Just what is it with this government and music and culture?
Whilst our government fiddles and hands out plum jobs to its Dido dithering mates our cultural Rome burns with the triple headed fires of venues shut due to pandemic, the oncoming Brexit touring disaster and the never ending streaming debate the bread and circus of sport is allowed to run amok with huge crowds, packed indoor pubs and front rooms celebrating England’s great win against Germany.
Elton John is right – those in power are truly soulless philistines.
Whilst Boris Johnson punches his clammy little fists in the air as he wobbles along to one his favourite albums (The Clash Londons Calling sadly) the next generation of musical game changers are firmly stuck back in the garage with their bullshit detectors on over drive.
What really galls though is that there seems to be no consistency in any of this.
Whilst thousands of football fans can fill stadiums, crowd into pubs, jump all over each other in crowded houses, gardens, bars and stadiums in great scenes of joy (which we love of course) music is locked out of its lifeblood venues and is being assaulted on all fronts. Is the virus a sports fan only? Does it target high decibel music venues and events and ignore all other packed mass gatherings? If that sounds stupid then that sums up the current situation.
At first it made some kind of sense – crowded rooms full of people having a great time in close proximity were perfect breeding grounds for the anti social virus and by that we don’t mean Johnson’s cabul – we mean Covid. The venues remain shut staggering along on hand outs and tireless campaigners like the Music Venue Trust. Hopefully July 19th will see a change? In the mean time it’s hard to understand why one tightly compressed crowd of people is ok and the other is not – unless they represent a culture that doesnt resonate with the powers that be.
Add to this the oncoming Brexit nightmare…whatever your views on Brexit and that’s another argrument, it’s going to hit musicians hard. A key part of the modern music model was playing music events, festivals and tours across Europe. In the much more complex 21st century music has become an international game and new generation bands were delaying with this to try and survive. Back in the sixties elderly Brexit fans like Roger the Dodger Daltry and later on Bruce Bloke from Iron Maiden made their name across the continent because the shadow of the Beatles and British pop culture was cast large across the western world. Vociferous fans of Brexit both are now looking confused when the reality bits their chunky arses. The model has changed. It’s no longer enough to sit on our craggy island and puff our chests out and the people will come. The world is a big place and great music respects no borders – ideas are International. The real danger is that the UK will become a cultural backwater as its future bands get less and less chance to get heard.
The next generation of young bands and the brilliant youth talent that is pouring out of every nook and cranny in the UK is going to be crippled by the new touring post Brexit model…the much hated oncoming visa/carnet and the new cabotage rules, which say trucks are only allowed three stops within the EU in seven days, before having to return to the UK will make touring expensive and the paperwork impossible unless you have well off parents with deep pockets.
As we wearily and warily look to the government for a crumb of help all we get is David First – the UK’s Brexit chief telling us that
‘We do not agree with permanent visa waivers because they deprive us of control over our immigration system. I get that not everyone may agree with the end of free movement and its consequences, but it was the government’s policy and that’s what we are implementing.’
And then there is the third peril – the ongoing streaming debate – it never seems to resolve and as the campaigns against the ludicrous low pay rates continue the powers that be sit their smug and loaded talking about which football club they would like to buy – even these golden oafs prefer football over the music they made a fortune from – it really is time to change – time for the musicians to take control of their art and culture.