I’m not normally one to make some big long thing about voting because ultimately how you vote is a choice and how you educate yourself on that is your own business but this election I thought I’d take a different approach now that I’m old enough to vote myself. A lot of people think immediately of bigger economics and foreign policy when they think of governing parties and elections but this is about how the party you vote for affects the music you listen and specifically what voting Labour can do for you.
Unlike the Conservative party, Labour have pledged in their manifesto to support small businesses, such as independent music venues. The Conservatives have also previously said they’ll support small businesses but the earliest sign of Theresa May going back on her word to help small businesses and the just-about-managing was May’s chancellor Phillip Hammond’s plan to increase national insurance for small businesses despite it not being in the manifesto.
Theresa May hasn’t ruled out increases on NI or VAT to small businesses, and proposes an even larger drop in corporation tax to 17% for big businesses which already have it better off. This is bound to make it harder for younger and newer artists to earn enough and more corporations like Sony and Apple to milk not just the music industry, but Britain’s budget even more.
If small business aren’t supported then the already sharp decline of independent venues is only going to get sharper. Under the Conservatives’ austerity measures culture has taken the worst hit by far. In London alone, where most of the arts funding goes, 40% of small venues have been forced to close their doors in the past decade. Cardiff’s Barfly, London’s Astoria and The Arches in Glasgow have all gone under despite being iconic venues.
With a lack of small venues there’s a lack of opportunity for small time bands. The first headline show and headline tour are integral parts of a band or artist’s story and with less small, independent venues it becomes even harder for them to get off the ground. Independent venues are crucial to smaller musicians too, chain venues often charge premium rates for room rental whilst Tynemouth’s Surf Cafe give 100% of their profits straight to the band after shows.
Labour plan to use money from raised corporation taxes to fund community projects and centres among other things. By funding community centres Labour open a door for the less advantaged to have access to arts classes, access to instruments and rehearsal spaces which otherwise would have been cut in the Conservative manifesto.
With the money gained from raising Corporation Tax we can fund our NHS and abolish tuition fees. Students wanting to get a degree in anything from law to music can do so without worry. Many now iconic bands such as Pink Floyd, Coldplay and Queen all met at university but there’s been a dwinling trend of less and less bands doing so, the last notable one being Alt-J in 2007. After the introduction of £9,000 annual fees many bands have been deterred from starting bands or taking bands they are in seriously with £27,000 of debt hanging over their heads at the end.
By removing tuition fees students will be more free with their choice of extracurricular activities and students with musical interests can pursue them without the fear of further debt. More money pledged by Labour could help Music and Arts graduates wanting to kickstart a career by investing in towns and cities long forgotten and reopening iconic pieces of musical heritage such as Strawberry Studios in Manchester.
Labour also have a series of pledges for apprenticeships including to create specific support to cover apprentice travel costs and to ‘overtrain’ apprentices to fill in the skills gap. A plan to double the amount of completed NVQ Level 3 encourages the pursuit of behind the scenes, technical careers in the music industry.
When it comes to touring artists may be forced to tour significantly less. Visas to the US currently cost $190 per person and if, after leaving the EU we’re forced to get visas to enter Europe like they’re planned for the US, then bands may be forced to avoid international tours with costs potentially being set around £150 per visa. International bands may be put off coming to the UK also with new foreign policy. Under either party there’s a big gamble over foreign policy but under Labour we’ll negotiate for free movement of UK and EU citizens.
Clearly this is just an outline of the issues at hand and there’s a far larger world out there than just what happens to the music industry in this election but hopefully this’ll be food for thought. There’s still plenty of time to check out all parties and their manifestos, check out Labour’s ten main pledges here. All your favourite UK bands will be voting labour, just check their twitter accounts if you don’t believe me! If you feel inclined then vote Labour, but most importantly just vote. 18-22s are the least represented demographic of the electorate and it’s time to change that. The future is in our hands!