UK music exports buoyant but 'bad Brexit deal' risks loom

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 file photo, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran speaks during a press conference for the film 'Songwriter' during the 68th edition of the International Film Festival Berlin, Berlinale, in Berlin, Germany. The trade body representing British music warned Thursday, Sept. 6 that the industry's financial fortunes, currently sky-high as a result of the popularity of the likes of Ed Sheeran, could be damaged in the event of a "bad Brexit deal." (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, FILE)

LONDON — The trade body representing British music warned Thursday that the industry's financial fortunes, currently sky-high as a result of the popularity of the likes of Ed Sheeran, could be damaged in the event of a "bad Brexit deal."

The BPI, which has been championing the interests of big players such as Sony Music U.K. as well as more than 400 independent music companies for decades, said a failure to strike an adequate deal would prevent the industry becoming an "international calling card" in a post-Brexit world.

"With Brexit approaching, music can help to showcase what is exciting about the U.K. as we forge new trading relationships, but only if our government supports us by ensuring a strong Brexit deal that enables artists to tour freely, robustly protects music rights, and prevents physical music products being impeded in transit," said Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of BPI.

Taylor's warning came as the BPI reported booming British music exports last year, when they rose 12 percent to 408.4 million pounds ($530 million). That's the highest level since records began 18 years ago and means the total generated since 2000 is over 5 billion pounds.

The BPI said U.K. artists accounted for one in every eight albums globally in 2017. And the world's best-selling album was British in nine of the past thirteen years, most recently with Ed Sheeran's "Divide." Other British success stories in 2017 were Rag'n'Bone Man, whose debut album "Human" came in fourth, and Sam Smith's "The Thrill of it All" at five.

Revenue growth was particularly strong across Europe, up 29 percent since 2015, with France doing particularly well. Europe remains the U.K.'s biggest export market for music, though the United States is the single biggest national market by a significant margin, accounting for more than 35 percent of U.K. music earnings. Exports to China were also strong in 2017.

Buoyant sales in Europe highlight the fact that British exporters are in a so-called "sweet spot" at the moment — British exporters have been able to benefit from the 15 percent or so fall in the pound following the Brexit vote in June 2016 while still having full and unimpeded access to the European single market.

With less than 30 weeks to go to Brexit, it's still unclear how Britain will trade with the other 27 countries in the EU. Both sides have said they want to maintain smooth trade but the EU has insisted that Britain cannot continue to have the same sort of tariff-less access as it enjoys now if it doesn't abide by the rules governing the single market, including the freedom of movement for people.

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