British Music Has a Brighter Future in Europe

03/06/2016 08:00

Today many music executives from across the world gather in Cannes for Midem - Europe's largest music business conference. They get together annually to discuss the future of the ever changing music business but this year, the question of whether Britain stays in the EU or leaves will be a hot topic - especially as British music is riding so high in Europe.

Whether it's Adele's power ballads, Ed Sheeran's acoustic blend of pop, hip hop and folk, Sam Smith's contemporary soul, Mark Ronson's metro electro-funk, Iron Maiden's classic rock or our exciting grime scene, British artists have rarely been more popular outside of the UK. Our music is in people's heads and hearts, on their streaming playlists and yes, still, spinning on their turntables. Europe really matters for British music. Last year, one in four albums sold across Europe was by a British artist and, for almost half of UK record labels, at least a quarter or more of the revenues they earn outside of the UK comes from trading in Europe. In fact for a fifth of labels, this figure rises to 75% or more.

The BPI promotes British music and our member labels account for over 80% of the recorded music that is purchased or streamed in the UK. When we polled them on the EU referendum, it came as no surprise that they had a clear view. Of those who expressed an opinion, 78% want the UK to remain in the EU. They fear Brexit could damage the industry's future, which would, in turn, be bad news for artists and fans.

Reducing access to European markets would be difficult for a creative business like ours - we don't want any new barriers to our artists' ability to freely travel and tour and promote their music. Nine in ten labels also believe it is essential that we do not lose British influence in framing the copyright rules that govern the use of music in Europe, which are currently under review.

This EU copyright review is vitally important as it's our key opportunity to confront music's biggest digital challenges: getting video streaming platforms, such as YouTube, to pay artists fair rates for the music that helps to drive their business; and making search engines such as Google take meaningful action to tackle the online black market in music, rather than turning a blind eye. EU copyright rules are vital when we distribute British music across Europe and they determine how our artists can make a living. Our members want Britain to have a seat at the table when those rules are set because intellectual property and copyright underpins our ability to keep re-investing in new talent, which is essential if we are to sustain Britain's proud record as the second largest exporter of music in the world.

The UK's achievements in music are no fluke. Alongside our super-talented musicians, we have record labels that invest 25% of their annual revenues into new music, a bigger investment in R&D than biotech or big pharma, and as much again in marketing and promotion.

But we understand that we need not only to invest, but also to make sure that young people from every kind of background get the opportunity to develop their talent. That's why every year the BRIT Awards raises funding for Croydon's world-famous BRIT School, which helps provide a free arts education to thousands of young people, including many successful artists such as Amy Winehouse, Adele, Katy B, Rizzle Kicks and most recently Ella Eyre. Our music industry not only delivers jobs, economic growth and exports, it also helps build the profile of Britain as a cultural powerhouse across the globe.

UK record labels are a fine example of the opportunities that an EU digital single market offers. Almost all of them make their music commercially available across Europe. They have embraced the era of streaming and social media so that, if you include sales in the UK, a quarter of all the albums purchased in Europe last year were British. And when it comes to the EU referendum, they understand that business (and indeed politics), like music, is ultimately about collaboration. A bright future for the British music industry means continuing to perform as part of a group, not going solo.

Geoff Taylor is chief executive of the BPI