ISM releases fourth report into the effects of Brexit on the music profession

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the professional body for the UK’s musicians has today, Tuesday 7 May 2019, published its fourth report into the effects of Brexit on the music profession, titled Impact of Brexit on Musicians.

This unique research, conducted in February 2019, builds on previous surveys of musicians and reveals the concerns of more than 2,000 musicians in areas such as future work, mobility and visas, transportation of instruments and equipment, and health and social security.

The headlines from the report include:

  • Almost 50% of respondents identified an impact on their professional work since the EU referendum result in 2016 – 95%
    of whom said it was negative (from 19% in 2016, to 26% in 2017, to 40% in 2018, and to 50% in 2019)
  • 63% of respondents cited difficulty in securing future work in EU27/EEA countries as the biggest issue they face due to Brexit – and more than 1 in 10 respondents reported that offers of work have been withdrawn or cancelled with Brexit given as a reason.
  • 85% of survey respondents visit the EU27 for work at least once a year, 22% visit the EU27/EEA more than 11 times per year and more than a third (35%) spend at least a month per year working in EU27/EEA countries.
  • One in seven musicians have less than a week’s notice between being offered work and having to take it.
  • 64% of survey respondents said a two-year, multi-entry visa would allay their concerns about their future ability to work in the EU27/EEA if freedom of movement rights were lost
  • 95% of respondents preferred the two-year visa over an ‘extension of the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visa.
  • 83% of respondents said it would be beneficial for a government department (e.g. BEIS) to provide a dedicated hotline for musicians to offer guidance on mobility issues
  • More than half of respondents (58%) reported that they were concerned about the transportation of instruments and/or equipment in the EU27 & EEA in the future.
  • Amongst other vital recommendations for Government, the report calls for freedom of movement to be protected for musicians, or a two-year working visa to be introduced.

  • Lord Black of Brentwood, endorsing the ISM’s report, said:

    ‘Music is an essential part of our national identity, and can play an increasingly important role in the UK’s soft power. If and when the UK leaves the EU, it is our prosperous music industry (now valued at £4.5bn a year to the economy), our musical heritage, and our worldwide reputation for musical excellence which must inevitably be one of the most secure engines for prosperity in post-Brexit Britain. If musicians cannot travel easily to the EU27, this will all be put at risk.

    This new report from the ISM clearly demonstrates the reliance musicians place on freedom of movement to work and tour in the EU27 at short notice, and I echo their call for a multi-entry visa.’

    Lord Jay of Ewelme, endorsing the ISM’s report, said:

    ‘This new report from the ISM clearly demonstrates the reliance musicians place on freedom of movement to work and tour in the EU27 at short notice, without the need to demonstrate the level of their earnings or their qualifications, and I echo the ISM’s call for a multi-entry visa. The value of the music industry is growing year upon year – now worth £4.5bn to the UK economy – and deserves protection.’

    Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, endorsing the ISM’s report, said:

    ‘This is a valuable and detailed report and the recommendations must be considered rapidly by the government. Given the scale of its economic and artistic contribution, appropriate action needs to be taken to protect the position of the UK music industry following Brexit'

    Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

    ‘Impact of Brexit on Musicians demonstrates how much the music workforce depends on EU27/EEA countries for professional work, and reveals a profession who are deeply concerned about the future as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

    Musicians’ livelihoods depend on the ability to travel easily and cheaply around multiple countries for work in a short period of time. If freedom of movement is to end, the Government must ensure that free movement rights are maintained for musicians, or introduce a two-year multi-entry visa for British musicians working in the EU27 – which 95% of respondents preferred over the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE). PPE is not the answer.

    This report also demonstrates how much the music workforce relies on UK-EU mechanisms - for example, the EHIC scheme and A1 certificate - to support and enable them to work in the EU27/EEA.

