A new survey has claimed that over three-quarters of UK musicians don’t see themselves touring in the EU following the news that visas and customs declarations for equipment will be required.
The study, conducted by musician-booking site Encore, included 452 musicians. Out of these, 76 percent said it was likely Brexit travel restrictions will stop them performing in Europe. The survey also found that 40 percent of those asked said they already had to cancel gigs specifically because of Brexit.
The lack of visa-free tours for musicians has been a controversial issue lately, with both the UK government and the EU blaming each other for rejecting a proposal. Following the Independent reporting that “The UK said no” to a permit exemption for musicians, NME obtained a statement from culture secretary Oliver Dowden saying “We [the UK Government] sought a mutually beneficial agreement that would have allowed performers to continue working and perform across the continent without the need for work permits.
“Musicians, artists, entertainers and support staff would have been captured through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This was a straightforward solution for our creative industries which would have benefited all sides.”
“But the EU turned it down,” Dowden continued.
Encore’s study reflected low confidence in Dowden’s remarks, with 89 percent of those surveyed disagreeing with his assertion that “it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us.”
As to whether a deal could be negotiated in future, again musicians did not respond with confidence in the government. 90 percent of those asked said they were not confident that the government will negotiate a post-Brexit travel deal that works well for musicians.
Despite this low confidence, the current lack of visa-free touring in the EU might not be for good. Oliver Dowden told NME that the “outcome is regrettable,” but “it doesn’t have to be final.” A clause in the current treaty allows the list of permit exceptions to be revisited and amended.
The study also brought to light some case studies of musicians, personal stories of how the implications of Brexit have compounded with COVD-19 restrictions. One anonymous jazz musician told Encore: “We have had to cancel a proposed tour in France, Holland and Germany because of cabotage and the bureaucratic costs of arranging customs clearance and appropriate visas. Our engagement calendar is now completely blank because of [COVID-19] restrictions and the future is looking grim. We are considering selling our tour bus and giving up.”
In another blow to the UK’s live music industry for 2021, Glastonbury festival last week announced the cancellation of its 2021 event. This raised speculation about when live music as we knew it will return in full, and followed UK Music calling for a clearer “restart date” for live music.