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Industry vets launch freight forwarding company

Freight Minds, a new freight forwarding company for live events, has been established.

The UK-based company will offer services including air passenger and cargo charter, warehousing and logistics, couriers, ATA Carnets, and Brexit-related customs clearance services both into and out of the UK via road.

Located at London’s Heathrow Airport, a statement from Freight Minds says it’s “perfectly positioned for all air freight imports and exports, both into and out of the UK and around the world”.

The new venture was founded by industry veterans Alan Durrant, Geoff Knight and Matt Wright, and is completed by fellow expert Chris Jenkins.

“Between us, we have worked with some of the biggest names in the business in recent years, and we are delighted to be putting all that experience and knowledge into our new company,” says Wright.

“This is a brilliant opportunity to build a new post-Brexit and post-Covid business from the ground up”

“This is a brilliant opportunity to build a new post-Brexit and post-Covid business from the ground up in the way it should be done — with our clients’ priorities at the forefront.”

Knight adds: “It’s a whole new ballgame coming out the other side of Brexit and Covid, and we look forward to working with customers old and new over the coming months.

“Volumes are starting to ramp up again and, with well-publicised problems regarding freight logistics at the forefront of many people’s minds, we have the expertise and experience to continue to get the job done.”

Durrant comments: “Freight Minds allows us to establish a brand new company that is lean, agile, and responsive from the start.

“The ever-shifting patchwork of international regulations have only been made more complex by Covid, but we have over 120 years of combined experience at the forefront of this business and the expertise to make sure our clients’ shipments get where they need to go on time and within budget.”

 


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Spain waives visas for UK touring artists

After months of lobbying from live music trade bodies, British artists will no longer need a visa when entering Spain to undertake a short-term tour.

Spain, the fifth-largest live music market in the world, has posed the most costly and complicated visa application process in the European Union for artists looking to travel for short-term work.

Until now, artists and their promoters have been required to file applications for short-term visas entirely in Spanish, provide a host of itinerary details before knowing whether the tour could go ahead and give proof of applicant earnings of up to nearly £1,000 before ever having left the country.

Touring artists and their production teams were also required to wait for over a month for a decision, making long term scheduling impossible.

Today’s seminal change follows months of dedicated work from live music industry trade body LIVE, the Association for British Orchestras (ABO) and their Spanish counterpart, APM Musicales, as well as Live Nation Spain.

“We are delighted that our hard work has paid off and the Spanish government has agreed to lift the restrictive visa process for touring artists, ending the complicated and painful process of expensive visa applications,” says Craig Stanley, chair of the LIVE Touring group.

“[This is] still only one small part of a very large problem affecting our ability to tour in the round”

“A whole host of people came together both here and in Spain to fix this situation and this shows what we can achieve when we work together.

“However, that is still only one small part of a very large problem affecting our ability to tour in the round. We are calling on the [UK] government to follow our lead and urgently work to fix the rules with the remaining member states so that we can continue to tour across the entirety of the European Union,” he concludes.

Mark Pemberton, director of Association of British Orchestras, adds: “The ABO is delighted the Spanish government has introduced a visa waiver for live performance.

“We have already heard from member orchestras that had had to go through the painful and expensive process of securing visas for their musicians these past months, and this will be welcome news for those orchestras with impending tours. It means we can continue to bring the best of British music-making to Spain.”

“Spain couldn’t afford another day being left behind in European touring routes”

Marta Pallares, from Spain’s marquee festival, Primavera Sound, comments: “This is, definitely, the best early Christmas present we could have had, and it’s great that it arrived before the bands which are meant to tour in 2022 spent any more money and energy on this nonsense.

“Spain couldn’t afford another day being left behind in European touring routes, and definitely British bands didn’t deserve losing one of their biggest markets especially after the pandemic hit. This agreement, which involved a joint effort from several ministries, is benefitting even more–for once– small and medium-sized bands, that’s the beauty of it.”

While today’s news represents a positive step towards the return of international touring, artists still face restrictions on touring in Spain such as a three-stop limit to UK touring vehicles before they have to return to home and a hugely expensive goods passport (a “carnet”), including a bond for instruments and equipment.

As a result of Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, European touring has become more expensive and more complicated for touring artists.

