Business News Legal Live Business

Music industry hits out at the impact of Brexit trade deal on touring musicians

By | Published on Monday 28 December 2020


Music industry groups have hit out at the UK government’s last-minute trade deal with the European Union, expressing significant concerns that the current agreement does not include provisions that allow British performers to easily move around Europe. As a result, UK musicians touring EU countries will face new costs and bureaucracy.

The last-minute trade deal – assuming it is ratified by law-makers on both sides of the English Channel – means that the long-dreaded no-deal Brexit will not now happen on Friday morning.

That’s good news for all parties, even if critics of Brexit believe that the deal will negatively impact the British economy in a significant way in the long term, with few tangible benefits in return beyond the warm glow Brexit supporters feel when told they have “taken back control”.

But in the short term, every sector is busy digesting the 1246 page deal to see what the agreement says beyond the fishing rights and level playing fields that dominated the headlines during the negotiations. And, in particular, what the immediate impact will be for each sector.

Music industry lobbying group UK Music noted that, while having a trade deal in place brings clarity and certainty for some strands of the music sector, there remains one big problem in particular, which relates to touring.

“News of a deal is welcome and has removed some of the uncertainty facing the music industry”, said the group’s CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. “However, there are still many questions about the future arrangements for those working in our industry, in particular what it means for touring”.

In its statement, the Incorporated Society Of Musicians went into that issue in more detail. “Following the publication of the UK/EU trade agreement, ISM is deeply concerned about the absence of visa-free travel provisions for working musicians, as part of the agreements for business visitors and independent professionals in the service industries”.

It went on: “This means that UK musicians will be considered as ‘third country nationals’, meaning that they will have to adhere to the immigration rules of each EU member state in which they work. This is contrary to assurances given to the music sector and will have huge implications for UK musicians working and touring in the EU”.

Depending on the country and the nature of the tour, adhering to those immigration rules may mean extra costs and paperwork for UK artists touring the EU, and vice versa. Given that many tours actually operate on a break even model – or even see artists making a loss in order to grow their fanbases in other countries – extra costs could prevent those tours from happening.

Or, even if the main artist can make it work, they may be more likely to hire session musicians and crew from EU member states like Ireland to avoid having to incur the extra costs and paperwork for the team they tour with.

Njoku-Goodwin urged ministers to do whatever is necessary to get provisions in place to ensure none of that happens.

“The government now needs to ensure the ability of our workforce to move freely around Europe at a time when we are continuing to battle the impact of COVID-19″, he said. “There is a real risk that British musicians will not be able to bear the cost of extra bureaucracy and delays which would put some tours at risk”.

And, he added: “If musicians and creators from overseas face barriers and costs getting into the UK, audiences here could miss out on seeing some of their favourite acts”.

Meanwhile ISM CEO Deborah Annetts stated: “It is hugely disappointing to see that musicians and other creatives will not be covered by visa free short term business trip provisions. After everything that the sector has been through over the past ten months, how has this happened? It is high-time that the value of music to our lives and our economy was recognised fully”.