‘Professionally paralysed’: New report reveals the impact of Brexit on musicians

The two largest bodies representing musicians, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and Musicians’ Union (MU), have published a report with personal testimonies from music professionals who are facing economic disaster as a result of Brexit. It contains 17 named case studies and eight anonymous stories that reveal how new administrative and financial burdens are preventing UK musicians from touring as Europe begins to reopen after coronavirus.

Some of the comments included:

‘I am professionally paralysed by Brexit and have no idea how I can continue my career. I desperately need some resolution to this problem.’ – Catherine Manson, violinist

‘It is devastating to have to give up the opportunities to make music and make contacts with our colleagues in Europe, especially at the start of my career.’ – Maxim Calver, cellist

‘Shame on our government for stopping Britons competing, succeeding; for stopping us spreading soft UK power and influence’ – Simon Halsey, conductor

'With carnets and visas we have an additional cost of £700 per performer (plus 2 days unpaid attendance at embassies)- that's an extra £31,500. The tour is now completely uneconomic.’
- Robert King

Europe is vital for touring musicians, who depend on the ability to travel quickly, easily and cheaply across borders. Due to the absence of Brexit provisions for the creative industries, musicians must now navigate the different entry and work requirements for each country and incur substantial new costs.

We are still collecting case studies so please do share your personal story with [email protected]

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:

‘These heart-breaking stories put a human face on the many musicians that are prevented from touring in Europe by a mountain of red tape and huge new costs. With the music sector now looking beyond coronavirus, we urgently need the Prime Minister to deliver on his recent promise to sort this mess out. The cultural barriers created by the pandemic must not be replaced by new obstacles at our borders, so the Government must negotiate a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU and bilateral deals on work permits with key EU Member States.’

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge said:

‘The mounting problems that musicians face in trying to perform in EU member states is vividly conveyed in these candid testimonials. This situation shouldn’t be about political posturing, this should be about real people being robbed of their livelihoods at a time when they have suffered huge financial loss due to the pandemic. These are UK tax payers who create the culture that the UK is famous for and they deserve better from this government. The PM must deliver on his promise to sort this catastrophe out so that musicians can resume their careers.’

Save touring

The ISM and the MU have been holding high-level meetings with politicians and civil servants on this issue. Together, we are calling on the Government to:

  • Negotiate a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU that is separate to the trade deal exempting touring performers, creative teams and crews from needing to obtain a visa when seeking paid work. This ask is supported by organisations across the creative industries including One Dance UK, Equity, BECTU and Fashion Roundtable.
  • Negotiate bilateral agreements with individual EU Member States that do not offer cultural exemptions for work permits, as well as those which are financially the most important to UK performers.
  • Publish guidance to help the performing arts sector navigate the different requirements for each European country. The ISM has already compiled a comprehensive overview of these rules, but now we need authoritative Government advice to provide reassurance across the touring supply chain.