Brexit batters incomes of over 80% of UK touring musicians, as calls mount for immediate government action

‘The extra costs for musicians touring in the EU are horrific. Brexit has decimated the UK music industry.'

Musician in Europe

Eight out of ten musicians in Britain who tour Europe say their earnings have dropped since Brexit. This was the finding of a new survey of music creators by UK Music, the collective voice of the UK’s world-leading music industry. The survey received 1,461 responses from musicians, including vocalists, songwriters, producers, and DJs. The musicians outlined the challenges they are still facing almost three years on since the UK officially left the EU on January 31, 2020.

82 percent of the musicians who said their incomes have been affected post-Brexit, said their earnings have decreased.

The creators exposed a litany of issues they have faced since Britain left the EU, which they say are negatively impacting their income.

One of the most widely expressed issues is difficulty in obtaining visas and work permits, with almost two out of three respondents considering this a major problem. The second most touted barrier to making music in the EU post-Brexit are administration costs, with 56 percent of UK musicians saying heightened costs have impacted their income. Transportation costs, shipping and logistics, and production costs are also negatively impacting the work and income of UK musicians touring in EU countries.

Due to the increased costs, 57 percent of respondents – six out of ten – say it has not been possible to take up invitations to play in Europe. Meanwhile, seven out of ten say they have received fewer invites to perform in the EU since Britain’s departure.

Singer and songwriter Katie Melua says the cost of touring in the EU has risen by up to 30% post-Brexit. 

“Having recently toured Europe both on a headline tour and a series of summer shows I can testify that touring post Brexit has created certain challenging side-effects felt by my team as well as my crew. 

“Our costs of touring, especially for transport and accommodation, has risen by approximately 25-30% on previous years. 

“In addition, there remains vague protocols around taxation and compliance which has generated increased accountancy fees. 

In response to the findings, UK Music is calling on the government to take urgent action to remove the barriers musicians are facing.

Tom Kiehl, UK Music Interim Chief Executive, said: 

“Restrictions on visas, work permits, truck hire and merchandise sales along with excessive red tape are making touring simply unviable for many.

Kiehl noted how emerging music creators are among the worst affected. “The ability to tour internationally in the early stages of an artist’s career is crucial to their success and our sector’s ambition to grow British music exports amid fierce global competition. 

“We need the government to make it a priority to secure a Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU to remove these barriers. 

“As we approach key elections in the UK and EU over the coming year, it’s imperative all political parties get behind this to strike a deal that supports the music industry during the next Parliament and Commission.”

The same week the findings of the survey were published, European Movement, the UK’s largest pro-European network, held a meeting is Sussex, aimed at raising awareness of the problems facing the UK music industry because of Brexit.

A panel of speakers, including Heather Bird, a double bassist and director and founder of Classical Evolution, and Dave Webster, head of international at the Musician’s Union, discussed the impact of Brexit on musicians. The network group notes how UK music, including live music, amounts to £2.3bn a year, and the EU is a vital market. However,  restrictions on visas and work permits for short-term working post-Brexit, is one of the most pressing issues facing UK musicians in Europe.

The 90/180 day limit of visas to the Schengen Area, is a further complication, making it challenging for performances requiring extended rehearsals, touring or extended runs.

Time-consuming carnets and the use of cabotage that restrict the number of stops for UK vehicles used for event haulage, are also proving problematic.

An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in association with UK Music have been working with the government to ease some of these issues. However, progress have been very limited, says European Movement Sussex.

Left Foot Forward spoke to Peter Benson from Liverpool for Europe and Thank EU for the Music, a group that campaigns for music without borders and to highlight the impact Brexit and the loss of freedom of movement has had on musicians. Benson, who had attended the European Movement Sussex meeting, said Brexit has ‘decimated the music industry’ and the ‘extra costs for musicians touring in the EU are horrific.’

“Different countries have their own specific requirements, and it is a minefield for musicians trying to perform in Europe. The consensus in the industry is that the UK government needs to make it easier.

“Civil servants are listening, but the government is not, and until it is willing to listen, the industry will continue to be decimated by Brexit, which is tragic, given the wealth of benefits music brings to Britain.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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