Rocking the EU Vote: Could Brexit screw British rock bands?

A Guest Post from Darren Johnson

Rock Fanatic and former Chair of the London Assembly for the Green Party

Darren Johnson and another Johnson ... not related

Darren Johnson, Rock Fanatic with Queen and another Johnson … not related

Younger voters have been overwhelmingly pro-EU. And in spite of concerns that younger people are less likely to vote, less likely to be registered or be at Glastonbury for the referendum and failed to apply for a postal vote, it seems that younger music fans are pretty much like the rest of their generation when it comes to recognising the benefits of Britain’s membership of the EU. But what of older rock fans? I’ve both heard some pretty alarming sentiments expressed amongst fellow music fans of our generation. In some ways that’s not surprising. Opinion polls are showing that while there is a massive lead for remaining in the EU amongst the 18-39 age group, when it gets to the over 50’s and particularly the over 60’s the tables are turned and there’s a significant lead for leaving the EU.

Bob Geldof presented four reasons to remain in the EU

Bob Geldof presented four reasons to remain in the EU, pointing out that he feels everyone should consult their kids on their views, as it is they that will inherit the consequences of the vote … Peter Cook agrees that Nigel Farage is no Fisherman’s Friend, having only attended 1 out of 43 meetings at the EU where he could have put their case.

However, could it be that older rock fans are unwittingly sabotaging one of the things in life they love most. The Musicians Union has sounded alarm bells that a so-called Brexit vote could have serious consequences for musicians, particularly in the area of touring and copyright. A recent official statement argues:

“The effect that Brexit would have on musicians in Britain is not entirely clear and would depend on the terms negotiated. We could, however, expect touring to become more difficult and potentially see British musicians having to apply for visas in order to travel within Europe. Given the cost and difficulty many musicians face in obtaining visas for work in countries such as the U.S, this would be very unwelcome. 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.”

Bernie Torme, former Gillan guitarist, still gigging and still releasing albums, spells out the likely extra hassles and expense should we leave. These are not millionaire rock stars. Artists like Bernie have a niche, but dedicated fan-base and every penny matters if the economics of touring and releasing albums are to add up. As Bernie says:

“Leaving is a no-win situation for musicians in my opinion: as the MU points out it will increase the cost and difficulty of European touring, through potential visas and also the probable reintroduction of customs carnets and bonds coupled with the time involved in organising all that. That will make it well nigh impossible to tour and sell merch in Europe unless you are a very big band and have an organisation behind you to back you up. For an independent artist like me who self releases CDs and vinyl it will also be significantly more difficult and expensive: the best quality, cheapest, and quickest pressing plants are all in mainland Europe, so with Brexit there will be customs duty on getting the records in to the UK and also again on selling them back out to Europe. Many other reasons too, from buying equipment at a cheaper price than you can in the UK, to copyright protection and royalty collection (royalty collection from the US is a nightmare), to the problems some bands would have because they have members in various countries. Its not good.”

Mr Torme

Mr Torme …

Indeed, Mark Davyd, Chief Executive of the Music Venue Trust, who are fighting a strong and effective battle to protect Britain’s grassroots music venues, argues that the so-called “heritage” rock acts could be particularly hard hit.

“The impact will be felt hardest by those musicians who need Europe the most; those trying to establish a career, build audiences, or UK musicians who have built a sustainable touring career – heritage bands who aren’t massive but need to tour Europe to make ends meet. In terms of what will happen,; nobody really knows, but the question of immigration and rights to work are not a one way street; if you want to limit the number of EU workers able to work in the UK, that means you accept a limit on the number of UK workers able to work in the EU. The most likely outcome of a Brexit which includes limiting immigration, which seems to be the main driver of the Brexit campaign, will be to limit temporary workers, and that means UK musicians, their technicians and crew. A US Visa takes six months to arrange and costs, including management of taxation, circa $5,000 for the most organised. Even imagining a single EU entry visa, with no further border controls or conditions as UK musicians pass from one EU nation to another, that sum of money and the organisation time is beyond 90% of the UK musicians currently supplementing their income with EU performances.

And that’s just the musicians. UK Music’s report “Wish You Were Here 2016” demonstrates the value of music tourism to the UK, at festivals and in every venue in the UK – even at a grassroots music level, over 135,000 overseas tourists made a visit. We don’t know how many of them will be dissuaded by new border permissions, nor what the impact of a falling pound will be on their ability to travel – currently our EU visitors enjoy reciprocal benefits such as access to health care which makes the UK an ideal holiday destination. Will that continue? Nobody knows.”

From a fan’s perspective Mark Tully, an avid supporter of classic rock bands, backs up the point that leaving the EU could mean lots of extra hassle and expense for the bands and musicians he loves seeing:

“A friend of mine is Brian Cummins who does a Peter Gabriel tribute. Last year he got a telephone call asking if he would do a performance at Rockpalast in Germany. He drove all the way from the Wirral to Germany. He only had to present his passport when he left the UK and when he arrived back. If we leave the European Union it is very likely that this will not be the case.”

There are many, many reasons for Britain to stay in the EU, economically, socially, environmentally and, of course, this referendum is about far, far more than the impact on the British music scene. But amidst all the hollow rhetoric about “getting our country back” and outright lies about straight bananas, it would be a great shame if rock fans do vote to leave the EU on Thursday placing additional burdens and expense on some of the bands they love which may call into question their ability to carry on touring and carry on making music.

Peter points out that artists from Roger Daltrey to Bob Geldof, Billy Bragg and Paloma Faith recently stated their support for the remain campaign. So far it seems that Mick Hucknell of Simply Red is one of few noted stars that has come out against staying in Europe. Peter has analysed this and points out that this decision was foretold in their hit “Something got me started”:

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Even David Cameron and Tessa Jowell tried to get in on the act … and Peter does not even think they play the guitar or are members of the Musicians Union …

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Finally, Peter also points out that Boris Johnson (not related to Darren) is also not qualified to talk about music and musicians:

Note the position of the Capodastra ....