LIVE is continuing to lobby the government to work with individual EU nations to tackle the problem of visas and permits, prioritising the seven member states with the most urgent issues, such as Croatia.

 


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UK MPs announce inquiry into EU touring obstacles

The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG) has announced a cross-party inquiry into the barriers facing musicians touring the EU

The inquiry will focus on visas and work permits, carnets and CITES (instrument manufacturing materials), cabotage (transport issues), effect on the UK music industry, effect on emerging artists, and potential solutions.

MPs are keen to hear from those impacted ahead of the first evidence session later this month.

“This is a hugely welcome move by MPs from across the political divide who are as keen as we are to overcome the barriers facing musicians and crew touring the EU,” says UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

“The extra costs and red tape mean some artists are losing work and some tours, particularly those by emerging musicians, are not viable at the moment.

“We need urgent government action to break down the barriers facing musicians and crew including a transitional support package of financial aid and further steps to encourage exports.”

As part of its investigation, the group is calling for evidence on the impact the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – the UK/EU trade deal signed following the UK’s departure from the EU – has had on UK music workers and companies looking to tour and work short-term in EU member states.

Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away

UK musicians and performers can presently enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 20 of the bloc’s 27 nations, following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries.

The governments of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden have all confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours.

Still absent from the list, however, are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

The APPG has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to demand “urgent action” over the current deadlock, and is calling for a meeting to discuss ways of overcoming obstacles around visas and transport red tape. 

“Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away,” says APPG chair, Conservative MP David Warburton. “Our cross-party group has written to the prime minister to ask him to take urgent action to clear these visa and travel barriers that threaten the success of the UK music industry, particularly emerging artists.

“We need the government to ramp up negotiations with nations like Spain where costly visas are still in place and to look for swift solutions to both the visa and transport issues facing musicians and crew.”

The APPG has voiced its support for artist-led music industry campaign #LetTheMusicMove, which launched in June and is pushing for a reduction in the costs and red tape which will face UK musicians and businesses when touring mainland Europe.


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UK acts cancel Spanish dates: “Brexit is the next major threat to live music”

ATC Live has warned that Brexit is “the next major threat to live music” after two of the agency’s British acts were forced to pull out of Spain dates due to Brexit-related visa issues.

Earlier this year, 19 out of 27 EU member states reached an agreement with the UK government to award free work visas for 90 days, so that artists and their crew can travel freely during that period.

No such agreement was reached with major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Romania, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

For that reason, ATC-repped acts Squid and Black Country, New Road were each forced to pull out of several Spain dates on their respective European tours due to bureaucratic and financial hurdles.

“Not being able to play territories that are essential for growth is devastating for acts on the up and means a loss of earnings for everyone”

Sarah Joy, ATC Live, agent for Squid, tells IQ they worked hard with dedicated partners in Spain to “make every effort for the band to perform”.

“Unfortunately there were two major hurdles. Firstly, the cost of the visas makes mid-level venue touring untenable with a tour party of this size. Each member and crew would need a working visa and the costs stack up high against budgets.

“Secondly, the increased red tape including passports being submitted to embassies and long wait times for appointments made these dates completely unviable in the timescale.

“We hope with time that this process will be slim-lined and the costs reaccessed. Not being able to play territories that are essential for growth and reaching fans is devastating for artists on the up and means a loss of earnings for everyone involved. Now we are able to operate in the post-pandemic landscape, Brexit is the next major threat to live music.”

“We hope with time that this process will be slim-lined and the costs reaccessed”

Clemence Renaut, ATC Live, agent for Black Country New Road, adds: “We got clear information about the Spanish visa process and costs only recently, and the Spanish dates being right in the middle of the tour, it became too risky to try to get the visas on time, and too expensive for the band.

“It is a real shame for the band, the fans, the promoters and venues, as they were their first headline shows in Spain following their first album release this year, before coming back for Primavera in 2022. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem feasible to reschedule these shows in the near future because of other commitments, and also because we always try to tour Spain as part of a tour to avoid fly-ins. We all hope for an agreement to be reached very soon!”

Squid would have played in Barcelona (28 October), Madrid (29 October) and Vigo (30 October), while Black Country New Road were due to perform in San Sebastian (29 October), Madrid (30 October) and Barcelona (2 and 3 November).

