UK musicians’ tour earnings plummet thanks to Brexit

8 in 10 musicians who tour Europe say earnings affected

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 07 September 2023 16:22 BST
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Touring has become more complicated since Brexit
Touring has become more complicated since Brexit (PA)

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Britain's departure from the European Union (EU) has cut earnings for most British musicians touring Europe, the artists believe.

A survey conducted by industry body UK Music found that eight out of 10 UK musicians who tour on the continent say they have lost earnings thanks to Brexit.

The end of EU free movement at the start of 2021 reintroduced costly bureaucracy and paperwork for UK musicians wanting to perform on the continent and vice versa.

Onerous regulations include so-called "cabotage" rules which restrict UK lorries to just three stops while touring, as well as work permits and visas for some countries.

Customs paper work and "carnets" are also required to instruments and equipment – a formality last seen decades ago before the foundation of the bloc.

The survey, first reported by PoliticsHome, found that in total around one third of 1,500 musicians and music professionals surveyed by the umbrella body said that Brexit had impacted their earnings

It comes after another survey last month by the by the Independent Society of Musicians found that Almost half of UK musicians (47 per cent) have had less work in the Europe since the country’s exit from the EU.

Last year The Independent revealed that bookings for UK musicians at the EU's biggest festivals had crashed by 45 per cent – a development that industry figures blame on the new red tape introduced by the government's policy.

It is claimed that UK negotiators rejected a proposal during Brexit talks for performers to be allowed to tour for up to 90 days – because the British government refused to reciprocate for EU musicians.

Countries ranging from United States to Saudi Arabia enjoy a permit-free exemption for performers in their deals with the EU, which offers the arrangement as “standard”.

The latest UK Music survey found that 43 per cent of those musicians impacted by Brexit believe it is no longer viable to tour in the EU, with nearly seven out of ten (65 per cent) saying they have received fewer invitations to perform on the continent.

Close to six out of ten (57 per cent) say they have had to turn down invitations because post-Brexit paperwork had made it too expensive to follow through on them.

Responding to the latest Labour's shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire said government choices on the subject had had "devastating consequences".

The opposition has said it will push for a visa waiver for touring artists "and negotiate an EU-wide cultural touring agreement including important allowances for cabotage, carnets and custom rules”.

A government spokesperson said: "We have confirmed that almost all EU Member States, including the biggest touring markets such as Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, offer visa and work permit free routes for UK performers and other creative professionals.

"We are supporting the UK's brilliant artists to adapt to the new arrangements and continue to make the case to every EU member state about the importance of touring.

"We are continuing dialogue with those few remaining countries which do not offer visa or work permit-free routes to make touring easier."

As noted above, visas and work permits are just one of a number of new hurdles created by government policy towards the EU.

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