regulators getting more and more involved in the actions of touring bands, checking carnet and visas at every step of the way while bands are on tour, distracting valuable time and resources from the business of putting on a show.

At the moment, EU regulation is arguably a good thing for the music industry. It combines multiple sets of laws into one standard, providing a solid legal framework – very helpful in areas such as copyright law, for example. Without the EU, British acts would lose some protections.

The EU's got our back

The EU doesn't just help by making international laws a little bit easier to navigate. Creative industries across Europe have access to a £1 billion fund for the creative industries.

Any country can apply for funding from this little stash of cash, but the UK is twice as successful as the rest of the EU when it comes to raiding the jar – 46% of our applications get approved. If we Brexit, our access to this funding is lost.

T.R.E.A.M (Tax Rules Everything Around Me)

Brexit could see a major shake-up of tax laws, which could easily affect the music industry.

The cost of buying records and merchandise online could go up for both people in the UK buying from Europe, and people in Europe buying from the UK, for example. At the moment, you don't have to pay VAT or customs duty on imports and exports within the EU – but that could change if we leave.

Selling digital downloads has quite complicated VAT rules, but they're simplified by the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (VAT MOSS) scheme. This means that artists selling downloads don't have to register for VAT in every EU country – again, this could change if we leave.

Tax on earnings made from performances must be paid in the country in which the performance took place. The rates already vary around Europe, but could Brexit mean a change in tax rates?

Speculation over the impact of Brexit involves a lot of "what ifs" in every area. We don't know how likely a worst case scenario is, but there is bound to be some impact for musicians.

Travel don't cost a thing (but it could soon)

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) have already warned that Brexit could be a disaster for the travel industry, both for tourists and business travel. The knock-on effects for the music industry – where fans travel as tourists and bands essentially travel as businesses – could be significant.

Thanks to our membership in the EU, we enjoy the EU-US open skies regulations, which means flights between EU countries and the US are cheaper, more regular, and can be done to and from far more destinations. Will we lose this benefit if we leave the EU?

Free healthcare access, financial protection, freer movement of goods, caps on mobile phone charges and compensation for delayed flights are all benefits that come with EU membership too.

What about Eurovision, though?

Worried that Brexit could see us turning our back on another European institution? Fortunately, one of the things that won't change whether Britain backs Brexit or not is our eligibility for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision contestants don't have to be EU members, they just have to be members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – so Britain could join Israel and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the list of EBU members that aren't in the EU.

Even if we did leave the EBU as a result of Brexit (not that anyone appears to be planning on it), it wouldn't leave us out of Eurovision forever – if Australia can get invited along, so can we.

Still, with many countries in Europe opposed to Britain leaving, Brexit will be something of an international snub.

As we all know, Eurovision voting is as personally political along border lines as it is a declaration of musical merit. Not that we ever do particularly well in the contest, but falling out with our European friends could see a few years of guaranteed last place, rather than just the more-than-likely last place we deal with now.

So what will it actually mean?

It's obviously impossible to say until the votes are in, and new agreements are made – we can really only speculate at this point.

More complicated laws and more expensive travel seems probable. More complicated and expensive administration is likely too.

For the biggest acts, with the money and management teams to just power through any new problems, it seems more than likely that it won't change much. The UK and Europe are massive markets – acts won't avoid coming here or going there.

The extra time taken to check documents and queue in the non-EU line at the airport will add extra hassle to already tight schedules, so tour managers could be in line for much more stress, but it won't put bands off touring.

Things also probably won't change for European acts coming into the UK – we already have our special arrangements that mean the rules are a little different compared to the rest of the EU.

The people who will be affected are the smaller acts who rely on touring Europe or heading to European festivals to gain exposure and cut their teeth outside of their home country for the first time. These smaller acts may be unable to afford the more expensive travel or the cost of visas, and may not have the resources to navigate the paperwork side quite so easily.

And, of course, the rising costs will affect the fans, whether they're following their favourites on tour or heading out to European festivals.

Ultimately, the impact might not seem huge to the casual observer, and the full extent of it won't be known until well after the votes are counted. But it's unrealistic to think that it won't change anything.

Rock the vote

The referendum takes place on the 23rd of June – a date which many were quick to notice clashes with Glastonbury Festival.

That's 135,000 people otherwise occupied when the vote takes place. Taking that many people out of the equation could definitely tip the scales in either direction – especially when you consider Glasto's strong political leanings.

Emily Eavis has been encouraging Glastonbury attendees to register for a postal vote, though she hasn't declared her own voting intentions. It's definitely the biggest festival to clash with the referendum by a massive margin, but it's not the only one. If you're headed to any of the following, make sure you register for a postal or proxy vote:

  • Bristol Summer Series England
  • Glasgow Jazz Festival Scotland
  • Leigh Folk Festival England
  • INmusic Croatia
  • Tinderbox Denmark
  • United Islands Czech Republic
  • Upton Jazz Festival England
  • Down the Rabbit Hole Holland
  • Exile Music Festival England
  • FOLD Fest England
  • Hurricane Festival Germany
  • Sea Sessions Ireland
  • Southside Festival Germany
  • Paradise City Belgium
  • Roskilde Demark
  • Innovation in the Sun Spain
  • Hideout Festival Croatia
  • Open'er Festival Poland
  • Volt Festival Hungary
  • Love International Croatia
  • Blissfields England
  • Bravalla Sweden
  • Rock Werchter Belgium

However you plan to vote, make sure you register! If you've never registered to vote before, you have until the 7th of June to make sure you're eligible to vote in the EU referendum. Click here to get started with your registration.