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How is the industry grappling with artist boycotts?

The last couple of months have seen artist boycotts ripple through the showcase festival season, with hundreds of acts pulling out of SXSW in Austin, and others from new music showcase festival The Great Escape (TGE) due to their sponsors’ ties to Israel.

More than 100 speakers and acts pulled out of March’s SXSW in protest of the Texas event’s sponsorship by the US Army and its support for Israel during the Gaza war. A similar number of acts were reported to have dropped out of the UK’s TGE due to its sponsorship by Barclays and its ties to Israel.

Now, attention is turning to other events, with campaign group Bands Boycott Barclays listing Isle of Wight and Latitude festivals – both of which are presented by Barclaycard – and Download as their “next festival targets”.

Last week, Pillow Queens became the first act to boycott this year’s Latitude. Posting on social media, the Irish rock band said: “As a band, we believe that artistic spaces should be able to exist without being funded by morally corrupt investors.”

A handful of acts that boycotted TGE – Picture Parlour, King Alessi, Nieve Ella, Mui Zyu – are also billed to perform at Latitude Festival. IQ reached out to the acts but none have commented.

“The impacts are going to be different for each and every artist, depending on their circumstances”

Like other acts before them, Pillow Queens referenced a May 2024 report by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) which details Barclay’s financial ties to companies producing weapons and military technology used in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians.

In response to the boycotts, Barclays have repeatedly pointed to their online Q&A which states: “We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do. We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of Music Managers Forum (MMF) says it is not straightforward for an artist to pull out of a festival. “The impacts are going to be different for each and every artist, depending on their circumstances, she says. “With SXSW, there may have been funding agreements and contractual obligations to consider. There’s also the cost of getting to Austin and visas, which for an upcoming act can be considerable.”

Northern Irish artist Conchúr White, who boycotted SXSW, revealed that he “accepted a significant amount of money from PRS [for Music]” to perform at the festival.

“The financial implications for me, however, pale in comparison to the tragedies occurring in Gaza,” he continued. “I don’t want to align myself with weapon manufacturers.”
White added he will “try to be more mindful moving forward”.

“We would caution against people pressuring and making assumptions about the views of others”

Belfast band Kneecap also canceled their sets at SXSW “in solidarity with the people of Palestine” even though pulling out “would have a significant financial impact on the band”. But they said it wasn’t comparable to the “unimaginable suffering” in Gaza.

While there are a number of possible ramifications for bands boycotting festivals, artists choosing to stay on festival bills are also facing difficulties.

“There’s a lot of pressure coming from social media,” says Coldrick. “Plus you’ve got fans who may have paid to see you. Not every artist is political or feels confident enough or informed enough to express an opinion about what might be a complex global issue. Alternatively, artists may decide to play and use their platform to express their views in other ways.”

David Martin, CEO at Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), seconds that point, adding: “Music is an artistic expression, a vehicle through which to challenge political, social and financial structures. We support each artist’s freedom to take decisions about using their platform. It is up to individual artists to decide how they choose to demonstrate their views. The circumstances of such decisions will vary from artist to artist and show to show, and only those involved will be in a position to judge the best course of action. We would caution against people pressuring and making assumptions about the views of others.”

Pressure has also been directed towards the festivals to cut ties with sponsors linked to Israel. Massive Attack, Idles and Eno were among dozens of artists who were not booked to play at TGE but signed an open letter launched in April calling for it to drop Barclays as a partner.

The letter said the artists were “drawing inspiration” from Artists Against Apartheid. “A Barclays boycott was a key part of ending apartheid in South Africa, after thousands of people closed their accounts with Barclays to pressure them to withdraw investments from South Africa,” it reads.

“We are now looking closely at a festival’s sponsors in advance of confirming any appearance”

It’s yet to be seen how upcoming Barclays-sponsored festivals, which include the UK’s Camp Bestival and Summertime Ball, will respond to – or be impacted by – artists’ political interest in the Gaza-Israel war. Isle of Wight Festival declined to comment for this IQ story and Latitude Festival did not respond.

Denmark’s ENGAGE Festival is a recent example of an event that has dropped its sponsor amid controversy. The Copenhagen festival, organised by the Veterans Foundation, has asked its defence industry partners to withdraw as a sponsor following criticism and confusion from some.

