As if Europe had not seen enough shifts this year with Brexit becoming evermore the reality of this year... and the next, well in the wake of this historical moment both Norway and Iceland have aired their thoughts about the EEA (European Economic Area), specifically-speaking about their membership. Now whilst Norway is as equally important in this article as Iceland, it is the latter that shall be covered in this article and the implications to follow if indeed Iceland does abandon the EEA and join the likes of Switzerland as merely an 'observer' of the EEA and the EU.
Iceland is governed by the ruling Progressive Party, recently or perhaps some time ago (not quite sure about Icelandic politics here) they adopted a new foreign policy which puts into question whether they should stay or leave the EEA and retract their membership of the Schengen Agreement; which to some people is dangerous in it's own rights, I shall leave you to ponder what the dangers are as inevitably there will be a split decision on whether the said agreement is beneficial or not.
Soon I shall delve into why this decision might benefit Icelandic musicians, rather than carrying on delivering all the somewhat boring, nitty-gritty paraphernalia that some call 'politics', instead of trawling around we'll go fishing for the truth (first of the few Icelandic puns; well they're keen fishers, but don't bank on using that pun for 'catching' some Iceland woman...).
Whilst Schengen merely is about the free movement of people, the EEA plays a more (un)important role in the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. Whilst Schengen is not a part of the EEA legislature, Iceland as an EFTA member (European Free Trade Assocation) participates in the Schengen agreement through bilateral agreements and thus are required to apply all areas of what constitute European Union law.
Moreover when you consider the UK is Iceland's trading partner in both goods and services, it offers greater reassurance for 'Brexiteers' leading the route out of the EU, that we already have a standing trading agreement with our North Atlantic cousins. With the idea of the Icelandic Government seeking to expand trade deals with the British Governments over the current level, clearly there is a high mutual understanding between both countries.
Who can argue that Iceland at night (as pictured above) looks far more peaceful and cleaner than the current state of the EU? Well there are the Eurocrats... but we won't go down THAT route. In fact, who cannot say no to trading with a country who has their own natural lighting at night? Talk about saving electricity usage and energy costs; aside from the fact they use thermal power, renewable energy and yet with a population of over 332,000, which in contrast is larger than the likes of Newcastle, Bolton and Sunderland as the closest cities to Iceland in terms of population (2016), has become the most peaceful nation in the world. No wonder Iceland wants out.
So how will this benefit Icelandic musicians you now ask? Simple.
By establishing a direct link between two countries, both parties can work out an amicable and beneficial trade deal without the need or annoying disturbance from an intermediary third party such as the EU (depending upon what side of the fence you position yourself; we choose to remain neutral).
Let's start with the UK currently charges for imports on musical instruments from outside of the EU, for this we will purposely look at what rock and metal bands would generally import:-
* Taken from the HMRC website.
Now let's look at the rates that Iceland have imposed for their imports (again same instruments):-
Well, they seem to have no import tariffs on instruments, maybe this is true or perhaps the information is not available.
At least we cannot foresee a modern form of the cod war, truth be told by freeing the shackles of the EU from controlling our trade negotiations the UK can go pursue it's own deals without interference, ironically by leaving the EU we turn our backs on a unique trading 'club', either way there's bound to be a good outcome be it the licence to roam the world and strike mutually beneficial trade deals or to watch from afar as the European Union comes crashing down.... who is next? Who knows. Nexit? Frexit? Auxit? Can there even be a Euxit? (Well that's wishful thinking for some...)
Ultimately the question is will Iceland-UK relations strengthen as a result of the Brexit decision, moreover can both Governments look to support each others fledging music scenes as both have rich music histories and thus a no tariff on importing or exporting of musical instruements would be warmly welcome.
In the meantime, let's just enjoy the above photo of an Icelandic man who has dyed his beard in the pattern of the Icelandic flag, to watch Iceland glaze England over in a historic 2-1 win. Friður út!!
Now whilst many people around the world would prefer to sit back or lay down, turn on their favourite pop music or the radio and listen to whatever is being played, there are some who would rather go to the other end of the music spectrum and indulge in some metal music. Or on the other hand, there are some metal music fans who cannot be bothered to ignore the force-feeding of bands delivered to them by the major media outlets, telling them who they should listen to, rather than thinking for themselves... after all isn't the alternative cultures meant to portray free-thinking? See the irony?
