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as the biggest issue they face due to Brexit – and more than 1 in 10 respondents reported that offers of work have been withdrawn or cancelled with Brexit given as a reason.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 work

    ‘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:
  • The Government must maintain freedom of movement under existing rules for the music profession.
  • If freedom of movement rights cease, the Government must introduce a two-year, cheap and admin-light, multi-entry touring visa.
  • A Government Department (e.g. BEIS) must set up a dedicated hotline to offer guidance on mobility issues.
  • 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.
  • DEFRA must clarify post-Brexit CITES regulations, providing clear guidance that covers all the possible Brexit outcomes (e.g. after the transition period).
    The Government must maintain European Health Insurance as provided by the EHIC system, or provide an equivalent scheme.
  • HMRC must maintain the A1 certificate system or provide a suitable equivalent.
  • 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