Independent artists and labels on the “scandalous” impact of shipping prices


British independent artists and labels have spoken of the “scandalous” impact and “staggering costs” of sending music and goods to Europe in the wake of Brexit.

While so much has been said and written about the ‘devastating’ result of the UK musicians and road crew being denied a number of post-Brexit factors and regulations have also resulted in a considerable loss of money for independent artists and labels who have struggled to get records and other products to their fans on the continent.

A lot of products are blocked at customs and returned, so European customers have even gone so far as to order them due to a dramatic increase in postal rates.

Catherine Anne Davies, aka The Anchoress, released her critically acclaimed second album “The Art Of Losing” on Kscope Records in March of this year before being nominated for the Welsh Music Prize. However, Davies said she saw “an immediate impact with Brexit” when the record was released.

“We have received numerous reports from fans in Europe that pre-orders of an ‘Amazon exclusive’ vinyl version of ‘The Art Of Losing’ have been canceled and we have never really had a clear answer as to why.” , she said. NME. “It seemed like Amazon didn’t even know what the new rules would be, so didn’t want to risk returning the orders.”

She continued: “Since then it’s been a sad story of goods stuck in customs – most recently an order from my Bandcamp store took two months to get to Ireland. Similar stories for the rest of Europe, as even low value items are held up in the mail. Things have gotten a little easier lately as Bandcamp has introduced point-of-sale VAT and tax billing for European customers.

“While this may take the guesswork out of the final cost of an item, I also see that orders to Europe have plummeted in terms of the number of sales. The additional import fees are just too high for most people.

Davies also said she experienced a six-week delay in getting the CDs of a collaboration with prog band The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost because the packaging was made in Europe and “got stuck in customs for. for ages”. Apart from the constant delays in making vinyls, CD manufacturing lead times can even be two months or more, as many are made in the EU.

“It’s total chaos and unless you’re a major label with guaranteed allocation at one of the pressing factories or manufacturers, it’s causing huge delays at independent releases,” she added. .

The anchor. CREDIT: Press

Meanwhile, Alcopop’s Jack Clothier! Records (house of TIGERCUB, Art Brut, BO NINGEN, DZ Deathrays, False Advertising, Pulled Apart By Horses, and many others) said it was “difficult to fully separate Brexit issues from COVID issues” when ‘These were many issues impacting shipping products to Europe, but that the issues with prices and “outrageous” postal delays were “End-to-End Brexit”.

“Postal prices have skyrocketed,” Clothier said. “Two years ago we could ship vinyl to Germany for around £ 6, but now it’s double or more.”

He continued: “Couriers in the Czech Republic (where the majority of independent vinyls are pressed) are only skyrocketing. Brexit. COVID. The two? It all sends him through the roof. A vinyl maker is even now telling its customers that they have to allow production costs to rise over the next six months because we don’t know how screwed the world will be by then.

Imagine this email: ‘Sorry Jack, that vinyl you ordered six months ago goes up by £ 400 because Boris destroyed our last link to Europe. You can cancel it and go elsewhere, but it will add another six months to your album campaign ”. You’re stuck, aren’t you? “

He added: “When you work on very thin margins at an independent label anyway, you start adding all of those expenses and suddenly you go from a very slim profit to a pretty big loss.”

Separated by horses
Separated by horses. Credit: Mark Howe

Clothier explained that Brexit had not only meant that there were now additional customs, administrative and red tape fees to confirm the source of registrations and complete the relevant HS tariff coding, which made “a it is hardly untenable to send recordings to Europe ”. Not only that, but new post-Brexit shipping issues had meant ‘so much was being lost or sent back’.

Due to the additional costs and manpower of operating with small teams, Clothier explained how Brexit resulted in “direct losses in sales” and less time spent on creative development with talent so that instead, they can take care of the delivery and re-mailing of the items.

“I went to the post office the other day to send three records to Germany for £ 40,” he said. “These are the things that cost me time and effort on a daily basis. We have this crazy situation where we’re working with a group from Derry, where I have to post stuff to his manager in Belfast who can then cross the border and post it from there so we can cut costs. It made our life much more difficult.

“We use a distributor who understands all of this a lot better, but when I ship items personally, the amount of items being returned is just crazy. We spoke to the people at the Post the other day and they just said Europe doesn’t love us after Brexit so even the smallest thing or mistake will result in things being sent back.

The label manager went on to explain how he believed it would be up to private companies to tackle the issues, repeating the idea that the government had treated the £ 5.2bn music industry as “an afterthought” compared to the £ 1.2 billion fishing industry. .

“I have little faith in the government because they failed for years to plan this and we had to pick up the pieces,” he admitted. “I think capitalism will drive change when bigger markets demand it.

“For us and our groups, it was difficult. We now have very difficult cash flow issues in terms of vinyl which only arrives several months after its pressing. It was private companies like Shopify and Bandcamp that reached out to help record label musicians, rather than the government.

It comes as this is a global crisis and the backlog sees some labels and artists unable to press vinyl records until 2023 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the post-Brexit touring fiasco is brewing, after a number of leading music industry organizations wrote an open letter to the UK government criticizing the new ‘misleading’ claims about the state of play for the artists and the team.

Last month, several personalities in the music industry have NME on how the new visa rules, along with prohibitive costs and administrative rules, meant that many UK artists could no longer afford to tour in Spain in particular, blocking one of the biggest markets for UK talent .

The Anchoress will be touring the UK next spring.


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