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:
- An urgent transitional support package to cover new and additional costs for touring artists and crews in the
- EU measures to overcome restrictive cabotage rules on UK vehicles touring Europe
- A viable long-term plan for UK artists and crew to continue working in all EU countries, without costly permits and bureaucracy
- Ensure European artists have reciprocal freedoms and access to perform at UK venues and festivals
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.
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”
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.”
Read this feature in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 100:
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.
UK stars weigh in as visa petition reaches parliament
Colin Greenwood, bassist for Radiohead, has become the latest high-profile British artist to make the case for free movement for musicians in Europe, arguing in an article in the Guardian today that the UK government must act to eliminate red tape on touring.
The piece, titled ‘European touring made Radiohead the band we are. Brexit must not destroy it’, follows a similarly critical piece by Sir Elton John in the same paper on Sunday (7 February) – in which John contrasts his early career, playing Hamburg and Paris and touring Europe, with the “visas, work permits and equipment carnets” which could now be required by emerging British artists.
The Guardian op-eds – along with a new campaign, Carry on Touring, which also launches today – are the latest twist in the ongoing saga over musicians’ access to continental Europe post-Brexit, which has seen the UK and EU blame each other for the lack of a dedicated arrangement for touring artists following Britain’s exit from the bloc last month.
Spearheaded by Gill Morris of DevoConnect, with help from Ian Smith of Frusion and UKE Arts Work, Carry on Touring aims to force the British government back to the negotiating table to secure EU-wide free movement for touring artists and professionals. The campaign is supporting a petition for visa-free travel by freelancer Tim Brennan, which will be debated in parliament today after reaching nearly 300,000 signatures.
The parliamentary session takes place between 16.30 and 18.30 GMT and can be watched live at Parliamentlive.tv.
“Freelancers and touring professionals desperately need MPs and the government to fight our corner”
“Support for my petition has been phenomenal,” says Brennan, whose petition has won the support of a number of members of parliament, as well as Horace Trubridge of the Musicians’ Union, Parklife’s Sacha Lord and artists Fish (Marillion) and Eliza Carthy. “Freelancers and touring professionals like myself desperately need MPs and the government to fight our corner and renegotiate the current Brexit deal for this industry.
“This is an issue that has a huge impact on my life and my ability to earn and pay tax through my work in an industry that brings pleasure to millions of people.”
Following today’s parliamentary hearing, Carry on Touring will send a letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to seek an amendment or exemption for touring artists.
At press time, there are at least 14 European countries – including major markets like France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland – where free, short-term entry is guaranteed for touring musicians and their crew, according to a new guide published by umbrella body LIVE. Only Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Croatia definitively require a work or temporary stay visa for UK artists.
EU cabotage rules threaten post-Covid-19 touring
Major touring productions will no longer be able to draw on the expertise of British-based hauliers under the terms of the current Brexit deal, industry experts have warned.
As IQ reported on new year’s eve, the day before the deal came into effect, the days of tours of starting in the UK and continuing on to an effectively unlimited number of dates in continental Europe have come to an end – with ‘cabotage’ rules in the new EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement limiting UK trucks over 3.5 tonnes to just three stops in the EU’s internal market.
“Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease,” confirms promoter Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts, who is the chair of the LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) Touring group. “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 only way that these concert hauliers can actually continue to provide this service is by setting up European operations,” echoes Richard Burnett, CEO of the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA). “So that means a European business, and a European operation centre that costs a lot of money.
“Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease”
“Bearing in mind we’ve had the worst year, from a concert perspective, because of the Covid impact, so these hauliers haven’t got any money. They’re struggling enormously. And these are the trusted hauliers that have done this for years and years – the guys that have been around for the best part of 20, 30, 40 years. So this is a massive, massive issue.”
Under the principle of reciprocity, even if UK hauliers which can afford to do so do open an EU office, the same rules apply in the other direction – with those newly EU-registered trucks having the same issue should they be needed back in the UK, explains Stanley.
