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Brexit could mean end of the road for many musicians, union warns

Published 10/11/2016

Caroline Sewell, of the Musicians Union, warned that low-paid musicians in Northern Ireland could be put out of business by Brexit
Caroline Sewell, of the Musicians Union, warned that low-paid musicians in Northern Ireland could be put out of business by Brexit

Low-paid musicians in Northern Ireland could be put out of business by Brexit, a union official warned.

Many earn less than £10,000 a year from weekend gigging and the introduction of work permits to move around Europe and funding cuts from the EU may mean the end of the road for some talent, Caroline Sewell from the Musicians Union said.

The industry benefits from £1.4 billion funding under the Creative EU programme which is in jeopardy.

Ms Sewell said: "I think driving some people out of business is a very real possibility and not actually just for musicians but for any workers who are in a casualised workforce, those who don't work under employment contracts, who are self-employed or freelance."

She added: "I think that it could potentially drag small businesses out of business, it could potentially drive freelance musicians to stop practising music and that would be the worst thing really, that the talent that we currently have in the pool has to stop what they are doing as a musician because they cannot afford it."

Half the union's members earn less than £10,000 a year from music, combining weekend gigging with jobs like teaching during the week.

The Musicians' Union regional organiser for Scotland and Northern Ireland said it represented around 30,000 members UK-wide and 250 in Northern Ireland.

She added: "You are not at One Direction level or that crazy level of success.

"The nature of the work in the music industry is freelancing, it is essentially hand-to-mouth, essentially low-paid and casualised."

She envisaged European touring becoming more expensive post-Brexit.

"Musicians are going to have to fork out for work visas and work permits, the cultural industries are constantly under threat from spending cuts.

"We know that we in the cultural sector are the first ones to be hit. Cuts to the arts sector are already having a big impact, so we would expect that to continue and actually probably worsen."

Ms Sewell appeared at a conference as part of the Sound of Belfast 2016 festival.

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