“Some cannot distinguish between Danish veterans and current international conflicts,” a spokesperson for the festival said. “The Veterans Foundation does not support war and will never take a stance on international conflicts that does not align with the Danish government. We do not collaborate with organisations or companies that oppose this.”

Pressure on festivals to remove controversial sponsors is not limited to music; Hay literary festival last week dropped its principal sponsor – investment firm Baillie Gifford – after boycotts from speakers and performers over the firm’s links to Israel and fossil fuel companies.

Whether festivals change tact with sponsorships or not, one agent suggested to IQ that the recent furore may prompt more caution with booking.

“We support our artists in whatever choice they make,” they told IQ. “But we are now looking closely at a festival’s sponsors in advance of confirming any appearance.”

MMF’s Coldrick says such vigilance is business as usual in the record industry: “Clearly, if any artist is passionate about a particular cause or issue and that might have implications on the shows they play, then they need to make this known to their manager and agent. Those kinds of conversations are quite standard when it comes to sync or brand deals. Going forward, maybe they need to be standard in live music too.”

 


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CMS calls for ticket levy for grassroots venues

The Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee has backed calls for a new arena and stadium ticket levy, plus tax relief, to safeguard UK’s grassroots music venues (GMVs).

The recommendations feature in a new report from the cross-party committee, which launched the inquiry at the Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) Venues Day in October 2023 and heard about the “cost of touring crisis” facing the sector, against a backdrop of small venues closing at a rate of two per week.

It says that a voluntary levy on arena and stadium concert tickets – as lobbied for by the MVT – would be the most feasible way to have an immediate impact on the business, creating a support fund for venues, artists and promoters, administered by a trust led by a sector umbrella body, and is appealing for the industry to ensure the levy cost is not passed on to music fans. In addition, it is calling for a temporary VAT cut based on venue capacity.

The conclusions have been warmly welcomed by bodies including the MVT, along with trade bodies LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment), UK Music, the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC).

“These recommendations provide a clear pathway forward to a positive future for the UK’s grassroots music venues, a set of actions that are deliverable, affordable, and will genuinely have a positive impact on live music in communities right across the country,” says MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “We look forward to working with the music industry and with the government to deliver on these recommendations as swiftly as possible.”

Davyd owns Tunbridge Wells Forum in Kent, which recently pledged to become the first venue in the UK to introduce a grassroots ticket levy. Throughout this month, £1 from every ticket sold will be donated to the Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) Pipeline Fund at no additional expense to customers.

The MVT has described 2023 as the most challenging year for the sector since the trust was founded in 2014, as the number of GMVs falling from 960 to 835.

“It’s clear that the committee has recognised the many challenges faced by venues, promoters, events and artists at the grassroots level, and the steps required to address them”

“We would like to thank all the thousands of music fans that have supported our work across the last 10 years,” adds Davyd. “It has taken much longer than any of us would have liked to get the positive change we all wanted to see, but we could not have achieved this fantastic outcome without your continued support for your local live music venue.”

If there is no agreement by September, or if it fails to collect enough income to support the sector, the report says the government should step in an introduce a statutory levy.

“It’s clear that the committee has recognised the many challenges faced by venues, promoters, events and artists at the grassroots level, and the steps required to address them,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “LIVE set out to the committee the actions we believe that the government needs to take to help unleash the economic potential of the sector, such as a reduction in the damaging and uncompetitive rate of VAT on tickets, as well as the actions that sit with us as an industry, notably the creation of a charitable arm, the LIVE Trust.

“We are pleased that the committee’s report addresses both of these matters positively and has entrusted our sector to implement the industry-led solution of a voluntary levy on arena and stadium tickets, gathering and distributing funding that will benefit the whole grassroots music ecosystem. We look forward to working with government on the review of VAT and regularly updating on our progress on the LIVE Trust.”

“Grassroots music venues are a crucial part of the music industry’s ecosystem and have been faced with a series of unprecedented threats for a number of years,” adds UK Music interim chief executive Tom Kiehl. “We welcome the House of Commons CMS Committee taking the opportunity to consider the challenges these venues and the artists that tour in them face.”

Artists and managers previously spoke out in favour of the MVT’s calls for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for UK live music events above 5,000-cap during evidence sessions held in March.