Barcelona festival Primavera, which has booked both bands for its 2022 event, says that the cost of such cancellations due to visa issues could be “the final blow” for the Spanish market, which is still largely closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The lack of progress to solve this problem is leading us dangerously close to a point of no return”

“We are suffering the cancellation of tours that were already programmed and for which money had already been invested, whilst those tours which should now be closed for next year are still up in the air. In a very delicate climate due to the Covid crisis, with promoters who have been unable to programme for the last two years and bands unable to tour internationally for the same amount of time, these costs could the final blow for an industry on which technical teams, venues and festivals depend, as well as of course the artists from one of the countries with a huge presence on our stages.

“The lack of progress to solve this problem is leading us dangerously close to a point of no return. In the meantime, and respecting the “principle of reciprocity” which was promised by the EU, the Spanish artists and creators have indeed already been granted temporary UK visas for creative / artistic performances, free of charge. In short, if practically the whole European Union has been able to find a solution to this problem, we should be able to do the same in ours. And with the utmost urgency.”

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) previously said it is “actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring” has made formal approaches to them “to align their arrangements with the UK’s generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to three months without a visa”.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry,” says DCMS in a statement. “We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

 


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Touring now possible in 19/27 EU countries: DCMS

All but eight EU member states have confirmed that British artists will not need visas or work permits when European touring resumes, the UK government announced today (4 August).

Following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries, UK musicians and performers can enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 19 of the bloc’s 27 nations, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

British authorities said in January they were pursuing a bilateral solution after the UK and EU failed to reach an EU-wide agreement on the deadlock facing touring artists.

According to DCMS, the governments of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden have all confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours.

“We are actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring”

A DCMS spokesperson tells IQ the definition of a short-term tour varies from country to country, but is up to a maximum of three months. Full information, they add, will be available on each EU member state’s UK embassy website.

Absent from the list are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Romania, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria. The department says is “actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring” has made formal approaches to them “to align their arrangements with the UK’s generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to three months without a visa”.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry,” says DCMS in a statement. “We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

Today’s announcement follows a special parliamentary committee in June which saw lawmakers, industry professionals and stars such as Elton John slam the government over its failure to secure an exemption to post-Brexit freedom-of-movement rules for musicians.

Responding to the announcement from DCMS, a spokesperson for the #LetTheMusicMove campaign criticises the department’s “spin” and says the government must provide the music industry with a country-by-country breakdown of the exact requirements for touring artists.

“Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure”

“We continue to cooperate in good faith with government and officials on the critical issue of EU touring. However, the latest announcement is nothing more than we already knew,” they say. “It remains that the UK’s music industry is in a far less advantageous position now than it was pre-January.

“Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure: Failure to fulfil the promises made by government about securing our industry’s future during negotiations, failure to ‘fix’ the issue, as per the PM’s statement of March this year, and failure to provide certainty around touring in almost a third of EU countries, eight months after the music industry was dealt a no-deal scenario.

“We launched #LetTheMusicMove in June, which saw thousands of artists sign up to highlight the crisis that our industry finds itself in. Yet there has been no political representation in the meetings on the issues for months, let alone any signal that the government is ‘straining every sinew’ to help our £6bn sector.

“If there is a serious intention to fix the problems created by the government’s failure in negotiations, they must start by being honest with our sector and the public about the current status regarding EU touring. As a start, the government must publish full details on a country-by-country basis, outlining the exact requirements for touring performers and crew across all 27 member states.”

 


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#LetTheMusicMove: Top UK artists call for action on Brexit woes

Five years after the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016, today (23 June) sees the launch of a new artist-led music industry campaign, #LetTheMusicMove, pushing for a reduction in the costs and red tape which will face UK musicians and businesses when touring in mainland Europe resumes.

The campaign – which has the support of more than 200 artists, including Radiohead, Wolf Alice, Annie Lennox, Biffy Clyro, Idles, Skunk Anansie, Everything Everything, Editors, Mark Knopfler, Two Door Cinema Club, New Order, Rick Astley, Ghostpoet, Midge Ure, Glasvegas, Anna Meredith, Keane, the Chemical Brothers, Blur’s David Rowntree, Gilles Peterson, Jack Garratt, Bill Ryder-Jones Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason – is urging the British government to act now to mitigate new Brexit-related expenditure, restrictions and bureaucracy it says will make EU touring unviable.