    At a time of great uncertainty, musicians need to know their jobs in EU27/EEA will be secure once the UK leaves the EU. Therefore we call for the Government to take action, using the recommendations outlined in this report, to protect musicians’ livelihood and the all important music and wider creative industries.’

    A musician responding to the survey discussed the impact of Brexit on their current wor

    ‘I’ve had ensembles questioning me as to whether it’s feasible for them to employ me post-Brexit. They’re turning to me for guidance and there is nothing I can offer them. I’m about to pull out of a project starting on the 1 April because it is a recording and if we discover there are problems, it’ll be difficult to replace me at short notice.’

    Another, concerned about the transportation of instruments and/or equipment in the EU27/EEA in the future and how restriction on free movement of goods could lead to the introduction of carnets, said:

    ‘Carnets that have to be filled in for tours outside the EEA are immensely time-consuming to fill in, but almost more importantly delay the travel process immensely and create huge extra costs for orchestras.’

    The recommendations in the report include:

    1. The Government must maintain freedom of movement under existing rules for the music profession.
    2. If freedom of movement rights cease, the Government must introduce a two-year, cheap and admin-light, multi-entry touring visa.
    3. A Government Department (e.g. BEIS) must set up a dedicated hotline to offer guidance on mobility issues.
    4. The Government (DEFRA) must expand the list of approved CITES-designated ports for entry and exit, to include Dover-Calais and the Eurotunnel at the very least, so that musicians can travel more easily with their instruments.
    5. DEFRA must clarify post-Brexit CITES regulations, providing clear guidance that covers all the possible Brexit outcomes (e.g. after the transition period).
    6. The Government must maintain European Health Insurance as provided by the EHIC system, or provide an equivalent scheme.
    7. HMRC must maintain the A1 certificate system or provide a suitable equivalent.
    8. The Government must engage with the music sector to provide a roadmap on all issues relating to mobility rights, customs regulations, health insurance provision and social security.

    Notes for editors

    About the report

    This survey had 506 respondents from a cross-section of the music workforce including but not limited to performers, composers, directors, teachers, academics, and sound engineers. This adds to the 1600 musicians who have responded to previous ISM research on Brexit. Respondents covered every genre, from classical to thrash metal, folk to funk, jazz to film music, and so on. The majority of respondents were UK-based.

    The full report, plus the appendix of full results, can be found at

    About Save Music

    The Save Music campaign, launched in October 2018 by The Incorporated Society of Musicians, is calling for freedom of movement to be maintained for musicians after Brexit – or failing that, a two-year working visa which allows musicians to tour easily in EU and EEA.

    Artist supporters of Save Music

    SK Shlomo

    ‘I am totally behind the ISM’s campaign to promote freedom of movement for musicians, it is so important for artists like me where touring is our livelihood. We need to be able to work and requiring a visa every time we need to enter Europe would make touring unfeasible.’

    Hannah V

    ‘I moved to London from Berlin over a decade ago and have been fortunate enough to tour the world with global superstars and travel regularly as a producer and songwriter. Ultimately, the best music comes from collaboration and borders should not hinder that process. Hannah V: producer, songwriter and artist.’


    ‘I’ve just been selected to tour European festivals in 2019 as part of the EU funded (potentially for the last time) INES Talent programme. Travelling to perform live for people is part and parcel of what we do as musicians, for some of us, it’s the reason we do it. Additional costs and barriers, especially to independent artists, could be the difference between being able to grow internationally or not. Art knows no boundaries, so artists should be able to share their music & go to their fans in Europe without restrictions. #SaveMusic’

    Riot Jazz

    ‘We’d love to be ambassadors of the Save Music campaign. It’s something that means a lot to us. We love to travel the world introducing our music to other cultures and we love discovering music from other countries. There’s no better way to learn about other styles and genres of music than travelling and experiencing it first-hand. Not to mention being able to meet new musicians. Travel is what keeps us inspired and it helps to keep our music fresh. This year alone we’ve travelled to Russia, Croatia, France, Germany. And over the last few years we’ve played shows in Italy, Bulgaria, Andorra and Finland.’

