Aug 24, 2023 2 min read

ISM again puts the spotlight on the “enormously damaging effect” of Brexit on musicians

ISM again puts the spotlight on the “enormously damaging effect” of Brexit on musicians

The UK’s Independent Society Of Musicians published a new report earlier this week putting the spotlight on the negative impact Brexit has had on music-makers who seek to tour, perform or otherwise work in Europe.

The study confirms that Brexit – and the post-Brexit trade deal that the UK government negotiated with the European Union – “have had an enormously damaging effect on musicians’ ability to work in Europe, the market on our doorstep”.

That deal, of course, did not include any measures to ensure that musicians and other performers – and their crews – could continue to tour and perform in Europe as they had when the UK was a member of the EU. As a result, musicians now face a range of additional administrative and bureaucratic tasks when working in Europe, the exact nature of which vary from country to country.

All of this adds costs to performing or touring. And given that the live sector is facing surging costs already, that makes it harder for British musicians to tour or seek performance opportunities within the EU.

ISM says that, of the musicians it surveyed, almost half have had less work in the EU since Brexit, with over a quarter saying they have had no post-Brexit work at all in any EU member states. A third have had to turn work down and 40% have had projects cancelled on them.

The most cited new expense caused by Brexit is visas and other travel permits, followed by carnets. The requirement to secure such things post-Brexit, along with so called cabotage restrictions, have, says the ISM, “led to UK musicians working in Europe less than before, which has resulted in lost income for both the musician and the UK economy”.

“The difficulty and expense now related to touring in the EU for UK musicians impacts the viability of working as a musician”, it goes on. “It risks damaging the creative pipeline for the future and undermines the UK’s soft power”.

Most of these issues have been apparent ever since the UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU was first published. There have been repeated calls for the UK government to do more to address these issues and – while there have been some improvements in some EU countries – across the board most of the problems still remain.

ISM boss Deborah Annetts states: “The government has been asleep on the job. It could have tackled many of the issues facing the music sector by itself and made Brexit work. It chose not to. This report provides a pathway to make Brexit work for music, and most of the recommendations would not require renegotiating the [post-Brexit trade deal]”.

“Brexit should never have meant that musicians cannot share their talent freely with our closest neighbours”, she goes on. “This damages our country, our soft power and our precious creative talent pipeline. Music is worth £5.8 billion to the UK economy and the wider creative industries are worth £116 billion. We call on the government to take action and make Brexit work for the wellbeing of musicians and our economy”.

You can download the new report – which includes a number of specific recommendations for government – from the ISM website here or download directly below.

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