The launch of #LetTheMusicMove comes as 50 British artists, all represented by WME, send a letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, requesting the government urgently engage with the EU and its member states to ease the burden of seeking permissions each time artists and their teams wish to perform in EU countries.

Earlier this month, Elton John wrote to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee outlining how post-Brexit restrictions on touring the EU are a “looming catastrophe” for the UK’s music sector, as industry experts warned touring will grind to a halt if an exemption isn’t secured for music hauliers.

Backed by a cross-section of the UK music industry, including the umbrella bodies LIVE and UK Music, #LetTheMusicMove is calling on the government to deliver four immediate actions to help avoid an impending crisis:

Artists are encouraged to sign up on the #LetTheMusicMove website and show their support for the campaign.

“We need action, we need support, we need access, and we need it now”

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, says: “We live in a world where music connects globally, and it is more vital than ever for British artists and musicians to tour internationally –and particularly so in the EU, our biggest overseas market.

“However, five years on from the referendum vote, what once seemed a far-off iceberg of red tape, costs and bureaucracy is now looming upon us. If the government fails to step up and deliver short-term support and a clear long-term plan, then the impact across our entire business will be catastrophic.”

In 2019, UK artists played almost four times as many shows across the EU than they did in North America.

“EU touring and the need to get the right processes in place for simple and economical access to Europe is crucial at this time more than ever,” say Skunk Anansie (pictured) in a statement. “It is the lifeblood of bands and artists, not just financially, but in order to expand their fanbase and deliver their art to a wider audience. EU touring also opens up the windows of touring on a global scale with surrounding countries and continents, with the knock-on effect of the impact that bands and artists have that tour there.

“We need action, we need support, we need access, and we need it now!”

“The UK’s music industry is a success story. It contributes enormously to the economy and provides the country with unparallelled soft power, yet we have been dealt a no-deal Brexit,” comments David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition. “Five years on from the referendum vote and six months after the deal was agreed, there has been scant progress from the government to protect the artist businesses that fuel the industry.

“Touring is essential; it provides opportunities to build audiences, access new markets and develop careers, and it is this activity that supports our recorded music sector. It is time for the government to fulfil the prime minister’s promises to “fix” the crisis facing Britain’s artists.”

 


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We risk losing a generation of talent to Brexit chaos

Reproduced with permission, below is the full statement that Sir Elton John asked Craig Stanley to read in today’s DCMS Committee session.

Last month Rocket Entertainment CEO David Furnish, Marshall Arts’ Craig Stanley, Lord Strasburger and I met with Lord Frost to spell out the damage the trade agreement he negotiated with Europe is doing to the UK’s music industry and to try to find practical solutions and ways forward.

Put bluntly, we are currently in grave danger of losing a generation of talent due to the gaping holes in the government’s trade deal. New and emerging artists will be unable to tour Europe freely – an essential part of their education and development – due to the prohibitive costs of visas, carnets and permits.

However despite this looming catastrophe, the government seems unable or unwilling to fix this gaping hole in their trade deal and defaults to blaming the EU rather than finding ways out of this mess. The situation is already critical and touring musicians, crews and support staff are already losing their livelihood.

I want to be clear that the issues of visa-free and permit-free touring aren’t about the impact on me and artists who tour arenas and stadiums. We are lucky enough to have the support staff, finance and infrastructure to cut through the red tape that Lord Frost’s no-deal has created. This gravest of situations is about the damage to the next generation of musicians and emerging artists, whose careers will stall before they’ve even started due to this infuriating blame game.

If I had faced the financial and logistical obstacles facing young musicians now when I started out, I doubt I’d be where I am today

If I had faced the financial and logistical obstacles facing young musicians now when I started out, I’d never have had the opportunity to build the foundations of my career, and I very much doubt I’d be where I am today.

During our meeting Lord Frost said trying to solve this issue is a long process. Unfortunately our industry doesn’t have time. It is dying now. The government have broken the promise they outlined in 2020 to protect musicians and other creative industries from the impact of Brexit on tours to Europe. They now need to find solutions in both the short and long term to ensure the UK music industry continues to thrive.

Due to the halt that Covid-19 has imposed on touring, we have a window of opportunity.