"I'm not the kind of person who tries to be cool or trendy, I'm definitely an individual" Leonardo DiCaprio
It becomes a right pain and annoyance when narrow-minded people perceive metal music as Satanic, ironically they are partially right as there are bands out there who do sing about Satanic-related topics or indeed Satanism itself. However if you properly analyse it, metal music IS the most popular music genre going and why? Simple. It became subject to globalization. Sure, you might argue “oh but popular music is the most international because it is popular” or “Metal music is rubbish and pop music is the best”, whilst these may be subjective opinions, the reality is simpler than the first quotation, that is do you ever hear about Indian pop music on the major UK radio stations? Not really. But in metal music you hear bands from all over, including India.
"It is people who are the objects of globalization and at the same time its subjects. What also follows logically from this is that globalization is not a law of nature, but rather a process set in train by people"
The thing about it is, metal music is a truly respected music genre and is growing all the time, recently I came across scenes in Bhutan and French Polynesia, yes French Polynesia, you know that island archipelago smack-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Yeah that one. I'm pretty sure they might not have heard of Justin Bieber, but nay say do they care (somewhat diverting from the main point here)? The fact is that metal music has managed to adapt itself to incorporate traditional cultural customs and itself in fact has become embodied within cultures worldwide.
Take for example bands like Melechesh from Israel, Myrath from Tunisia and ChthoniC from Taiwan, these are bands who incorporate their native traditional sounds and as a result authenticate their own style of metal. Where Melechesh would sing about the ancient lands of Sumeria and Mesopotamia, Myrath would just add Arabian music as influences whereas ChthoniC use the Ur-hu to introduce the Far Eastern sounds, and this is why metal is more than just music, it's a vehicle used to express the national or trans-national cultures.
"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people"
Why is it then we don't appreciate this style of music as much as we could or in terms of the metal music world, should. Why is that we don't acknowledge these bands from the far flung countries have a greater connection with their culture than their pop music counterparts?
In no means necessary am I trying to force or thrust metal music down people's throats as much to say, this is what you should listen to. We live in a democratic society and thus everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when you see musicians playing metal in the far-from-democratic countries e.g. Libya, Saudi Arabia, etc, and then learn that metalheads out in these Conservative countries get faced with persecution or death for being associated with metal, or “the devil's music” as they so do call it, a sense of respect creeps in for them defying the normalities of their culture in an attempt to speak out about the emotions they feel.
If that is not a form of cultural expression then I do not know what is
Bands. We all love their music and merchandise. But it comes to a point where every band is producing the same item as each other, just with a different design and band name attached to it. That's just as bad as jumping on the 'band'-wagon, going with what is popular and going against the whole purpose of being original (which in turn might question the originality of the music).
Yet when bands moan that they are not making money on merchandise, have they not thought that the items they are selling are near enough the same as every other band going? Fans demand a lot and as music downloads slice a 15 inch deep wound within the music industry's sales reports, bands are having to turn to other ideas to generate profit.
In time, music downloads may well die a natural death as tapes, vinyl's and CD's keep selling and they too became succeeded by another form of media. Question is what will replace music downloads? Streams seem to be the most likely option, but are we relying too much on the digital age to convey our music? Let alone the band's having their products sold through merchandise stores like Grindstore and Loud Clothing?
Let's take this back to the merchandise topic and ask ourselves, what are eight ideas that bands could potentially invest in, that could be cost-effective and unique in every dimension.
Of course not all bands would be able to afford these ideas and we are fully aware of this, but the whole idea of this post is to generate ideas for bands in general and to point out gaps in the merchandise market.
"There is a strong demand for Michael Jackson's music and merchandise, and that will only increase as more material surfaces in the years following his death" - Adam Kluger
The now defunct Melodic Death Metal / Metalcore band The Dead Lay Waiting took this route (read it here), and inspired themselves to design, order and sell syringe-shaped USB's. We all use them, whether to transport school, college or uni work, for business work or purely just to transport files across from one place to another. So this is a great way to 'connect' with your fans more and to expand your technological side of the band's merchandise repertoire.
There are plenty of USB custom designers out there, so comparing offers is fairly easy. As for the bands, as soon as they have their USB's delivered and ready to sell, once sold they can begin to realize that they, like Nokia, can connect with people - in this instance the fans.
Sites to visit:- USB Makers / USB2U / Vistaprint / Design!t Flash
Those handy writing tools known as pens are perhaps the most common item you would find in anyone's hand at a place of education or anyone who has to deal with paperwork at any given time. Now Iron Maiden have done this before (click here to buy), but because pens aren't that all too expensive at purchasing custom made, this is an ideal merchandise idea for any band.
Especially when sites like Vistaprint can produce 5 pens at the best price of £12 (click here). Sure they will eventually become useless; unless the option for refillable cartridges was there, when the ink runs out or the spring mechanism goes, but this is quite the novel idea for bands to sell to their fans. So instead of 'writing' a riff or two, they could 'click' into the idea of investing into pens for their fans.