With the UK occupying a central position in the “vast majority” of international tours, restrictive cabotage regulations risk the “erosion of our position” as a leader in live music production, says Andy Lenthall, GM of the Production Services Association (PSA).
“The whole UK position as a leader in production, and place to start EU tours, has been built on freedom of movement,” he explains. “There’s no going back to the old ways – because the ‘new way’ still exists [among the EU’s remaining 27 members] – but we do need some urgency on this, and the route to a solution.”
Complicating the issue is the fact that, because most hauliers are based in the UK, the majority of drivers are British, or at least UK-based. This means, at present, there simply aren’t enough drivers on the continent to service the major concert tours alone, says Stanley.
“The whole UK position as a leader in production, and place to start EU tours, has been built on freedom of movement”
For those who can’t afford to acquire fleet of EU-registered trucks, the only other solution would be for hauliers to return to the UK after having completed their maximum number of drops, says Burnett. “Could you imagine a concert tour packing up and coming back to the UK, and then going back out? It would be ridiculous,” he adds.
In spite of the ongoing uncertainty, both Stanley and Lenthall are confident the issue can be resolved, ideally before touring restarts post-Covid-19, with the former saying the British government has been supportive +and understanding of the issues so far.
“Clarity is the key,” says Stanley. “Where we’ve enjoyed unfettered access to the EU – that will end. But what we do need to do is ensure we get some kind of cultural exemption.”
LIVE (of which the PSA is a member) and the RHA are both lobbying the British government to intervene to protect the industry by ensuring large-scale tours will be able to continue to start in the UK.
Stanley is also calling on promoters and other professionals on the continent to make their elected representatives aware of the problem in order to also push for a solution from the EU side. “The only people who can help us with this are our colleagues in the EU,” Stanley continues. “Their support is what’s needed – we need them to realise it’s a problem, as ultimately it’s going to be down to the ministers of transport in, for example, of Germany or France, to help get this sorted.”
The new cabotage rules, alongside the impact of the reintroduction of ATA Carnets, will be discussed during the panel Trucking Hell! Is it really that bad? at this year’s ILMC Production Meeting on Tuesday 2 March.
Visas: Brexit war of words heats up
The European Union has hit back at claims by the British government it rejected the latter’s proposals for visa-free travel for touring artists, escalating the public war of words over the issue between the bloc and its recently departed former member state.
In response to a report in the Independent which claimed UK negotiators had knocked back an offer from the EU for visa-free touring, a UK government spokesperson told IQ earlier this week it was actually the EU which insisted on travel restrictions for musicians – saying Britain has supported, and will always support, “ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe”.
Elaborating in an interview with the NME on Wednesday (13 January), UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden explained that the UK sought a “mutually beneficial agreement” that would have included musicians, artists, entertainers and crew in a class of “business visitors” exempt from needing work visas.
“But the EU turned it down, repeatedly,” said Dowden. “It did not propose and wouldn’t accept a tailored deal for musicians and artists. I’m afraid it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us.”
The EU, however, disputes Dowden’s version of events, claiming that the UK rejected special travel rights for artists and musicians prosed by EU negotiators.
“I very much regretted the fact that when it comes to mobility between the two sides that the British didn’t display any greater ambition”
Speaking to the FT, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “I very much regretted the fact that when it comes to mobility between the two sides that the British didn’t display any greater ambition. We had a number of initial proposals on this.”
It has been suggested that the EU’s reported offer of a 90-day visa-free period every 180 days – which would have effectively allowed a three-month European tour by British musicians – conflicted with the British government’s goal of ending freedom of movement between the UK and the EU and immigration reforms under home secretary Priti Patel.
Music industry associations have repeatedly called for clarity around European touring before live music restarts following a successful continent-wide vaccine programme, with umbrella body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) urging both sides to “work quickly to ensure that once Covid restrictions are lifted, UK artists are able to work across the EU with the same freedom that has been secured for people doing other business activity”.
British prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed he will meet with MPs to discuss a way forward for the sector. “I know that our friends in the EU will be wanting to go further to improve things, for not just musicians, but business travellers of all kinds,” he said in the House of Commons on Wednesday. “There is a mutual benefit.”
