The world in its current state doesn’t seem to be very keen on international collaboration and cultural exchange. At least, the smaller proportion ruling it certainly isn’t. Still, various initiatives around the globe are undertaken in an attempt to preserve the ties even when politics aim at achieving the opposite effect.
Brexit and Let The Music Move
Originally a Twitter campaign, #LetTheMusicMove started in 2021 to protect the interests of the UK artists affected by the post-Brexit restrictions. Nearly 200 musicians, including such names as Radiohead, New Order and Chemical Brothers, called for financial help for EU tours. With the new regulations in place, the UK bands had been obliged to apply for work permits and have a passport for goods that have to be delivered across the border, e.g. musical instruments. The campaign later expanded into a transatlantic initiative appealing to the US government, following the proposal from the Department of Homeland Security to increase the visa costs for international artists by over 260%. That means the current fee, which is $460, would increase to $1,655. On their visit to the US during SXSW in March this year, New Order formally backed up the LTMM initiative explaining how pivotal the influence of American music and particularly New York club culture has been on the formation and development of the band. Speaking about their decision to join the campaign, the band said: “Being able to perform to North American audiences has been absolutely crucial to us as a band. It’s also why we share the concerns of musicians around the world with these proposed visa increases for international artists”.
This is just one example of transatlantic inspiration and ping-pong of influences that have been ongoing since the very beginning of pop music. According to Bob Stanley’s Let’s Do It: The Birth of Pop, the very name pop was picked up from a British theatrical paper using the shortening “pop. music” and later cultivated in America before emerging in the UK in a more refined form. American folk, bluegrass and blues fed into skiffle leading the way to the British Invasion, which, in turn, inspired the wave of American folk-rock slash beat bands, The Byrds, and Lovin’ Spoonful, to name a few. American garage bands such as The Seeds, The Standells and The Sonics influenced the generation of British punks. Et cetera, et cetera. Within this historical context, saturated with facts and figures, current political decisions look absurd. On one hand, they trigger a question, how can you cancel something ongoing for decades? On the other hand, touring now is an essential part of musicians’ income. Touring the US, in particular, brought recognition to many artists at home in the UK and Europe.
Other attempts that help music move
With campaigns like Let the Music Move using social media and other forms of digital participation as the main tool, some event organisers take action in the physical space. Estonian company Shiftworks, running Tallinn Music Week and Station Narva, has been actively transforming the cultural landscape into an open creative platform that summons up a hopefully borderless future. They were one of the few who dared to maintain the festival routine during the pandemic. Instead of cancelling events, Shiftworks organised smaller-scale editions of Tallinn Music Week and Station Narva with such restrictions as social distancing and Covid certificates in place.
Even when it feels suffocating, an antidote to oppression is always there.