Brexit’s effect on the UK’s lucrative touring industry

Words by Janelle Borg

For centuries, the United Kingdom has been a haven for artists and few can deny that the British music industry is one of the most esteemed in the world. From traditional folk music produced in Wales and Scotland to the British invasion in the 1960s, Britpop and bona fide modern pop princesses such as Dua Lipa and Little Mix, no one can deny the strength of the British music industry.

This is a perfect reason why DIY musicians and top music industry CEOs alike are scared of the effect that Brexit is going to have on the future of Britain’s lucrative touring industry. Last year, the UK made a hefty £1.1 billion dollars from touring musicians. This is all set to change, thanks to the Home Office’s latest statement regarding touring musicians. 

Starting in 2021, European Union artists will require a Tier 5 visa to enter the UK for festivals, gigs (including DIY ones), workshops, promotional activities, and more; this visa will cost £244. Furthermore, the applicant must prove that they have £1000 in savings for 90 days before applying for the visa.

“Honestly, the fact that Brexit will make touring between the UK and Europe more finicky has been concerning,” stated bassist Leanne Zammit, from the Brighton-based band GENN. “Being from a band with members from different nationalities, it seems like either scenario could pose potential hurdles that weren’t there before, so it’s going to be a very jarring change.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Hayo Vaders, a small metal/hardcore punk promoter based in the Netherlands, is concerned that his small company won’t be able to cover bands’ expenses. 

“As a Dutch promoter, I can’t pay the band that visa money back,” he said. “People are not going to pay more to see a band from the UK. Most times, a tour does not lead to any profit. But now you will start with a lot more debt.”

Esteemed UK-based union The Musicians Union (MU) has recently started a petition, calling on the UK government and parliament to introduce a Musicians’ Passport for both UK and EU-based musicians. 

The Musicians’ Passport would be a free or cheap document that lasts a minimum of two years and covers all EU member states for artists as well as their crew.

Kurt Abela, a lyricist and member of Maltese indie-pop group Oxygyn, is concerned that Brexit will divide musicians and lead to fewer opportunities for them around Europe.

“It’ll make our lives much more difficult if we want to integrate with the UK’s industry. It will create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude, which will work against integration and outside influences. And this will impact music’s drive to mix and create originality.”

The costly bureaucracy that will become associated with the world of post-Brexit touring will undoubtedly cause more harm than good. A Musicians’ Passport can counteract these adverse effects; however, it all depends on how things develop in the next couple of months, and politicians’ will to safeguard their artists’ interests and their future. 

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