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Survey highlights Brexit’s impact on music sector

Almost half of respondents to the ISM's Paying the price study said they'd had less work in the EU since January 2021 than before Brexit

By James Hanley on 28 Aug 2023

ISM Brexit report

A new report by the Independent Society of Musicians (ISM) has laid bare the impact of Brexit on UK musicians and the music sector.

The Paying the price study, which is the first of its kind following the UK’s departure from the EU, is based on data gathered from more than 400 musicians and music industry workers who have worked in Europe since January 2021.

Restrictions that UK musicians who wish to tour in Europe now face includes visas and work permits, cabotage restrictions, ATA Carnets and CITES regulations.

Almost half (47.4%) of the respondents said that they had less work in the EU since the start of 2021 than they did before Brexit, with over a quarter (27.8%) saying that they had no EU work at all.

Over a third (39%) of people had had to turn down work, while 40% had had work cancelled in the same period. The most frequently cited expense was for visas and work permits (23%), followed by carnets (18%) and travel costs (14%).

“UK music is a great success story and we are rightly proud of it,” says ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts. “The chancellor has correctly identified the creative industries as a potential growth market. However, as Paying the price shows, 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”

The report makes a series of recommendations to the government in response to the findings, including to:

  • Negotiate a bespoke Visa Waiver Agreement (VWA) with the EU that allows UK artists and their support staff to work in any part of the EU for up to 90 days in a period of 180 days
  • Negotiate bilateral agreements for work permits with individual EU Member States which do not currently offer cultural exemptions for work of up to 90 days
  • Unilaterally reduce the cost of the ATA Carnet for cultural goods and work towards a cultural exemption for musical instruments and equipment
  • Negotiate a cabotage exemption for the creative industries with the EU
  • Make Eurostar St Pancras a CITES designated Point of Entry or Exit, digitise Musical Instrument Certificate applications and keep them free
  • Streamline merchandise paperwork applications and provide clear guidance for musicians
  • Raise the issue of the 90 in 180-day limit with the EU and seek a reciprocal arrangement similar to the UK’s Creative Worker (Temporary Work) visa

The study shares the findings of ISM’s sixth Brexit survey of the music sector since 2016. Survey participants were specifically asked to exclude any experiences that may have been affected by Covid-19 from January 2021 to April 2023.

“This report provides a pathway to make Brexit work for music, and most of the recommendations would not require renegotiating the TCA,” adds Annetts. “Brexit should never have meant that musicians cannot share their talent freely with our closest neighbours. 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.”


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