New ISM survey reveals how the Brexit Trade Deal has been a disaster… Jump to main content

New ISM survey reveals how the Brexit Trade Deal has been a disaster for music businesses

A new survey by the Incorporated Society of Musicians has revealed how the Brexit Trade Deal has been a disaster for businesses such as tour operators, instrument manufacturers and retailers as well as those involved in recording, music publishing and sale of music. One performer even said ‘the era of being a UK-based concert artist is pretty much over’.

It found that:

  • 94% of businesses say the Brexit Trade Deal had a negative or very negative impact
  • 9% say the Government guidance was adequate in helping to prepare their business for the new trade rules.
  • 79% of businesses were concerned or very concerned about the future of their business over the next 12 to 24 months.

The survey went on to explore the reasons for this crisis. The most common problems were the additional paperwork (72%), change in transportation costs (56%) and disruption at UK borders (47%). But other concerns included customs duties or levies (45%) and custom clearance problems (44%) and destination countries changing their border restrictions (33%).

Comments from the survey included:

‘Most European promoters (orchestras etc) now do not want to book UK artists as it will involve too much paperwork and expense.’

‘If it doesn't improve then I am deeply concerned about whether I can remain profitable and will be able to carry on. I may have to abandon my UK artists.’
‘It's not viable for a small business like us to pay for all the hassle of performing in Europe.’

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:

‘We have clear evidence that the first 100 days of the Brexit Trade Deal have been a disaster for music businesses. There is near-unanimous agreement that it has already had a negative impact and only a tiny minority believe that the Government guidance was in any way adequate in preparing businesses. It is time to move beyond partisan politics and urgently develop effective solutions before even more music businesses are ruined or are forced to move their operations to the EU. The creative industries make an enormous contribution to the health, economy and global reputation of the UK and we need the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise to sort this mess out.’

More information

The Financial Times ran an exclusive story on the ISM survey.

The survey was conducted in March and April 2021 and had 78 respondents.

Further findings included:

  • 85% of respondents that operate tours in the EU, said new cabotage limits for haulage vehicles will cause moderate or severe disruption for their business.
  • 73% of businesses reported a decline in trading opportunities with EU partners due to the new trade rules.
  • 62% of businesses had experienced import or export delays due to the new trade rules.
  • 42% of respondents that temporarily move goods between the UK and EU said the new ATA Carnet rules would have a negative or very negative impact on their business.


Reducing the bureaucratic and regulatory burdens facing music businesses and wider creative industry is the urgent priority. With over two-thirds of respondents have considered moving some or all of their operations to the EU and almost one in ten have already begun moving, we need a significant intervention to save our sector. To achieve this, we are calling on the UK Government to deliver the following measures.

Movement of goods

  • Work with the EU to reduce the burden of paperwork and fees that is slowing down crossborder trade.
  • Take steps to reduce the adverse impact of the new road haulage rules so that UK touring

Movement of people

  • Negotiate a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU. This would be separate from theTCA and exempt creative professionals from needing to obtain a visa when seeking paid work.
  • Negotiate bilateral agreements with individual EU Member States that do not currently offer cultural exemptions for work permits, such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal or which are financially the most important to UK musicians.

Supporting our sector

  • Provide an emergency funding package for those operating in the music industry to compensate for the additional costs associated with the loss of work in Europe and decline in trade.
  • Provide clear, unambiguous and verified guidance in relation to custom rules, ATA Carnets, road haulage, visas and work permits, as well as other relevant areas.
  • Provide more information about replacements for the support provided by Shared Prosperity Fund and Creative Europe.