Sites to visit:- Vistaprint / Pens Unlimited / Custom Ink / Promotion Pens
iPhone / iTouch / iPod covers
Most of us, if not the vast majority, either own an iPhone, an iTouch or an iPod (classic per se), so why not have bands design their own covers like India's Demonic Resurrection have done(click here). Again some bands might not be able to afford this, there might be a way around this in as far as bands asking designers whether they could sell these covers without any fee being passed to the designer, and the band earning a percentage of sales.
It would bid farewell to the basic, boring cases which stores like Apple and Carphone Warehouse sell. Moreover it feels a little more personalized - unless you purchase the same model, make, color and case, then it WILL be interesting. These could always be made to order and this would probably be the better option, rather than stocking them.
You could always password protect the device or maybe, just maybe, in the future implement finger scanning software... we're digressing here... let's get back to the merchandise article.
Sites to visit:- Case App / Cafe Press / Like My Case / Custom Funk
Sure some bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden have already released their own signature alcoholic drinks, but with beer kits becoming so readily available and the ability to make home made alcohol already established, the potential for smaller bands to do this can become realistic.
Can you imagine bands unveiling alcohol pertaining to their own country? What if they used a portmanteau to make their drinks known? Let's have a few examples:
Rammstein + Jagermeister = "Rammeister"
Crossfaith + Sake = "Crosssake"
Arkona + Vodka = "Vodkona"
You get the idea.
The wine though would bode well if AC/DC performed at the Australia and New Zealand music festivals 'A Day On The Green' (click here for an article we did about this festival), just imagine drinking the AC/DC Platinum wine edition, in a vineyard, whilst they're playing in their home country, how cool would that be? OK maybe not as cool as Rammeister though....
Sites to visit:- The Home Brew Shop / Home Brewing / The Brewmarket
Let's go a bit on the insane side..
By GMA's Gibraltar correspondent Nathan Colombo
Recently Gibraltar has been on the end of a beating stick by what could be described as “Un-European” at the hands of Spain. Massive border queues spanning for hours and hours have been brought into effect by the Spanish government at the border of Gibraltar and the Spanish town of La Linea De La Concepción.
Unlike what many Spaniards have been saying, these border queues have affected not only Gibraltarians but Spaniards also. With queues lasting up to FOUR HOURS (and more at a time) it makes it almost impossible for Spaniards who work in Gibraltar to get to work (or vice versa). Now sometimes the queues are not as bad in the morning, but they get rather bad during the evenings, usually around the time people are leaving work to go home, and you may have guessed this also affect their citizens also.
You could imagine those poor workers who have finished a hard day’s work and are now forced to sit in a border queue for hours on end just to get home to their families. One problem that has been created because of these border queues is its effect on the local music scenes of both Gibraltar and Spain. It would seem that some Spanish bands have been put off from wanting to play in Gibraltar, not for political reasons but because of the massive border queues and I see their problem.
Imagine having to play a gig on a Friday in a town only around I don’t know 45 minutes away (that would most likely be around the town of Estepona) but having to be in a queue for around four hours just to get into Gibraltar and then there the whole hassle of setting up, doing the sound check, etc (which can be a while if it’s your first time at a new venue and you are not using your own set up), only to then after your gig go back at whatever time it finishes and you and your band decides to go home only to go into another massive queue just to get home? Now I know what a lot of you guys are thinking...“Go early then?” and I get it bands will always try to find a way but in some cases they can’t.
These are normally underground bands / musicians, which means they do not make a living from their music... most of them have day jobs. When they finish their usual 9-5 routine they would make their way down to Gibraltar and do what they do best. In these cases I see how these bands may suffer and it’s not only them who are suffering. Local bands are suffering also with all that is happening as they are going through the EXACT same thing with the only difference being that instead of them having hassle to play in Gibraltar the hassle is going into Spain. On a lighter note, some locals have seen this in a positive light as now they believe local musicians have their “time to shine”. With more dates open in venues they believe local musicians can now play as much as they want as get some decent exposure.
Now not to s**t on your parade here but you're wrong! In some sense you're right considering locals can get out there locally but that is the problem it’s only locally. Gibraltar is small and a band can only do so much in such a small area and having Spain right next to us helps these local musicians get more exposure and grow a bigger fan base which is what musicians want! These musicians are amazingly competent and work hard to do what they do. They want to grow and play different venues it is only natural. Do you want to see them same bands over and over the same week? NO you don’t! The same thing goes for the bands.... They want to see different crowds, see different places. No musician can really be happy playing the same one or two venues for years and years and it is understandable.
I really hope these border issues can be resolved soon and the musician scenes in both Gibraltar and Spain can continue to work together in these increasingly difficult times.
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