Responding to a petition calling for a visa-free zone for touring artists, the UK government reiterated that “there is scope to return to this issue in the future should the EU change its mind”.
Neil Warnock: “It’s time to get entrepreneurial”
UTA’s global head of touring, Neil Warnock, has predicted that the demand for live entertainment when the threat of Covid-19 starts to subside “will be like opening a floodgate”, but says the industry needs to be entrepreneurial about how concerts can return.
“People will definitely want to be entertained, they will want to go and see some music and I think [live entertainment] is going to have a boom time,” Warnock told ILMC head Greg Parmley during his Eurosonic Noorderslag keynote ‘What is the Future of Live?’.
“But if we can’t go and see music the way that we hope to see it, maybe we can provide it in a different way? Let’s be entrepreneurial and think about how we can actually bring everybody together. We’ve got an audience and we’ve got artists so how we are going to actually make it work in a safe environment, in a way that maybe we weren’t looking at before?” he said.
However, the UTA chief is optimistic that the pandemic – and the subsequent shakeup in the agency landscape – has given the industry the fresh sense of entrepreneurship that is needed.
“We’re seeing seeing some very interesting developments, as we always do in these circumstances, where agents have left the major agencies to set up their own shop and, to me, that’s very exciting because I think [those agents] are the new entrepreneurs of the future,” he said.
“I think what’s going to come out of this is very refreshing because it’s shaken up the industry. It’s all made us think of what we’re going to do and I think in the next couple of years we’re going to see some exciting stuff happening. I think the strong will get stronger, the entrepreneurs will make money, and the people we lose, we should probably have lost anyway.”
“Nationally, we should be looking at our own artists that don’t have to leave the country and how best we utilise their time”
Warnock said that one way agents could be enterprising in the current climate is to come up with innovative ways to utilise and develop their domestic roster, until international touring can properly resume.
“Nationally, we should be looking at our own artists that don’t have to leave the country and how best we utilise their time and how best we put bills and events together within the UK. And so we’re providing entertainment with local talent as much as we can and developing or redeveloping some of the talent that maybe hasn’t been out to a number of cities or towns in many years.
“For example, if you have an artist that has done 10 arenas, there’s nothing stopping them doing 50 theatres. Also, there’s a lot of smaller open-air events that one could look at and say ‘how can we successfully promote that?’. I think it’s just about entrepreneurship and thinking on the ground about how best we’re going to do this.”
While Warnock says the return of European touring will rely on both the safety and economic viability of shows, he’s hopeful about organising tours in Australasia in the not-too-distant future, where many countries have got the virus under control and are embracing a return to live.
“I can see artists flying independently and doing a Japanese tour, once they’ve got the situation under control, and maybe playing Singapore and Hong Kong if they are safe. Same, if Australia and New Zealand begin to open up, but they can be toured seperately or South America,” he said.
“Nationally, we should be looking at our own artists that don’t have to leave the country and how best we utilise their time”
As for Brexit, Warnock believes that the UK will find a practical solution for touring because it has to, but until then “we become third country status”.
“If you look at that as a definition of where the UK is in the world, that then gives you an idea of what can happen in terms of work permits, and how we actually work with our partner countries across across Europe. So we’ll be treated in the same way as the US, or Australia or Canada going into Europe.”
During the keynote, Warnock also addressed the snowballing popularity of livestreaming and says he believes it’s going to be a component of the live experience going forward.
“I don’t see it going away. Some are saying if you’ve got an artist that can generally sell 15,000–20,000 tickets in London, why not put them in the Albert Hall and sell 5,000 concert tickets and 15,000 livestream tickets,” he said.
“My view is, fine, I would much rather keep the live component going and play to all of those 20,000 people but I think this is going to depend on the artist and what they want to do with their time and their lives.
“Not every streaming show has been an unbelievable success, the big ones where there’s been good investment have proved to do well. But even then, it’s not guaranteed that a streaming show is going to do which is the same with live.”
Eurosonic Noorderslag concludes today.