I call on the government to sort this mess out, or we risk losing future generations of world-beating talent. This is about whether one of the UK’s most successful industries, worth £111bn a year, is allowed to prosper and contribute hugely to both our cultural and economic wealth – or crash and burn.

 


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UK govt savaged in parliament over Brexit ‘no deal’ for music

Industry professionals and members of parliament tore into the British government this afternoon (10 June) over failings in the Brexit deal that will lead to barriers to touring when live music restarts.

As detailed in the latest IQ Magazine, many UK firms have been forced to relocate to the continent to get around post-Brexit restrictions on the movement of goods, with experts warning that starting European tours in the UK is no longer possible under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – while UK artists are concerned about the lack of provision for visa-free travel under the TCA, and that promised bilateral deals with individual EU nations have failed to appear.

Much of the blame for the lack of progress was directed towards Brexit negotiator-turned-government minister David Frost, who no-showed today’s event, a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee oral evidence session featuring contributions from Marshall Arts’ Craig Stanley, the head of the LIVE Touring group, and Noel McClean from performing arts union Bectu.

Stanley opened with a statement he had been asked to read by Elton John, which is reproduced in full here. In it, Sir Elton says the music industry is facing a “looming catastrophe” which the government “seems unable or unwilling to fix”. “The situation is already critical and touring musicians, crews and support staff are already losing their livelihood,” he adds.

“The government either doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care”

McClean said Lord Frost’s no-show had to be viewed “in the round, with everything else that has been promised and has not happened over the course of the months since the TCA was agreed. Various ministers have promised that they’re working very hard, the prime minister has said that he’s working flat out to fix this issue… We’ve had these repeated promises that they are working on it and we will see the results very, very soon. [So Frost’s non-appearance] just adds to the reasonable feeling our members have that the government either doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care.”

Committee chair Julian Knight observed that while the TCA avoided a no-deal UK exit from the EU, the industries represented in the session had effectively “enjoyed a no-deal Brexit – there’s been a deal, but the service sector, and the movement of people, has been left out of that deal.”

Stanley described how the issues presented by the TCA go far beyond the artist, affecting a supply chain of thousands of people. “So often the question is framed as ‘how will this affect musicians?’” he said, “but I’m equally concerned about all the behind-the-scenes stuff. For every musician on stage, there are ten, 20, 50, even 100 people who have got him or her there.”

On the artist side, “There is a whole brain drain of emerging talent going away from the industry which will not have the ability to grow and nurture,” he added. “People said that the Beatles had to go to Hamburg to become a band, and that’s still true today.”

“There’s no getting around it. No trucks means no tours”

Stanley said that despite the government’s insistence, there is “no evidence” it is actively pursuing bilateral agreements outside the TCA. “Two of my colleagues actually attended the Spanish consulate this morning to talk about the issues particularly with Spain. The gentleman they saw there acknowledged there had been some conversation, but not in any detail,” he explained. “So we’re very sad that after five months there’s been no progress made on a bilateral basis to do with work arrangements or cabotage.”

Asked by Alex Davies-Jones MP if there are any solutions to either of the issues that are entirely the UK government’s gift to give, Stanley said concert hauliers could be given an ‘easement’ on their current limit of three stops in Europe of the kind currently enjoyed by car transporters, who are able to deliver cars to multiple dealerships.“We believe that it’s entirely the secretary of state [Frost’s] gift to do that,” he explained. “And we cannot understand why he has not.”

“The solution to the problem is to go back and get a cultural exemption for the movement of trucks, otherwise touring will stop,” Stanley added. “I wouldn’t want Lord Frost to be remembered as the person who killed international touring for live music, but that is what he is facing at the moment. There’s no getting around it. No trucks means no tours.”

The full evidence session can be watched back on demand at Parliamentlive.tv.

 


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The New Europeans: Live music’s Brexit exiles

When the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Christmas Eve 2020 that the UK had signed a free trade agreement, the TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement), with the European Union, there was a collective sigh of relief across much of Britain. Four and a half tortuous years after the Brexit vote, the UK was finally out, and people on both sides of the new border could finally get on with their lives.

Well, sort of. That is, of course, unless you work in concert touring, in which case new requirements for visas (for people) and carnets (for goods) – as well as restrictions on cabotage (ie the right to transport goods and people within the EU and/or UK’s borders) for trucking companies – represented a less than ideal outcome for an industry built on decades of free movement across Europe.

