Birmingham Live Music and Brexit – Report

By Craig Hamilton on October 29th, 2019


Over the last 12 months I have been developing a research project with colleagues Patrycja Rozbicka (Aston University) and Adam Behr (Newcastle University). The work aims to explore how the live music sector in the UK will develop coping responses around possible outcomes of the Brexit process. The project will use the city of Birmingham as a case study.

Today the first fruits of our work are available, via the release of our report: “Birmingham Live Music and Brexit“. The report can be downloaded as a PDF here.  There is also a summary of the report available on the Music Week website.

The report reveals Brexit-related worries voiced by policymakers, academics, industry figures and media representatives during a one-day event we held in Birmingham earlier this year. Organisations who contributed to the report included Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Music Archive, Birmingham Music Coalition, Hare & Hounds Birmingham and Leftfoot Venues, The Musicians’ Union, Town Hall & Symphony Hall Birmingham, and West Midlands Combined Authority.

One of the main issues raised was the way that Brexit could lead to fewer artists and productions travelling to the UK from Europe, which in turn could mean a marked decrease in the number of ‘music tourists’ visiting the country and region specifically for live music experiences.

Other key issues raised in the report include:

  • Concerns that the summer festival season of 2020 would be negatively impacted by Brexit. It’s feared that the potential costs of running big events could spiral and lead to heavy losses due to disrupted supply chains.
  • Brexit is likely to generate a massive administrative cost for UK-based artists. While larger acts will have labels, promoters and investors to support them, smaller acts will not be able to afford such costs to build up their presence on the continent through touring and cultural exchanges.
  • The future of a high number of production companies located in the UK – which provide lighting, staging and tour management – are also clouded by Brexit, with a large number of jobs possibly moved elsewhere to minimise disruption and maximise sales.

We currently have a funding bid around the wider project under consideration, and we hope to have positive news on that very soon with a view to beginning our ambitious programme of research at some point next year.

Crucial to exploring the problems, questions and opportunities related to Brexit will be the mapping exercise we have built into our research plans. One of the key tasks in arriving at an understanding of the issues facing the sector will be an exercise that will attempt to create a map of the ecology of Birmingham’s live music sector, including not only music venues but also related businesses and services. With so many complex, inter-related parts and relationships to map, we will rely on partnerships with local stakeholders to help us gather useful and reliable data. The event that helped generate this report demonstrates the willingness of stakeholders to work with us on this exercise, and reveals the potential for growing further key partnerships in the UK.