Note the position of the Capodastra ….

 Related Post : Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

A tribute to Prince

Friday and Saturday 24/25 June mark a major event in memory of Prince in London and in support of Autism Rocks. Here, Marcus Anderson, Prince’s Saxophone Player talks about the event:

Here’s some of the songs and personalities you might be hearing from and meeting at this once in a lifetime event to mark the passing of a legend:

I hope to see some of you there on the Saturday gig. We are hoping to catch some interviews with the performers along the way. Here are some of the tributes left for him at Camden recently:

Prince Memorial


Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business Development around Strategy, Innovation, Creativity and Change.

Check Peter’s new book out on innovation and creativity with Bloomsbury. Check out our full development programme for sustainable and profitable innovations.

Bohemian Rhapsody – The Making of a Classic

Here is the interview we recorded with Barry Ainsworth, the man who engineered Bohemian Rhapsody and many many more classic records. Enjoy!!

This week, we are conducting interviews with Jordan Gray, Marcus Anderson (Prince’s sax player) and possibly CeeLo Green. Here’s part 2 of the interview with Barry – The Q&A:

To book Barry for an exclusive masterclass on dealing with creative and highly talented people, get in touch. If you know of any artists that would like an interview in our growing collection of interviews with music giants please get in touch with Rory Gill the film maker or myself:



Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock, fusing business with parallel ideas from music and Human Dynamics, offering business and organisation development. Check his latest work “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” for Bloomsbury.

Burn The Witch

I have a love / hate relationship with Radiohead. Love in so far that they produce absolutely sublime pieces of music which reach deeper than One Direction. Hate in so far as they rarely deal with happy thoughts … but I guess you can’t always get what you want …:-)

I was struck by the daring attempt to release a chart song that deals with the issues of thought crime, surveillance, being a heretic and other dystopian matter, probably informed by 1984 amongst other works.

Listen to “Burn The Witch” without the video and all appears a bit upbeat. Watch the video and at first glance you are confronted with what appears to be a remake of the children’s programme “Trumpton”. As you look deeper, you begin to realise that not all is well in the village as social cohesion breaks down and a scapegoat is identified for an unidentified malaise.  This culminates in a scene from “The Wicker Man”, although it appears that the man who gets burned in the tower then reappears relatively unscathed in the final scene. The animators say that the video refers to Islamophobia and the refugee crisis although the song was written some 10-15 years ago.

Abandon all reason

Avoid all eye contact

Do not react

Shoot the messenger

I’m not quite sure what goes on in Thom Yorke’s mind or why, but “Burn The Witch” certainly deserves a place in popular culture, proving that pop music can address more than “boy meets girl” issues. Since the lyrics are beautifully ambiguous the song has multiple meanings, allowing the listener to project their own interpretation into the piece. Given that the establishment banned Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” and Prince’s “Sexy MF” I’m surprised and delighted that our leaders allow such potent material into the world … or perhaps they just don’t get it?


Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass on subjects such as Leadership, Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Books x 4

Our next free event at Virgin

Come along to our next free event at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Lounge on Wed May 25th at 3 pm where I will be in conversation with Jordan Gray, star of BBC One’s The Voice. We will also get a unique opportunity to see Jordan perform a few songs and preview her new album “The Baffled King”.

Jordan Gray, performing with Paloma Faith on The Voice

Jordan Gray, performing with Paloma Faith on The Voice

Jordan is an all round talent and a great inspiration : A songwriter, accomplished pianist, vocalist with multiple voices and an engaging performer. Peter will be in conversation with Jordan, discussing her life as a musician, her journey as a transgender person, the exhilarating experience of competing on The Voice and most importantly her future as an artist, author and much more.

Since appearing on The Voice, and unlike the usual suspects, Jordan’s multiple talents have been recognised by global record labels. She is presently considering a major record deal, having been adopted by Paloma Faith and Boy George.

The event is free to attend but booking is ESSENTIAL

Call Virgin on 0207 439 8802 to reserve your space

Check the event out on

Check my latest article for Virgin out by clicking the image below

Click to view our articles for Virgin

Fitter, Happier, More Productive?

Prince R.I.P. – Sometimes it Snows in April

That is all I can find to say … 

I wish u heaven xx

Prince Koko's

A few tributes have come in from musical friends:

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.44.34

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.44.12

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.40.51Prince posts:

The Prince of Innovation

3rd Eye Girl

My Tribute to Prince

George Clinton and Prince

Innovation Excellence – NYC

A post from South East Asia


Spirits come and spirits go
Some stick around for the after show
Don’t have to say I miss you
(Don’t have to say I miss you)
‘Cause I think you already know

If you ever lose someone
Dear to you
Never say the words, they’re gone

They’ll come back, yeah
They’ll come back, yeah yeah
They’ll come back

Tears go here


Illustration by Martin Homent

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 09.58.09

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Our latest post for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group can be found at Fitter, Happier, More Productive. It begins with this question:

We have more access to more data about our health, wealth and happiness than any previous generation. But does more data give us a greater sense of wellbeing?

Click to view our articles for Virgin

Click to view our articles for Virgin

Well, what do you think?

Shall we ask Tom Waits?


“We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness”

And the dark thoughts of Radiohead? The song “Fitter, Happier” was described by Yorke as a checklist of slogans for the 1990s, which he considered “the most upsetting thing I’ve ever written”. More than ever, we are bombarded with slogans to live by and we need to be centred in order to cope with modern life.