In response, many UK-based firms, particularly hauliers affected by the new limits on cabotage in the European Union, are investing considerable sums to open new depots in mainland Europe or the Republic of Ireland.

In contrast to these ‘new Europeans’, many in the touring sector were “sleepwalking towards Brexit day,” according to Robert Hewett, founder and director of Stagetruck. “They were just completely indifferent to it,” he says, “thinking that we’d all just carry on as it was before. I would be saying to people, ‘Look, I don’t think you should assume that. This is how we make a living; it’s our livelihood…’”

However, with all touring still on hold because of the coronavirus, the impact of the TCA’s more restrictive provisions, particularly on cabotage, has yet to be felt fully, Hewett continues. “What happened with the pandemic when it hit is that it masked it [the Brexit question] for at least the next 12 months,” he says.

According to Stuart McPherson, managing director of KB Event, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – repeatedly rejected as the worst possible outcome by most live music industry associations and professionals – would have been a better option for hauliers than the TCA signed by Johnson’s government and their counterparts in the EU.

“Bizarrely, for us that would have been a better outcome than the one we have,” he explains. “For rock’n’roll touring companies there was an exemption in place, from back in 1996, that allowed entertainment transport to move freely throughout the EU. That protocol was overwritten by the TCA, which came into law with the Brexit agreement and overrode the previous exemption we had under the ECMT [European Conference of Ministers of Transport] protocols. So for us, this is the worst possible outcome.”

A ‘no-deal’ Brexit  would have been a better option for hauliers than the Trade and Cooperation Agreement

When the TCA was reached and the Brexit deal done, what we were left with was something that said we can no longer tour in Europe,” McPherson continues, “and so the only solution for that – as it sits right now and for the foreseeable future – is for us to open up a full European operating centre with a European operator’s licence, which gives us more freedom in terms of cabotage and interstate movements in Europe.”

As a result of that outcome, all the major UK-headquartered concert trucking and transport companies, which also include Stagetruck and Transam/EST (Edwin Shirley Trucking), are now based at least partially in the EU, or are considering a move, with offices in places like the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland serving as all-important hubs for continental operations.

Under the current rules, Transam/EST will have to make a choice: “Either to become Dutch or Irish, or a bit of both, or to stay in the UK – but I can’t see the latter happening,” says senior manager Ollie Kite. “We’re going to have to re-register all our trucks, or a lot of them, into the EU, and that costs money. So we want to be able to be ready to do that, but we’re delaying it as long as possible. Because until work starts to return, we’re a bit strapped for cash…”

McPherson estimates that the cost to KB Event to set up an office in Ireland – including the operations centre with parking for 60 trucks, an EU operator’s licence, and duplicate fleet insurance – is already up to £500,000 (€578,000), with European CPCs (certificates of professional competence) for KB’s drivers set to cost a further £100,000 (€116,000) – a considerable outlay for a sector that has had little revenue since March 2020.

Stagetruck, which already had an office near Veghel in the Netherlands, is similarly facing a bill of between £100,000 and £110,000 to send its drivers to the Irish republic to do an EU-certified driver CPC course, says Hewett.

“All the European countries, at this moment, are standing together and saying, ‘No, unless you come and take a driving test [in an EU member state] you cannot drive a European-registered truck,’” he comments. “That is the nightmare that we’re all facing at the moment.”

Kite says Transam/EST is also looking toward Ireland, to minimise the language barrier for the company’s UK drivers. “The nonsense of it is,” he adds, “is that they already know what they’re going to be taught, as the course and the exams are exactly the same as in England – just that you have to take them in Ireland or somewhere in the EU instead. Nothing’s actually changed.”

Currently, explains Kite, the UK allows EU drivers to drive British-registered trucks on an EU licence, “although they’re hinting that they won’t let that continue” should it not be reciprocated from the other side.

