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.
Rock-it Cargo and Sound Moves join forces
Rock-it Cargo and Sound Moves, two of the leading providers of logistics to the global live touring industry, are coming together under a single corporate entity, Rock-it Global.
The US-based Rock-it Cargo and UK-based Sound Moves are both subsidiaries of Rock-it Cargo USA, backed by ATL Partners, which remains the sole private equity partner and the majority shareholder.
Rock-it Global will merge the office and vendor networks of both subsidiaries to offer a combined seven decades’ worth of expertise. The company plans to unveil new branding and a newly assembled leadership team in the spring.
“It’s time to get excited about the future, come together and be the best we can be, jump on all the pent-up energy and optimism of a new year, successful vaccines and the shared will of our client base to get back to business. Let’s get this show on the road,” says Duane Wood, president and CEO, Sound Moves.
Paul Martins, Rock-it Cargo, CEO and president, says: “This coming together is something long in the making. We devoted significant time and effort to bring this to fruition. “I’m also extremely pleased that Duane Wood, founder and CEO of Sound Moves is joining the executive team as chief strategy officer. His experience leading Sound Moves will be a remarkable asset to the new combined company as well as the entire group of companies under our umbrella.”
“When you’ve got the best operators in the world functioning in two different silos, you need to bring that power together”
“Same people, same phone numbers, same email addresses, same great experiences, it makes sense,” Martins continues. “When you’ve got the best operators in the world functioning in two different silos, you need to bring that power together to create an unbeatable organization that can provide tailored solutions for critical projects anywhere in the world, delivering for our customers the ultimate peace of mind.”
David Bernstein, non-executive chairman of the board of Rock-it Cargo Holdings, says: “We’ve reorganised Rock-it in a way that we believe will provide for the best customer experience and expertise available in global entertainment logistics.”
“The time our people have been off the road has allowed us to internally assess our strengths and ask how we could be stronger and more prepared when our clients signalled it would be time to get back out. This move positions us for what lies ahead.”
Sound Moves recently spoke to IQ about post-Brexit changes on the carnet system within Europe. Read the feature here.
The impact of the reintroduction of ATA Carnets, alongside new cabotage rules, will be discussed during the panel Trucking Hell! Is it really that bad? at this year’s ILMC Production Meeting on Tuesday 2 March.
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.