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UK Council Of Music Makers calls for government support fund to cover increased post-Brexit EU touring costs

By | Published on Monday 22 March 2021


The UK Council Of Music Makers is calling on the British government to launch a ‘European touring transition fund’ to support musicians facing increased costs for touring the EU post-Brexit. The call comes as it seems increasingly unlikely that the government will secure visa-free EU-wide touring for UK artists before COVID restrictions are lifted and live shows begin again, if at all.

Without support, says the group – which comprises music industry trade bodies the Featured Artists Coalition, The Ivors Academy, the Music Managers Forum, the Music Producers Guild and the Musicians’ Union – artists will face costs that will mean – in the short term, at least – that touring in some European countries could become impossible.

“While the CMM welcomes recent support from the Chancellor for music makers and their teams in relation to the devastating impact of the pandemic – with the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, furlough and Culture Recovery Fund – there is a further, immediate crisis for these workers now facing another blow due to Brexit disarray”, says the CMM.

“This is killing UK music export opportunities and stifling UK music’s global standing, culturally and economically. The UK’s reputation as one of the greatest homes of musical talent, that has toured the world, bringing income to the UK and exerting soft power, is at significant risk”.

When the last minute UK/EU post-Brexit trade deal was agreed in December, it had no provisions for bureaucracy-free touring, of course, either for UK artists going to the EU or vice versa. Both the UK and EU blame each other for this situation – each having put forward proposals that were knocked back by the other side.

The lack of an EU-wide arrangement for musicians means that they will have to deal with each European country individually when it comes to visas and permits. For some countries, that means very little will change. However, for others, artists may have to secure travel permits for themselves and crew, and carnets for their equipment. This may add hundreds or even thousands of pounds to the cost of a tour, which for many artists will make touring across Europe impossible.

UK ministers have agreed that this is an issue, but have frequently put the onus on the EU to sort it out. With COVID restrictions still blocking any touring from taking place, for now, there is currently a window in which to come up with a solution. However, that window closes a little more every day, and music industry groups are increasingly concerned by the apparent lack of action from the government.

Now, the CMM is calling for ministers to put in place a fund to cover the additional costs incurred by artists for any European touring that happens before any new bureaucracy-removing agreements can be made, either with the EU at large or individual EU member states, or possibly both.

“British artists played over 20,000 dates touring Europe (in 2019, pre-Covid), in turn employing more than 30,000 people (including musicians and crew), cementing our international reputation as leading the world in creating great music”, it says.

“Not only does live performance create critical revenue for performers and their teams, it also acts to fuel the creation of the music that sits at the core of our recorded industry. We need urgent help now to ensure British talent is not blocked from growing their audiences internationally in the short term which brings long term implications on loss of future revenue”.

All this talk of new post-Brexit costs can seem somewhat abstract. So, the CMM has also put together a case study to show exactly how artists will be affected if new agreements cannot be reached with the EU or member states to avoid any new bureaucracy kicking in.

Elder Island had tour dates booked around Europe in 2020, which have now been pushed back to 2022. Spain is a key market for the band. They have guaranteed fees of £4000 for two headline shows in the country, which would have ensured that their Spanish dates would break even, had they taken place in 2020. However, visa costs that were not necessary when contracts for the shows were negotiated could add as much as £2450. This increased cost could mean that the band have to cancel the Spanish leg of the tour entirely.

There may be additional knock on effects of this, the CMM adds. These include: a drop in a band’s long term earning potential; a drop in merch sales income as the number of shows they play shrinks; a drop in streaming revenues in countries where they don’t perform; a loss of work for crew members; a loss of future work (particularly at upcoming festivals) in countries where shows have to be cancelled; and further cancellations in other countries to ensure that updated routing of a European tour makes sense.

Preliminary research by the CMM shows that UK artists play on average more than four times the number of EU shows as compared to their next biggest market, the US. And with acts on average engaging eighteen people per tour (including the artists themselves, additional musicians and crew), that’s more than 33,000 people in total annually – more than double that of the fishing industry, which has received a £23 million post-Brexit support package already.

There is a general concern for many in the music industry that, while the government says it is sympathetic to problems brought about by Brexit, many ministers still see music as little more than a hobby. The CMM’s new statement continues efforts to push the economic contribution made by the music industry and its importance to the UK both financially and culturally.