UK music stars rail against Brexit in open letter to Theresa May

Ed Sheeran at Glastonbury
Ed Sheeran, one of the letter’s signatories, performs at Glastonbury in 2017. Photograph: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock

Some of the country’s most celebrated composers, producers and performers have joined together to issue a stark warning that the “vast voice” of the music industry will be silenced inside a “self-built cultural jail” if Britain crashes out of the EU.

An angry open letter to the prime minister drafted by Bob Geldof claims “a botched Brexit” will wreak havoc and seriously damage a creative sector worth an estimated £4.4bn a year. Its signatories include Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, Brian Eno, John Eliot Gardiner, Bobby Gillespie, Howard Goodall, Johnny Marr, Nick Mason, Alan McGee, Rita Ora, William Orbit, Simon Rattle, Ed Sheeran, Paul Simon, Neil Tennant, Roger Taylor and Sting.

Geldof circulated the letter to his contacts, a roll-call of Britain’s rock and classical establishment, under the subject header “Towards a 2nd vote”. Together, they urge Theresa May to recognise that Brexit will “impact every aspect of the music industry. From touring to sales, to copyright legislation to royalty collation.”

Their letter states: “We dominate the market and our bands, singers, musicians, writers, producers and engineers work all over Europe and the world and in turn, Europe and the world come to us. Why? Because we are brilliant at it ... [Our music] reaches out, all inclusive, and embraces anyone and everyone. And that truly is what Britain is.”

The threat to booming revenues remains an overriding concern for musicians and record labels. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) declared that the popularity of British music abroad had hit a record high in 2017, with sales jumping by 12% to generate £408m from music fans outside the UK. British artists, including Sheeran, currently the world’s biggest-selling popstar, and The Beatles account for one in every eight albums sold globally.

The BPI warns that this success will be damaged by the cost and restriction of touring, promotion and rights that will follow Brexit.