All the major UK-headquartered concert trucking and transport companies are now based at least partially in the EU, or are considering a move

Keep on truckin’
As Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts, who is the chair of the UK’s LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) Touring group, told IQ earlier this year, the cabotage issue – the lack of an exemption for concert hauliers under the TCA – is by far the biggest problem facing hauliers who haven’t already made the jump across the English Channel or Irish Sea. “Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease,” he said. “The biggest impact of the cabotage regulations is that non-EU-based haulage companies will only be allowed to have a load going into the EU and then two further movements before having to turn back to their place of registration. So, as it stands, to undertake EU tours it will be necessary to have EU-registered hauliers.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), the UK trade association for haulage and logistics operators, has called on Boris Johnson to secure an exemption, or ‘easement,’ from the current rules for UK-based entertainment hauliers to enable them to continue touring Europe. “If the UK events haulage industry is to have any chance of survival it needs an EU-wide easement so that trucks moving touring equipment can continue to make multiple stops across Europe,” says RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.

Unfortunately, on the British side at least, there remain fundamental misunderstandings about the role of concert hauliers and their needs in the post-Brexit landscape, says Kite. “We’ve been lobbying for change, we’re talking to the Department for Transport, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but they don’t really understand. They think it’s just going from A to B, dropping off a kit and then picking it up again. We’re struggling with trying to get them to understand that under the TCA we simply can’t tour like we used to.

“We’re inching forward – whereas before, under other rules, cultural tours and events were exempt from the cabotage rule.”

“There is a lack of understanding in government about transport,” agrees Hewett, “even more than the lack of understanding about the music industry. Every headline you ever saw was about fishing, but if you compare what the music industry brings in – what it brings to every local economy when a big band arrives – it’s a massive injection of income into local areas, and they seem to have bypassed it completely. It’s amazing.”

“There is a lack of understanding in government about transport – even more than the lack of understanding about the music industry”

Teething problems
It’s not just hauliers who have been forced to set up costly EU offices to continue trading after Brexit. London-based World Touring Exhibitions, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has been forced to slim down its UK office and set up shop in Rotterdam – a reflection of visa considerations and the other expensive barriers against both UK–EU and inter-EU travel for a non-EU company, founder Corrado Canonici tells IQ.

“It’s a shame, but it is necessary, as we can’t really bring UK people [to Europe] at the touch of a button, like we could before,” he says. “For example, we are about to open an exhibition in Germany – I can’t get my crew there unless I get them all visas, which would have taken an enormous amount of time and money, which makes no sense when you only need them to work five days. What sense does it make to get them a 30-day visa?”

For exhibitions coming into the EU, “we have to do all kinds of paperwork – ATA carnets, rule-of-origin papers – in addition to visas for the crew,” Canonici continues, “so we just thought, ‘How about we continue to be part of [the EU]?’ Europe is 27 countries and the UK is one. So [by opening an EU office] we have 27 countries that we can serve and tour without any problems.”

From a freedom of movement perspective, the political climate in the UK would never have allowed for permit-free travel between the UK and Europe, suggests Andy Corrigan of Viva La Visa. “Anything regarding immigration would have needed a degree of reciprocity: that if we [the UK] were saying we are going to have visa- free travel, the EU would have said, ‘Well, we want it to the UK,’ and the UK – the Home Office and Boris Johnson – would have said, ‘No way.’ Anything regarding Brexit that would have led to increased immigration into the UK, they’d have said no, because of how that would play out in the Daily Mail: ‘That’s not what we voted for…’”

While Corrigan believes the problems surrounding other aspects of post-Brexit touring “are soluble, it’s going to take a bit of time to make everything run smoothly. And anecdotally, things are not terribly well organised at the moment. We had a sound company went out [to the EU] on a carnet last week. I had to get them the emergency car and the two-hour special service, and they got to Folkestone and the guy there refused to stamp it. I don’t know why – he just said he couldn’t do it and moved them on. So they got to France and, because it was Ascension Day, customs was closed. There was nobody there.

“It’s one thing saying you need a carnet to take your goods over. But the actual practicalities of it – the system and the infrastructure – are not all together yet. And I think you will get more random decisions being made by border people asking for the wrong things and discriminating and asking for stuff they shouldn’t, and the same coming into the UK. Hopefully, it will smooth itself out.”

World Touring Exhibitions’ new reality was illustrated recently as the company prepared to put the aforementioned exhibition into Cologne. Canonici recalls: “All of a sudden we found out that if we were using a British company, it would have been a problem. We were told, ‘You can’t do that without a big, big cost.’ So, we used a Dutch company instead and immediately the shipper told us, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ We literally just signed one piece of paper and that was it.”

