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Brexit and the music industry
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What could the potential outcomes of a Brexit decision mean for the music industry?

Tensions are beginning to mount across the continent as we have little clue on whether the UK plans on leaving the European Union sooner or later, with or without a deal, or if ever at all. In other words: all options are still on the table. However, assuming Brexit does still go ahead, the immigration plan penciled in to for 2021 will hit the UK music industry on both a national and international scale.

Post-Brexit, touring EU artists and entertainers will most likely be challenged with exacting visa requirements and regulations just in order to perform in the UK for six months at a time. However, this is without even beginning to consider the difficulties that arise for the vital technicians and additional staff. Pair this with Brexit’s end to free movement for musicians across Europe and the music industry may be faced with a major crisis.

Due to the complexity of these issues, the company Centtrip Music has even been forced to launch a dedicated Brexit desk to help touring artists, promoters, distributors and the wider music industry to plan for further uncertainty and avoid future risks, unnecessary costs and disruption.

Simon Liddell, the director of Music and Entertainment at Centtrip, confirmed that:

Brexit is the biggest political event of a generation and its aftermath may have big financial implications for touring artists and promoters paying talent overseas. Clients in the music and entertainment sector are looking for clarity and guidance.

Working Visas for those assisting in the music industry

One of the main issues that EU workers in the music industry are likely to face is the complicated process of obtaining visas. Whilst a no-deal Brexit will also cause immense uncertainty and instability for the music business, if the UK keeps its proposed immigration plan then musicians will need to apply for a Tier 2 visa, presenting issues to both those who consider themselves to be self-employed entertainers and also low-paid workers such as festival stewards and security staff.

A huge percentage of creatives identify as self-employed (up to 70% in music and performing arts) and, while it’s been confirmed that Europeans already in the UK can stay under the EU Settlement Scheme, any new self-employed Europeans looking to come into the country won’t be eligible to apply for this visa. With a third of that 70% being made up of EU migrants, the UK is faced with losing a huge amount of creative talent that otherwise would be attracted here.

With the loss of self-employed creatives already facing the entertainment industry, the visa regulations also look to effect support staff. If technicians, producers, security staff and even bar workers that are expected to fill vacancies for the festival season are unable to meet the minimum income requirement of £30,000, then they will also be barred from this visa route.

Tour Carnets

On top of the complicated and expensive visa process, the practicality of moving necessary equipment between countries is also something that will be further impeded. Presently, tour managers have to pay for expensive legal documents known as tour carnets that detail all the equipment that a specific touring company or artists is bringing into the UK. Having to be renewed annually, these documents can cost up to £500 for a solo artist, and £2000 for a touring band. In addition to all these costs, the processing of all of this paperwork through border control will likely add significant time to a tour – ultimately causing mounting expense and dissuading overseas artists from the UK for good.

Touring bands and the Irish border

The past few weeks of Brexit news have triggered discussion among artists as to how it will impact them. Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol has expressed his dismay at the potential of a hard-Irish border if Brexit results in Britain leaving the single market and customs union. Talking about the repercussions that it would have for touring musicians, he affirmed that:

Of course it will affect every touring band with British passports. At this point it is such chaos and it is so disorganised that any kind of scenario seems like it is going to affect people negatively.

With Lightbody being himself from Northern Ireland, he is all too aware of the visa issues that artists face when having to arrive in the UK from the Irish Republic. Just last November, minuscule changes that were implemented to the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) regulations meant that international musicians looking to tour through the UK - specifically via the Republic of Ireland - were faced with a multitude of complicated visa processes.

What this means for the UK music industry

Currently, music tourism in the UK generates £4 billion direct and indirect spending, whilst £2.5 billion is the amount spent by the average 823,000 music fans who flock to Britain each year. For individual EU music fans looking to move between countries in Europe, they may not face huge issues. Despite initial concerns, Britain had already confirmed that EU citizens would be able to make short-term visits to the UK without a visa after Brexit takes place on the 29th March. Further improving this, the European Council made a statement at the beginning of February that confirmed they would reciprocate - thus causing no potential issues for fans travelling to concerts abroad or popular European festivals such as Primavera and Tomorrowland. But if musicians and entertainers are faced with these ever-mounting visa and touring costs, there will be no shows for the fans to even see. British industry experts and commercial directors have already voiced their own concerns that ease of movement for artists could restrict the quality, the diversity and the artistic development of Britain’s musicians.

This article has been written by Alice Williams who is a content writer and commentator for the UK’s Immigration Advice Service.

Brexit and the music industry