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Survey reveals Brexit paperwork is a ‘complete nightmare’ for musicians

A new survey by the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the Musicians’ Union has revealed how performers are considering moving to Europe or changing career due to the extra costs of touring after Brexit. One even said: ‘It seems a complete nightmare…As it is, we see no way to recover our pre-Brexit working schedule making survival very difficult’.

77% of musicians expect their earnings in Europe to decrease, once restrictions are lifted. This is due to the additional documents required for themselves (like work permits and visas) and for their equipment (customs documents like ATA Carnets). Transport expenses have also risen due to new road haulage requirements and some survey respondents expect that when combined, all these costs could add up to as much as £15,000 extra per tour. You can find out more about these factors and our suggested solutions to them in a recent letter to the Prime Minister, signed by over 300 creative organisations.

The survey also found that, as a direct result of leaving the EU:

• Only 43% of musicians are still planning tours or shows in the EU in the future.
• 42% of musicians would consider relocating to in order to continue working.
• 21% are considering a change of career.

Comments from the survey included:

• ‘I’ve lost £40,000 already’
• ‘The additional visas, work permits and carnets may mean that touring the continent is a financial loss for us’
• ‘European employers are asking for EU Passport holders only already’
• ‘The current situation is a disaster for the UK music industry’
• ‘Brexit seems insurmountable to my previous European life as a musician’

More information

The survey was conducted in April and May 2021 and had 545 respondents.

Other findings in the survey included:

• 73% of musicians said that the effects of Brexit will impact their ability to make a living.
• 34% of musicians had lost work scheduled for 2021 as a result of Brexit and 26% had lost work scheduled for both 2021 and 2022.

Respondents said that, in a normal year before the COVID pandemic:

• Gigs in Europe were worth over £8,900 on average to each musician (average gross earnings)
• 29% of musicians undertook between one and five gigs in Europe while 24% undertook 21 or more
• The most common countries to perform in were Germany (68%), France (63%), Spain (49%), Italy (45%) and the Netherlands (44%).

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:

‘We have clear evidence that musicians are facing enormous extra costs and reduced earnings for touring in Europe after Brexit. It is time to move beyond partisan politics and develop effective solutions before even more performers move to the EU or change career. Musicians are cultural ambassadors for the UK around the world and make an enormous contribution to the nation’s health, economy and global reputation, so the Prime Minister must deliver on his promise to fix this crisis.’

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge said:

‘This survey shows that the UK’s musicians are contemplating drastic action due to the enormous obstacles they face in taking their world renowned talent into the EU marketplace. This Government failed to ensure that performers would be protected from acres of bureaucracy and additional costs when the TCA was negotiated. As a result, we may lose a large chunk of the talent that underpins our £5.8Bn industry. The PM needs to step in and sort this mess out now just like he promised when questioned in the House some weeks ago. The damage done to the UK music industry if the government does not act is immeasurable.’