“When the pressure is coming from the other side of the Channel, that’s when things will change”

‘Make it work’
Despite this exodus of profitable business out of the UK, McPherson is of the opinion that there is little appetite on the British side for renegotiating the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, even on a bilateral basis (between the UK and individual EU member countries). “At the moment, it’s being made very clear that there is going to be no reengagement or renegotiating on the TCA,” he says. “To read into that, the message is: this is what you’ve got, and you’ve got to find a way to make it work.”

While KB Event and companies like it have already spent hundreds of thousands of euros on doing just that, McPherson remains concerned about what he sees as a fundamental lack of haulage capacity for tours in the pipeline – particularly given the number of shows that have been postponed to 2022 and beyond because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“When we get to 2022 and there are not enough trucks in the EU to be able to cover the tours, you’re going to have European promoters saying they cannot deliver their tours as they have no way of moving them because 85% of trucks for touring come out of the UK.”

Hewett emphasises the importance of also keeping the pressure on the government in the UK, warning that the entertainment haulage sector – especially those smaller British outfits that couldn’t afford to become ‘new Europeans’ – is facing wipe-out under current cabotage regulations. “We really need a concerted effort now, with the press, the music industry and everyone to come on board and push this issue because it could decimate this industry,” he says.

For Corrigan, there’s “too much at stake, economically and artistically,” for the UK and EU not to get back around the negotiating table to resolve the outstanding issues facing performers, crew and hauliers. “It’s going to happen. In the past, things have been overcome,” he says. “We used to tour Europe with carnets at every border, which was a nightmare. But today’s major touring is a much more business-like activity than it was 30 years ago, and think how much it would upset the accountants if the lighting truck didn’t make it to a gig because it got stuck at the Belgian border for 12 hours…”

In a scenario like the one mentioned, where promoters cannot deliver shows for which fans have bought tickets (and in many cases held onto them for a year or longer), “that’s when the pressure is going to change,” says McPherson, “from the UK trucking company shouting about the fact we can’t do what we do for a living anymore, to promoters in the EU shouting at their country’s government, saying, ‘You guys need to do something here. We can’t move our tours. Our revenue streams have dried up for us, and for our nation.’

“At that point, when the pressure is coming from the other side of the Channel, that’s when things will change.”

 


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LIVE lobbies government for Brexit support package

LIVE, the new body serving as the collective voice of the UK live music business, is lobbying for a transitional support package to help the industry overcome the challenges presented by Brexit. 

For the last couple of months, the live industry has been reckoning with bureaucratic visa arrangements for EU tours, after the cultural sector was excluded from the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement.

Prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday (24 March) pledged to fix the work permits crisis facing touring musicians, on top of creating a UK Cultural Export Office to provide support with Brexit-related issues across the creative industries.

LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) has welcomed the government’s proposal for a UK Cultural Export Office but says the industry needs urgent sector-specific support in the meantime.

The trade body is calling for a Transitional Support Package (TSP) to safeguard the future of the live music industry until the proposed UK Cultural Export Office is operational.

“After a devastating year, it’s essential that we are not now shut out from our most important international market”

According to LIVE, the Live Music Transitional Support Package (TSP) would:
• Offer a quick solution for the government to mitigate the catastrophic disruption to the live music sector caused by Brexit.
• Establish a working partnership between the government and the live music sector until the planned UK Cultural Export Office is operational.
• Prioritise emerging talent and those likely to be hardest hit by the new regulations.
• Provide support for all those on stage and everyone involved behind the scenes.

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, says: “European tours are absolutely fundamental to the success of the UK live music industry. After a devastating year, it’s essential that we are not now shut out from our most important international market. LIVE is calling for a Transitional Support Package to provide the industry with the support it needs at this crucial time.”

Craig Stanley, Chair of LIVE Touring, the group tasked with the industry’s response to Brexit, says: “LIVE’s Transitional Support Package is designed to provide government with a clear template of measures that we urgently need to safeguard the UK live music industry, particularly the new and emerging talent most likely to be hardest hit by the new regulations. We are actively involved in conversations with the government about the TSP and we are pleased that they have recognised the importance of supporting the industry through this transition.”

For more information on the TSP, visit LIVE’s website here.

 


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