An argument for division or integration?
National-populist movements are gaining votes everywhere in the West and winning elections in the outer rims of Europe. Interestingly, live music entertainment has never been so inclusive and cross-national. Is Europe in a phase of integration or separation? And what part could European music play in the years ahead? Paul de Kuyper —founder and CEO of the European music platform Gigstarter— shares his vision in a three part review.
France, end of 2018. Strikes hit the heart of Europe. The country of liberté, egalité, fraternité is showing internal division. On December 20, 2018, international media shows a picture of people with yellow vests protesting on the streets and fanatically blocking traffic. The most activist gilets jaunes even have made settlements in public spaces. Today, the anger continues….
When one of the principal builders of the European Union is facing such issues, one can question whether it is a national problem: is it a mere New reality for French leader or maybe even the Demise of Europe ? Are we seeing some sort of kamikaze, suicidal democracy ? If you only take a snapshot at the newspapers it looks like a civil war zone. At the same time European music and artists are becoming more and more interconnected and well organised. It looks as if the yellow vests of the music scene are moving in opposite direction. Qu’est-ce qu'il se passe ici ?
Warning: I’m pro European. Therefore I must admit I’m completely biased when it comes to European issues. Being half Spanish and half Dutch and being raised in times when traveling between countries and receiving news from the entire continent has become ever more easy, I cannot ignore, I’m a true child of Europe. Mobility, flexibility, autonomy and freedom of speech define my daily actions. I’m perfectly aware of the intrinsic motivation of the West behind the birth of the EU back in, I don’t even know when… For me the EU is no ‘project’ though. I was born this way and as far as I’m concerned it has always been this way.
Good fences make good neighbours
Let’s say populism is the popmusic for politicians. I personally don’t listen very much to popmusic, but I don’t neglect or disrespect it. Undoubtedly, it has added value, inspires entire populations and can be considered a multidisciplinary art few get to dominate well. Back to politics. Most newspapers and magazines are quite tough on populist movements: Hungary has become ultranationalist based on its heritage ; Austria is bringing the far right into the mainstream ; Italy is following suit ; and Britain is just coping  with the results of probably thé most badly played populist move in modern old-continent history, to “take back control”.
Of course each case is different, all have one thing in common though: they have a populist and a nationalistic character. One needs enemies to make a case, so all have chosen the colossal EU bureaucracy as the dragon they must slay “for king and country”. A rhetoric which makes a nice theme for a pop song or a Hollywood blockbuster, but does it really solve the root of the (modernisation) problems countries are facing?
A union of opportunity
In all the articles and analyses related to the anti-establishment matter, I very rarely encounter the mention, let alone a fair overview, of all the invaluable positive results which open borders and a free economic zone have brought to the EU members. I’ll try my best. First and foremost there’s peace: a European doesn’t die because of war. Secondly, there’s a social net: a European doesn’t die because of famine. A unique framework is set for each individual to focus on the creation of wealth and happiness. Open borders in combination with a stable currency make the economic bloc excel. Look at it as a business. Different business units (regions, countries, whatever) can focus on what they can produce most efficiently and they can trust others in doing the rest. The better the infrastructure and support, the lesser an individual is distracted and greater the chances of seizing opportunities.
"Music has been emancipated from local, old industry dogmas."
In this context music has been emancipated from local, old industry dogmas. How does that reflect itself in our self-service artist booking platform Gigstarter? We try to create equal chances by allowing any musician to subscribe. Literally anyone can access the database, anywhere, at any time; and call him or herself a booker, a notion before only attributed to professional artist agencies. The definition of quality is democratised, that is, people who have booked an artist, rate the artist after enjoying (or despising) their performance. Ratings and comments judge whether an artist’s avatar —their online representation— reflects reality in an honest way.
Picture: Stoned Therapists, winner of the #Artist2018. Taken during the Artist of the Year final in Amsterdam, December 2018. The French funk band The SoulPhoenixs won the public's choice award during the event. The french rock band 'Stoned Therapists' won the official jury award for Gigstarter Artists of the Year 2018.
Gigstarter’s inclusive approach automatically leads to a cross-national proposition. Direct contact between end-users leads to a greater offer, more interaction, better pricing and more opportunities, also internationally. The EU has created the framework for initiatives like Gigstarter to arise. Through Gigstarter all artists and bookers gets equal chances. People become peers and are empowered to self-management, without borders. I’m certain this condition isn’t constrained to music alone.
Populism always been around. The difference today is that it gets amplified easily thanks to inclusive, pretty-anonymous media channels. Privacy law has just been tightened to protect EU citizens from the dangers of IT (misuse). Should the same be done for rapid information spreading in general? A Q&A spins in my head whenever I read a national-populist news item: Is it merely an economic backslash? If so Brexit wouldn’t have passed and Greece would be ‘populistissimo’. Mass immigration maybe? Other countries such as Spain also had to deal with it. Cultural heritage loss then? Like the populist vote really cares about culture…
All kidding aside, the voice is clear and can’t be neglected. Maybe the explanation its a (molotov) cocktail of all of the above reasons. Or maybe there is no explanation at all. The EU must outgrow its state (or stage) of indifference and decadence. We must preserve and cherish what has been build. For the sake of open borders and in fact for the sake of liberté, egalité, fraternité just as well. Don’t forget that millions of people did die for this cause, not only in France.
A popsong is blasting over the EU —like the call to mass— while people frenetically are mending walls around whatever they’ve always defined to be theirs. If you listen well to the lyrics though, it’s a question being asked. All we’re seeing is the expression of fear. It’s time for an answer.
ABOUT TRENDING EUROPE
Trending Europe is a series of essays that views Europe and trends through music glasses. Read more about music industry trends at our English music blog; or alternatively at our Spanish, French, German, Austrian, Dutch, Belgian, or Italian counterparts. Subscribe to our Music Industry Quarterly and never miss out on news and opinions from Europe’s musical pioneers. No hassle. Just music.
 - Le Monde (France), January 7, 2018: https://www.lemonde.fr/police-justice/article/2019/01/07/manifestations-des-gilets-jaunes-345-interpellations-en-france_5405871_1653578.html
 - New York Times (USA), December 20, 2018, p1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/opinion/europe-france-economy.html
 - El Pais (Spain), November 26, 2018, p13. - https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/11/22/opinion/1542900742_006928.html
 - Hungary looks to the past for its future; Le monde Diplomatique, Evelyne Pieiller. https://mondediplo.com/2016/11/10Hungary
 - Austria's Young Chancellor Sebastian Kurz Is Bringing the Far-Right Into the Mainstream; Time magazine, November 29, 2018. p34. http://time.com/5466497/sebastian-kurz/
 - En Italie, une fronde antieuropéenne ?; Le Monde Diplomatique, Stefano Palombarini, November, 2018. https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2018/11/PALOMBARINI/59217
 - Into the Endgame, The Economist, November 17, 2018. p12. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/11/15/into-the-brexit-endgame
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