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77% of musicians expect earnings to be hit by new post-Brexit touring bureaucracy

By | Published on Tuesday 25 May 2021


As the music industry continues to put pressure on the UK government over the post-Brexit bureaucracy performers touring Europe are facing as COVID restrictions start to lift, the Musicians’ Union and Incorporated Society Of Musicians have revealed that 77% of artists expect their earnings to decrease as a result of the new visa, travel permit and carnet requirements they now face.

A significant number of musicians are not expecting to tour Europe as a result, others are considering re-locating to countries within the EU, and a fifth are considering a career change.

The last minute post-Brexit trade deal negotiated between the UK and the EU at the end of last year did not include any provisions to ensure that British performers could continue to tour Europe without requiring visas, travel permits or carnets.

In the absence of such a provision, performers touring the EU must now navigate the specific rules of each European country. Some don’t require any permits or paperwork for short-term touring, but some do. It’s feared that the costs associated with the visas, permits and carnets now required will make many tours involving British musicians and crew unviable.

Ever since those problems became clear late last year, the music industry has called on the UK government to either agree a standalone deal covering touring performers with the EU, and/or to negotiate bespoke deals with each EU member state removing any permit and paperwork requirements.

Plenty of MPs and ministers – including Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson – have agreed something needs to be done. But the music industry has repeatedly expressed frustration at the lack of action and urgency in addressing these issues. Especially as the COVID pandemic – when touring wasn’t possible anyway – provided a window of opportunity to address the post-Brexit issues before they actually started damaging the businesses and careers of British performers.

In a new survey of musicians by the MU and ISM, 77% of those surveyed said they expect their earnings to be down even once the COVID pandemic is over because of the new post-Brexit bureaucracy.

The MU and ISM explain: “This is due to the additional documents [musicians] require for themselves (like work permits and visas) and for their equipment (customs documents like ATA Carnets). Transport expenses have also risen due to new road haulage requirements and some survey respondents expect that when combined, all these costs could add up to as much as £15,000 extra per tour”.

According to the survey, “only 43% of musicians are still planning tours or shows in the EU in the future; 42% of musicians would consider relocating to in order to continue working; and 21% are considering a change of career”.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge says: “This survey shows that the UK’s musicians are contemplating drastic action due to the enormous obstacles they face in taking their world-renowned talent into the EU marketplace. This government failed to ensure that performers would be protected from acres of bureaucracy and additional costs when the [EU-UK Trade And Cooperation Agreement] was negotiated. As a result, we may lose a large chunk of the talent that underpins our £5.8 billion industry”.

Noting that Johnson previously told Parliament that he was “passionate” about addressing these problems, Trubridge adds: “The PM needs to step in and sort this mess out now, just like he promised to when questioned in the House some weeks ago. The damage done to the UK music industry if the government does not act is immeasurable”.

Meanwhile, ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts says: “We have clear evidence that musicians are facing enormous extra costs and reduced earnings for touring in Europe after Brexit. It is time to move beyond partisan politics and develop effective solutions before even more performers move to the EU or change career. Musicians are cultural ambassadors for the UK around the world and make an enormous contribution to the nation’s health, economy and global reputation, so the Prime Minister must deliver on his promise to fix this crisis”.