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CMU Beef Of The Week #300: Pop v Brexit

By | Published on Friday 8 April 2016


A milestone like the 300th outing of the Beef Of The Week column feels like it should be marked with something big. And what bigger beef is there at the moment than the looming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union?

The campaign to leave the EU has made gains recently, helped in part by a series of crises in the Conservative Party distracting David Cameron et al from properly making the case to stay within the union.

But there is still a hurdle for the big names pushing for a ‘Brexit’ (because in these post-‘Day Today’ times everything has to have a brand), and that’s that they are, in the main, an assembly of all the faces in politics you would cross the street to avoid if you saw just one of them. When seen altogether it’s so overwhelming that even their supporters can’t handle it. It’s a shitbag overload.

Team Leave might not put it quite in those terms, but they do recognise that to win a majority come voting time they need to present themselves as the friendly face of telling foreigners to fuck off. And, to their credit, they realised early on that young people would be the demographic to bring on board in order to do that.

What do The Kids like though? Music, that’s what. Bloody love it they do. Anyone who’s been near the back of a bus since speakers were built into mobile phones knows that. Which is why, back in February, pro-Brexit group Grassroots Out announced plans for an “EU referendum music festival”, branded Bpoplive, at Birmingham’s Genting Arena.

“The festival, featuring some of Britain’s hottest artists as well as speeches from leading personalities and politicians who support leaving the EU, will be the first of its kind in the UK”, said a press release.

I know, it sounds like something “Britain’s hottest artists” would be falling over themselves to support, right? Or not. Gary Barlow might do it. I bet he’s anti-EU. Although his status as a known tax avoider makes him a risky person to align yourself with politically. Even if you’re Nigel Farage.

Gaining the sort of acts you’d need to fill a 15,000 capacity arena did seem like a bit of an uphill struggle, then. I’m not sure anyone really expected them to manage it. But then the initial line-up was announced, tickets went on sale, and it kind of looked like they might pull it off. OK, some of the acts were a bit ropey – Phats & Small and DJ Luck & MC Neat are probably not on many young people’s radars – but a headline DJ set from Sigma isn’t nothing. Some listings also had Ella Eyre down to perform, and Pixie Lott was on the rumour list.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the bookings had been secured without fully explaining to the artists or their agents the nature of the event. Which turned out to be an issue.

“We’re sorry to any fans that paid for tickets to see us play at Bpoplive”, tweeted Sigma this week. “We weren’t told Bpoplive was a political event when we were booked and have now cancelled our performance. We’re not available for hire by politicians trying to use us to speak to you, our fans”.

Ah well, but Ella Eyre though. If Ella Eyre’s on board then it’s still safe. Except that her publicist told Buzzfeed that she “isn’t playing and never confirmed”. So that’s a problem too.

Of the other artists on the bill, Tom Hyland of the Electric Swing Circus told Buzzfeed that his band “are not pro-Brexit” and “as a group we are generally pro EU”. A rep for DJ Luck & MC Neat said they “didn’t even know it was about [Brexit]” and would now discuss this with the duo. And a spokesperson for Pixie Lott said that she wasn’t going to be involved either. Only Phats & Small didn’t respond, so the world does not yet know their views on the EU, which is possibly the most upsetting part of all this.

Either way, it’s not a good start for the event. And all the more so, says Leave.EU, the other anti-Europe group involved, because the show has been entirely misrepresented by the bloody left-wing media. The organisation claimed that acts were pulling out because they had been “hounded by the press”. And that’s bad, because it’s not a pro-Brexit event at all. Why would you even think that a concert organised by two organisations campaigning for the UK to leave the EU was pro-Brexit?

Oh sure, there was that press release saying that that’s exactly what this event was about, but that was “a miscommunication”, according to a Leave.EU spokesperson. Actually, Bpoplive was supposed to be a politically neutral event staged to encourage young people to vote. “The idea came from a thing in the states organised by MTV called Rock The Vote, with the message in between the acts, in the same way the BBC does Children In Need”, the spokesperson told Buzzfeed, somewhat confusingly.

For one thing, surely a prerequisite of politically neutral events and campaigns is that they aren’t put on by organisations with very specific alignments. Also, Children In Need is a bad example, because the ‘message’ bit is generally a welcome break from the ‘entertainment’.

This may all turn out alright for the Brexiters though. Since all this kicked off, tickets have been withdrawn from sale and the event is no longer listed on the Genting Arena’s website. And given that it’s now thought that if young people can be convinced to vote, they could swing it for the Remain campaign (it being their future elderly xenophobes are so keen to mess with), it’s possibly not really in the Leave camp’s interests to court them anyway, neutrally or not.

Rubbing further salt into the Leave campaign’s hopes of engaging musicians of interest to any demographic this week was the announcement yesterday that the Musicians’ Union is in favour of the UK remaining an EU member.

“For musicians, the benefits of Britain staying in the EU are numerous”, said the union. “Open borders make touring both easier and less expensive, EU health and safety legislation has meant that the job of being a musician has become safer and workers’ rights legislation in general has improved the working life of musicians in the UK”.

“Perhaps most importantly”, it added, “at least three European Copyright Directives have been responsible for protecting the intellectual property rights of our members and ensuring that they receive remuneration for the use of their work. Whilst the copyright regime in this country is far from perfect, and further adjustments are urgently needed, the MU is confident that the situation for musicians would be far worse were it not for the EU Directives”.

While the effect of leaving on musicians “is not entirely clear”, the MU said that it expected touring to become more difficult if performers had to start applying for visas to travel to Europe, noting the difficulties UK musicians already have getting into the US.

“It is also likely that European legislation which has protected musicians in the areas of copyright, health and safety and workers’ rights would be watered down or removed entirely if Britain were to leave the EU”, it concluded.

On the plus side though, there’s still a chance that if you were to vote out, you might find yourself aligned with Phats & Small. We just don’t know. And that’s exciting, isn’t it?

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