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Cancelled shows and massive debts: artists start to report on the reality of post-Brexit touring

By | Published on Monday 11 April 2022


With European touring getting properly going again following the relaxation of COVID restrictions, the UK music industry is now fully dealing with the realities of Brexit and the new bureaucracy touring musicians face. With the specific rules now different for British artists in each EU member state, the whole industry is very much on a learning curve, as new issues and bureaucratic delays regularly come up – often at the border – that need to be dealt with.

White Lies were forced to call off a show in Paris last week after their equipment was delayed by Brexit nonsense. “To our dear fans here in Paris”, they wrote on social media on Thursday, “we and our crew have arrived safely this morning to start our European tour. But our equipment has been detained by Brexit legislation leaving England, along with countless other trucks”.

“We’re devastated to say that without our equipment we do not have a show”, they went on, “and tonight’s has to be cancelled and rescheduled. It’s heartbreaking to be here in this wonderful city, and unable to perform due to such a trivial issue”. A subsequent post on Friday confirmed their equipment had finally arrived, but that was no help for the Thursday night gig.

Of course, the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union did not include any pan-European provisions for visa free touring, meaning artists and their crews face permit, carnet and other bureaucratic requirements as they tour the continent. Music industry trade groups raised these issues as soon as the trade deal was published at the end of 2020, with the government spending much of 2021 insisting it was looking for ways to tackle those issues.

Given COVID was still making touring impossible at that point there was a window of opportunity to mitigate the negative impact of Brexit on touring artists. But, alas, very little was done, and artists are now having to tackle those issues on the ground.

New Pagans posted a write-up of their first post-Brexit touring experience last week, concluding that, while in the past the aim of a European tour for smaller independent bands was a small profit, or at least to break even, with all the new bureaucracy “to come home from a tour having accumulated massive debt is now the reality for many small independent bands in 2022”.