“As the organisations representing artists and managers, we wholeheartedly endorse all the committee’s recommendations,” says a joint statement by FAC CEO David Martin and MMF chief executive Annabella Coldrick. “Most important is their recognition of the ‘cost of touring crisis’, and that the benefits of a ticket levy must flow down to artists, managers, and independent promoters – as well as to grassroots music venues. The entire ecosystem needs support. While we still believe this mechanism should be mandatory, the clock is now ticking to get a process in place before September 2024.”

“The ongoing wave of closures is not just a disaster for music, performers and supporters in local communities up and down the country, but also puts at risk the entire live music ecosystem”

Among the report’s other recommendations are for the government and Arts Council to make it easier for the live music sector to apply for public funding and for stakeholders across the industry to continue to support the FAC’s campaign to end punitive fees on artists’ merchandise.

“We are also delighted to see the committee endorse the 100% Venues campaign, and hope this will trigger action from the UK’s largest live music venues to overhaul outdated practices on merchandise commissions,” continue Martin and Coldrick. “The sale of T-shirts, vinyl and other physical products represent a crucial income stream for artists. It is only fair that they should retain the bulk of that revenue.”

In closing, the report also calls for a comprehensive fan-led review to be set be set up this summer to examine the long-term challenges to the wider live music ecosystem.

“We are grateful to the many dedicated local venues who gave up their time to take part in our inquiry,” says Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, chair of the CMS Committee. “They delivered the message loud and clear that grassroots music venues are in crisis. The ongoing wave of closures is not just a disaster for music, performers and supporters in local communities up and down the country, but also puts at risk the entire live music ecosystem.

“If the grassroots, where musicians, technicians, tour managers and promoters hone their craft, are allowed to wither and die, the UK’s position as a music powerhouse faces a bleak future. To stem the overwhelming ongoing tide of closures, we urgently need a levy on arena and stadium concert tickets to fund financial support for the sector, alongside a VAT cut to help get more shows into venues.

“While the current focus is on the many grassroots music venues falling silent, those working in the live music sector across the board are also under extraordinary strain. It is time that the government brought together everyone with a stake in the industry’s success, including music fans, to address the long-term challenges and ensure live music can thrive into the future.”

 


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FAC ramps up pressure on venues over merch fees

The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) is upping the pressure on UK venues that charge commission on merchandise sales at gigs.

The FAC launched the 100% Venues scheme – a public directory of music venues that charge zero commission on the sale of merchandise – in 2022 in a bid to address the “outdated and unfair” practice at gigs, which it says is making live touring “unsustainable”, especially in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

To date, hundreds have added their details to the database, including Koko, Earth, Village Underground, the Electric Ballroom, Troxy and the Barbican in London, The Sage in Gateshead, Cardiff’s Tramshed, SWX in Bristol and Liverpool’s Olympia.

Now, in a new open letter signed by more than 60 industry bodies and businesses, the FAC is urging venues that are not currently participating to start making changes and back the following four principles.

“Ironically, it is when artists step up to play bigger venues, and the moment their costs and opportunities increase, that the most crippling fees kick in,” says FAC CEO David Martin. “In many instances, venues have sold on or outsourced their merchandising rights to a third-party – meaning that fees appear “baked in” to hire costs, with little room for negotiation.”

“In many cases, the money made from merchandise sales is crucial to keeping shows on the road”

“It is these outdated contractual terms that we now intend to address, but, if every UK venue implemented the four pragmatic principles outlined in today’s open letter it would mark a significant step forward.”

Signatories include the Musicians’ Union, Music Venue Trust, Independent Venue Week, PRS for Music, the Ivors Academy, the Music Managers Forum, the Music Publishers Association, Hipgnosis Song Management, Help Musicians, Black Lives In Music, Red Light Management, the Association of Independent Promoters, the Association of Independent Festivals and ATC Live, as well as Kevin Brennan MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music.

The FAC has also launched a new public petition, while Steve Mason and Jack Savoretti have become the latest artists to speak out in support of the campaign.

“The FAC’s 100% Venues campaign has already received huge support from many venues, artists and fans,” adds Martin. “We are now calling on all music lovers to sign our new petition calling for further change. Since launching our campaign, awareness amongst fans and across the wider industry has increased about the devastating impact that onerous commission fees can have on the livelihoods of artists.

