Music industry unites to save touring in Europe, ahead of crucial Parliament debate.

As MPs debated a petition with almost 283,00 signatures, there was a growing consensus around reducing the additional costs and bureaucracy which threaten the viability of performing in Europe. The debate can be watched on Parliament Live and you can see our selected highlights on Twitter.

The ISM and MU had already held constructive high-level meetings with politicians and civil servants in the UK Government and we were pleased to see Parliamentarians using our research to raise these issues.

During Monday’s debate, MPs from across the political parties spoke of the need to address the issues that musicians and touring professionals now face. There were united calls for the Government to fix the concerning visa and work permit provisions, clarify new customs rules like ATA Carnets, and provide exemptions on touring cabotage limits for the creative and cultural sector.

In response, Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage reasserted that the door remained open to the EU for further discussion. The Minister has also set up a sector working group to address these issues.

    We hope that the positivity of UK policymakers will now be matched by a willingness by the EU to address concerns including:

    • Short term work: Each EU Member State can now choose to require both a visa and a work permit when UK citizens enter for paid work. Although a number of EU countries offer exemptions for cultural activities, many do not, making touring costly and planning a logistical nightmare. It also makes performing at short notice in some countries virtually impossible.
    • Customs: There is still uncertainty around transporting certain instruments and equipment, and whether some musicians will need to purchase an expensive customs document (called an ‘ATA Carnet’). The cost depends on the value of the goods, but starts at around £400.
    • Logistics: New cabotage rules now make it much harder to organise tours from the UK with large vehicles.

    The UK will meet with the EU later this week to discuss problems with application of the Brexit agreement, which presents an opportunity to urgently review touring rules.

    ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:


    ‘We are delighted to join with the Musicians’ Union to ensure that politicians listen to the concerns of our sector. We urge the UK Government to take the necessary steps to ensure border arrangements after Brexit do not negatively impact the Creative Industries, harming both musicians’ livelihoods and the music industry itself. Collaborative solutions to address issues around visas, administrative and financial challenges are desperately needed for a sector which has been so badly affected by COVID-19. Now is the time for the UK and EU to come together to fix these problems and ensure that close cultural collaboration can continue after Brexit.’


    Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union General Secretary, said:


    'The MU welcomes this collaboration with the ISM. The future of touring in the EU depends very much on achieving changes to the situation we find ourselves in arising from the conclusion of the negotiations for the TCA. We urgently need both the EU and the UK to agree provisions for musicians and crew that will avoid costly and complicated bureaucracy. As things stand, work visas, work permits, restrictions on haulage and uncertainty regarding carnets all present barriers for our world leading musicians. We were promised frictionless mobility for musicians and their crew and now we need the EU and the UK to deliver just that.'

    Facts about Brexit and touring

    Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove MP and European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovic are meeting in London this week. Together, they are responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Brexit agreement and Gove has already written to ask for changes to the regulations.

    International touring represents an essential part of many musicians’ livelihoods, ISM research showed that:

      • 44% of musicians earn up to half of their earnings in the EU/EEA (54% in 2016)
      • 43% travelled to the EU more than five times a year (39% in 2018)
      • 32% spend more than 30 days in the EU for work (41% in 2018)

      Music contributed £5.8 billion to the UK economy in 2019 and employment in the industry hit an all-time high of 197,168 in 2019. (UK Music)

      76% of UK musicians say it’s likely Brexit will stop them performing in Europe. (Encore)

      The arts, entertainment & recreation is the worst affected sector by coronavirus. (ONS)

      79% of musicians earn less than £30,000. (ISM)