FEATURE: Brexit Wounds: What Is the Fate of Touring Musicians and Live Music in Europe After 31st October?



Brexit Wounds


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What Is the Fate of Touring Musicians and Live Music in Europe After 31st October?


A lot of things are uncertain regarding…


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Brexit and what will happen. I think there are going to be definite problems regarding trade, commerce and jobs. It is all a bit unclear but, as our Government plough on and make an increasing mess of things, it does seem like we are going to feel the effect across the board. In terms of music, there is a strong relationship between the U.K. and Europe. Not only do we employ and utilise the talents of musicians from across the E.U., but artists rely on gigs and venues. The full impact is not clear, but artists I know are not booking gigs in Europe because they are not sure what will happen when Brexit is implemented on 31st October. On this ironically ghoulish date, we are taking a huge step, and I do not think Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his peers have considered the music industry and the impact leaving the E.U. will have. Obviously, travel will not be as smooth and there will be new visa and work restrictions. In essence, a lot of artists are worried because they feel they are not going to be able to play in Europe locations or they feel there will be too many borders and problems at hand. In this article, The Guardian explain more and outline how a no-deal Brexit will be especially punishing:

 “Music industry figures have said a no-deal Brexit would make touring “simply unviable for many artists”, after new government guidelines for cultural, heritage and sporting professionals touring Europe signalled a difficult future for DIY organisations.

The document from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport indicates touring parties would face extra issues with documentation, travel and the transport and sale of goods as they take their work to individual EU member states.


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The chief executive of UK Music, Michael Dugher, told the Guardian: “Superstars who make millions and book their tours months if not years in advance are very much the exception. Most artists operate on tiny margins and the prospect of extra cost and bureaucracy would kill their ability to tour, develop their talent and build their fanbase.”

Dugher said British artists were already cancelling European tours and promoters were withdrawing planned investment. In September the British musician Imogen Heap announced she was cancelling her upcoming European tour, which was due to start in early November, citing “the extreme uncertainties of travelling throughout the EU so soon after Brexit has happened”.

Rob Challice, an agent at the music touring agency Paradigm, said he doubted the British touring industry was “anywhere near” ready for a no-deal Brexit. “The relevant information is generally unclear because it is dependent on information from other countries that is subject to change on 1 November.”

Challice expressed further concern about the need for ATA carnets to transport equipment. “It’s a complicated piece of paperwork and it does cost money to process. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that the UK/EU ‘border’ will be set up to stamp them accordingly”.

At the moment, there is still not a clear deal and, if we do eventually leave without a defined deal, this will make touring hard or impossible for a lot of artists. Even if some sort of compromise is brokered, there is no guarantee that musicians who are used to playing in Europe and working with European artists and promoters will have the same security and opportunities.


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There are festivals and venues around Europe that will not be able to survive and flourish without British artists. Many have reassured artists they will supported, but it is evident – regardless of what deal, if any, we get before departing the E.U. – there will be tribulations and issues for artists and fans alike. This article details the various problems that may arise and why, for live music, Brexit will have some negative impact:

Brexit’s greatest impact on music, though, looks likely to be on the live sector, both on British musicians going abroad, and on foreign artists and fans travelling to the UK. Take the carnet system. This allows people travelling on business to take merchandise from one country to another, where freedom of movement and goods does not apply – as it may well not for British artists travelling to Europe, post-Brexit. A carnet currently costs £325.96, but that’s not the end of it: it requires the holder to list everything they take into a country. For a touring artist that covers every guitar string, every drumstick, every cable, every T-shirt, every button badge. That has to be checked by customs officials on the way in, and then the same thing happens on the way out. It’s not just money, it’s time – which on tours run on shoestring budgets is another cost.

As well as carnets, musicians will need visas, too. The industry has been calling for special musicians’ visas, but there’s been no response from government. That despite the UK music industry being a multi-billion pound business (and despite the government’s own boasts last year of the creative industries being worth £101.5bn).

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The visa issue will have a huge impact, warns Sammy Andrews, the founder of the industry group Music4EU. “We are about to suffer heavy losses for work for our UK road crew and engineers,” she says. “The people that make shows possible. Our lighting technicians, the sound engineers, guitar technicians, drum technicians, the roadies and the tour managers. Having to get extra visas for them means for certain that many bands will use local crews and not employ people from the UK for those roles, and this could have a devastating impact on that community. We know this for sure because it happens already for exactly those reasons outside of the EU”.

It is not only U.K. fans and artists going to Europe that might experience some restrictions and drawbacks: What are the repercussions of the Brexit regarding E.U. musicians hoping to play in this country? This BBC article tackles that question:

Some of these issues could also affect foreign musicians trying to make a name for themselves in the UK.

Pavvla, a singer-songwriter from Barcelona who has played shows all over Europe, says: "Spotify UK put my songs in loads of playlists so I played a few London shows this Christmas."

"The next few times we go there [the UK] it will be for a small crowd.

"At least for Spain, the British industry is something people really look up to, it's a massive influence. I still want to give it a go."


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British music fans heading to festivals around Europe shouldn't be too concerned about a sudden lack of British names on the bill.

Primavera's co-organiser Alfonso Lanza adds: "It was a concern when the Brexit result came in.

"But we're in touch with the UK on a nearly daily basis. I don't know how it will raise the prices of production just yet.

"Even if that happens we'll go over it though. We can't do this festival without UK bands and fans".

It doesn’t matter if we get a deal or not by 31st October in regards the future status of the live music industry. Separating ourselves from the E.U., of course, if there is this No Deal outcome, it will be even more bleak. Kerrang! have written about the situation right now and how musicians’ lives will be changed; how underground artists might be affected:

 “The UK is a hotbed for live music and creativity, it’s been the driving force in rock and pop music from the start and a No Deal scenario dangerously threatens its future. Sure, you’ll still have all the manufactured pop you could ever want, but music isn’t born at the top. Music starts from the underground and if new UK bands can’t afford to take their music overseas and grow, they will die. Similarly, our live scene is very much populated with European bands, and if they decide to not play in the UK as it’s not cost effective, we could end up with vacuum in our venues.


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We have no idea what will happen after October 31. Whether you’re a musician or a fan, something we hold dear to us is in the hands of the UK government. Whether it’s voting, protesting, or simply having an opinion on the subject in a chat with your mates, please take on board the threat that cutting ties with the EU carries for music. Let’s also cross our fingers and toes in hope that the UK can continue to inspire and be inspired; and that today’s divisive politics don’t damage this wonderful utopia of music that we all love so dearly”.

There is a lot of talk in the media about the affect of Brexit, No Deal or otherwise, on commerce, Industry and financial security. It is clear that there will be this very difficult transition period, and I don’t think many people feel Brexit will be smooth and leave us in a better position than we are now. For artists and music fans, they are going to be hit. There are articles available that state that, even if we get a good deal, travel between borders will be difficult; the process of performing in Europe and getting a visa will be more tricky. If the Government continues to turn a blind eye to the music industry and how it will be affected post-Brexit, then it would leave a lot of artists vulnerable and anxious. And that, when we need the buzz and uplift of live music now more than ever, would have…


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SOME big repercussions!