    Ayse from Savages/Kitebase

    ‘The impact of music in our daily lives is so important - we need to protect that. Art should be for everyone, to price musicians out of being able to tour is to our determent. Free movement for musicians is essential. #SaveMusic’

    Anna Patalong

    'Freedom of movement is of course essential for our jobs, enabling us to move freely around the continent and work without restrictions. But even more importantly it allows artists of every kind in Europe to interact and share our languages, cultures and ideas. Collaboration is fundamental to Opera, which is an amalgamation of many art forms, and the opportunity to, as Oscar Wilde put it, ‘play gracefully with ideas’ is vital to keep us producing great work. The further apart we move, the harder that becomes.'


    ‘Europe is our life-blood as a band, always has been. Which is why we support the ISM campaign to preserve freedom of movement for musicians 100%. Not as much for ourselves but especially for the many artists and bands who are starting out. Playing in Europe may end up being impossible for them financially, which is completely unjustifiable on every level. Please help by raising your concerns with your local MP and sharing this campaign.'

    Bushra El-Turk

    'I back the ISM's Save Music campaign because my career as a composer has mostly benefited from being a member of the EU; through the work I have received, through the European cities I have travelled to so I can work with orchestras and festivals, and the wealth of opportunities I have been exposed to without which would not have happened had I not been an EU citizen. The music industry is one of the UK's most vital, important and successful exports. The UK will suffer without it. And art, like the wind, does not understand borders and, ultimately, should not need a visa.'

    Dom James, The Dixie Ticklers

    ‘Freedom of movement means so much to The Dixie Ticklers, both as a band and on behalf of my guys who are all busy on the world class European jazz and pop scenes. We need to rely on our music making, and the skills involved in that, not bureaucracy to score gigs. If we lost freedom of movement, European promoters would definitely be put off from checking out the UK scene, and it'd make things impossible for gigs that come in last minute. Vice-versa, during my time running Jazz Nursery on the Southbank, we often booked European artists and bands, but would have been totally unable to without this freedom. We need to stay part of the European music scene, and not exist as some impenetrable curiosity across the channel. Music is a universal language, it knows no borders, so let's not impose them.'


    'It's quite simple. Without freedom of movement through the EU the consequences will only be negative for touring artists. There's no upside. It doesn't help educationally, it doesn't aid cultural enrichment, it doesn't help artists develop their work and will only hamper the world's inclusivity. But if things are going to change then the proposed 2 year visa that the ISM are approving seems as good a way forward as we can see. But this is not just a personal gripe on behalf of musicians and artists wanting to make the world a more nurtured place. The real strangeness of it is that the creative 'industries' (after the finance services) are the UK's second largest exporting sector. So in a world where economics is unfortunately top dog you'd imagine this argument might hold more sway than it appears to. There's no upside.’

    Madeleina Kay

    ‘Music is about individuals and communities sharing ideas, creativity, inspiration and passion. Physical barriers to travel limits the ability of musicians to flourish and grow as artists, to the detriment of our cultural diversity. In a digital age where content is shared freely online, it is increasingly hard for musicians to make their way. Freedom of movement is imperative to the freeflow of imagination and talent, and for safeguarding artist's livelihoods.'

    Help Musicians UK

    ‘At Help Musicians UK we want a world where musicians thrive and freedom of movement for musicians is vital for a healthy music industry. We therefore share ISM’s concerns on the impact of leaving the EU on working musicians and wholeheartedly endorse their #SaveMusic campaign. It is crucial that artists can continue touring Europe easily, as live music and touring are the lifeblood of the UK’s music economy.'

    About the ISM

    The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally recognised subject association for music education. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession. We support almost 9,500 musicians across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds. As well as working musicians, our membership also includes recent graduates, part-time and full-time music students, and retired musicians. We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

    Download the report