“Fans in particular have become aware that money they thought was being used to support their favourite artist is in some cases spent on punitive commission fees. In many cases, the money made from merchandise sales is crucial to keeping shows on the road.”

 


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Musicians’ Union backs FAC’s 100% Venues scheme

The UK’s Musicians’ Union (MU) has given its backing to the Featured Artists Coalition’s (FAC) 100% Venues initiative, which encourages venues to allow artists to sell merchandise without charging commission fees.

The FAC launched the 100% Venues scheme – a public directory of music venues that charge zero commission on the sale of merchandise – in 2022 in a bid to address the “outdated and unfair” practice of performance spaces taking a cut of acts’ merch proceeds at gigs.

The MU, which represents over 32,000 musicians working in all sectors of the music business,  says the work being done by the FAC to highlight the issue aligns with its own Fair Play Venue database, which includes details of UK venues that have committed to engage artists in line with the Fair Play Guide.

“We’re delighted to show our support for the 100% Venues initiative, which is becoming a vital resource for musicians in the UK,” says Kelly Wood, national organiser, live, theatre & music writers – Musicians’ Union. “Touring remains a key part of many artists’ careers, and whilst it can help to grow fanbases and support releases, it can also prove very challenging from a financial perspective.

“The growing number of venues that have signed up to the initiative so far sends a very strong and positive message to artists”

“The UK has an incredible network of music venues, which are loved universally by artists and audiences. However, to protect the viability of future tours and careers, we need consistent and fair terms for performers. Artists rely on a combination of income streams when on tour, and any threats to these – such as unfair or unexpected commissions on merchandise – can have devastating effects.

“The growing number of venues that have signed up to the initiative so far sends a very strong and positive message to artists, and we hope that this leads to more pressure for other venues to improve their terms and get behind the campaign.”

The MU’s support follows the extension of the 100% Venues campaign into North America in late 2022, and after the issue of merchandise commission was raised in last month’s US Congressional hearing regarding the US live touring landscape.

“We are hugely grateful to receive support for 100% Venues from our friends at the Musicians’ Union,” adds FAC CEO David Martin. “The MU and FAC’s members deliver the performances that the whole live music industry is built on, yet many are facing an almost impossible task to keep the show on the road. That is why the issue of merchandise commission has become so pronounced and why we will continue to fight for a fairer settlement for artists.”

 


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#LetTheMusicMove: Groups oppose US visa changes

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have stepped up their #LetTheMusicMove campaign in order to oppose changes to US visa applications.

The UK groups say the newly-proposed increases to filing fees attached to specific visa applications – including O and P artists visas – would result in potentially crippling costs for UK artists looking to tour North America.

#LetTheMusicMove was originally established in June 2021 to campaign for reductions in post-Brexit costs and red tape for UK artists and musicians when touring in Europe, but has extended its focus following the recent announcement by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Under the proposals, the cost of artists visas increase by more than 250%, which would make performing in the US unaffordable for many emerging and mid-level artists.

“These proposed increases to visa costs would be catastrophic for British artists, and make it unaffordable for many to tour the US,” says MMF chief Annabella Coldrick. “By reactivating and expanding our #LetTheMusicMove campaign we hope to convince the Department of Homeland Security to rethink their culturally destructive proposals.”

“By working strategically, there is still a chance of stopping these damaging changes”

The DHS and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services have opened a comment period until 6 March, allowing US citizens to send public feedback which will then be reviewed and further adjustments considered.

“#LetTheMusicMove provided artists with a unified campaign in which they could voice their concerns about the challenges of touring after Brexit,” says FAC CEO David Martin. “However, these new proposals around US touring visas are equally concerning and, should they be agreed, will only exacerbate the seismic challenges facing the UK’s artists today.

“For that reason, we are asking British artists to commit to three simple actions: to sign up to the campaign, to send us their views, and to submit feedback to the official consultation process. By working strategically, there is still a chance of stopping these damaging changes.”

More than 1,000 artists originally backed the #LetTheMusicMove campaign, including Little Mix, Orbital, Olly Murs, Sampha, Sleaford Mods, Alison Moyet, Nubian Twist, Bicep, AlunaGeorge, Niall Horan, Wolf Alice, Annie Lennox, Biffy Clyro, Idles, Poppy Ajudha, Radiohead, Anna Calvi, Skunk Anansie and Laura Marling.

 


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400+ UK venues pledge zero commission on merch

Hundreds of venues in the UK have pledged not to take any commission on artists’ merchandise sold at concerts, thanks to a campaign launched by the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC).

In January, the FAC launched a public database of music venues that charge zero commission on the sale of merchandise.

The ‘100% Venues’ directory aims to address the “outdated and unfair” practice of performance spaces taking a cut of acts’ merch proceeds at gigs.

Since January, the database has garnered more than 400 entries, ranging from grassroots clubs through to 3,000-capacity halls.

The Barbican Centre (London), The Louisiana (Bristol), The Leadmill (Sheffield) and Deaf Institute (Manchester) are among the hundreds of ‘100% Venues’.

“The relationship between artists and venues represents one of the most important partnerships in the music ecosystem,” says David Martin, CEO, FAC.

“These 100% Venues are leading the way, enabling artists to take home 100% of merchandise revenue. This makes selling merchandise at gigs worthwhile for artists, creating a fairer and more sustainable touring circuit, particularly for grassroots and emerging talent.”

“That merchandise is the difference between breaking even or losing money”

And while Martin agrees that the progress is encouraging, he says that more work is required to help emerging artists break through after the hurdles caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to NME, he said: “The discussion regarding punitive fees on merchandise sales is now very much a public one, with fans increasingly voicing their displeasure at such practices.

“The true scale of the problem is hard to say, but almost every artist that we talk to about it says, ‘Yeah, that really pisses me off. It has been prevalent for a very long time.

“What is absolutely clear is that, particularly at support band level, it’s still a matter of acts being told, ‘Come and play for no expenses and £50’. That merchandise is the difference between breaking even or losing money.”

He continued: “We’re seeing now that fans are finding out that this happens, and they hate it. It really annoys them that the money that they’re spending isn’t going to the artist as they thought.”

The campaign has draw support from the likes of The Charlatans lead singer Tim Burgess, as well as Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order, who says: “You’re treated like gods in the dressing room and then robbed blind on the merchandise stall. I fully support this campaign and have been very vocal about this injustice to artists and fans for years. I fail to understand why these charges are so high?”

Venue bosses can sign up to the 100% Venues campaign by completing a one-minute form and the FAC is encouraging acts to share the spreadsheet with their fanbase and the wider music community. You can find more information here.

 


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Featured Artists Coalition hires Genneah Turner as GM

Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) has appointed Genneah Turner as general manager, as the UK’s artist trade body continues to expand.

Reporting to FAC CEO David Martin, Turner will play a central role in ensuring that artists’ rights and interests are represented.

Turner arrives with two decades of experience in the industry, in areas including product management, label management and artist management.

She has worked with One Little Independent Records and Quest Management alongside Derek Birkett and Scott Rodger respectively, running projects with Bjork and Arcade Fire, and spearheading her own management company which represents M.I.A amongst others.

“Genneah’s credentials are evident and her knowledge of the needs of artists is second to none”

Turner recently returned to the UK from Australia, where she sat on the board of Melbourne’s Victoria Music Development Office and worked with the Victorian government on art grants for the creative sector.

Commenting on her new appointment at FAC, Turner says: “It has been my greatest pleasure to have been trusted in the role of artist manager, helping recording artists navigate the business of music in a way that centred their autonomy, and created the best foundation from which they could create and share their art. I’m thrilled to be joining the FAC where I can turn that micro-focus outwards to support recording artists as a whole and build on the great work that the FAC’s founding artists started and more recently that David Martin has built on across the organisation.”

Martin added: “I’m delighted to welcome Genneah into her new role as the FAC’s general manager. Her arrival marks an important moment in the growth of the organisation, as we expand our effectiveness on behalf of the artist community. Genneah’s credentials are evident and her knowledge of the needs of artists is second to none. I look forward to working with her in this next phase of the FAC’s development.”

 


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Brexit one year on: What’s the state of play?

It has been a little over a year since the post-Brexit trade deal came into effect, presenting the live music industry with a myriad of challenges to overcome.

Since then, 21 of the 27 EU member states have confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours, with each country having their own slightly different regulations to navigate.

But while the vast majority of Europe is ‘open for rock and roll business’, the live music industry is still battling to resolve issues around immigration, social security, carnets, cabotage and VAT.

With many creases still to be ironed out, IQ spoke with Craig Stanley, tour producer for Marshall Arts and chair of the LIVE touring group, and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) CEO David Martin to identify the current state of play for the live music business.

Concert hauliers
A year on from the post-Brexit trade deal and little has been resolved in terms of cabotage restrictions that limit movements into and around the EU.

Before Brexit, concert hauliers were not restricted in the number of times they could unload and load productions on a European tour. Now, trucks over 3.5 tonnes are limited to just three stops before they have to leave the EU and return to the UK.

An estimated 75-80% of the European concert trucking business is based in the UK, meaning there are not enough trucks in Europe to make up the shortfall.

According to Stanley, the British Department for Transport (DfT) has offered to bring in dual registration as a solution to cabotage restrictions, meaning concert hauliers can be registered in both the UK and Europe.

However, to be registered in the EU, concert haulage companies will need a European yard which, as Stanley points out, is a huge expense. “They’d need a bonafide office that is tax registered and upholds all the regulations of that country,” he explains.

“We’ve made it clear on a ministerial level that [cabotage restrictions] is absolutely an existential threat to our industry”

According to Stanley, the DfT says that the earliest it can introduce dual registration is summer, causing great uncertainty for spring European tours.

“There are big tours starting in May that don’t know what they should be doing – it’s catastrophic,” says Stanley. “We’ve made it clear on a ministerial level that this is absolutely an existential threat to our industry, and they don’t seem to understand that there’s a tremendous urgency to get this fixed.”

While Stanley says the industry would broadly welcome dual registration as a “quick workaround solution”, he’s anxious to stress that the sector needs a comprehensive long-term solution in the form of a cultural exemption to allow free movement of trucks.

Unlike immigration issues, cabotage is an EU matter and cannot be determined by individual sovereign states. This means all 27 EU states would need to agree on any change to cabotage, including a cultural exemption. “It’s going to take some time,” adds Stanley.

Visas
As it stands, all but six EU member states have confirmed that British artists will not need visas or work permits when European touring resumes, though with some local conditions that will still need to be considered.

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

Spain, the fifth-largest live music market in the world, is the most recent market to join the list after months of lobbying from live music trade bodies.

Previously, artists and their promoters had 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.

“Being restricted to spend no more than 90 days in the EU in a period of 180 days is a limiting factor”

The seminal change followed 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.

“This was a fantastic example of putting pressure on the government within the UK whilst applying pressure in Spain and, as a result, we brought about change,” says Stanley.

LIVE is continuing to lobby the government to work with individual EU nations to tackle the problem of visas and permits, prioritising Greece, Croatia, Romania, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

While the ability to undertake “short-term tours” in 21 of the EU member states is a win for the industry, it’s still less than ideal for anyone who is consistently in Europe, warns Stanley.

“Being restricted to spend no more than 90 days in the EU in a period of 180 days is a limiting factor,” he explains. “It could have severe implications for, say, technicians and drivers who go from one tour to the next. Those kinds of professionals could easily spend more than three months in the EU – especially as that law includes holidays.

If they were going to exceed the limit, then “they would then have to get their employer to get them a work permit which is an expensive and involved process”.

Social security
Since leaving the EU, the European Health Insurance Card (EHICS, previously E111) will become null and void upon expiry for British citizens, meaning medical insurance is just another cost that touring artists will have to consider.

“Because we pay National Insurance here, most countries don’t deduct any social security payments in their country,” explains Stanley. “But, you have to obtain the right form from the UK tax authorities confirming you’ve paid social security in the UK. However, this hasn’t been road-tested. France, for example, is saying they’re going to increase their deduction of social security from an artist’s fee.

“Further clarification is still required on social security deductions in various territories, primarily France. It’s a question of whether laws are enforced and how they’re interpreted.”

“Further clarification is still required on social security deductions in various territories, primarily France”

ATA Carnets
The carnet system once again applies within Europe, as it did prior to the UK’s membership of the EU, and in line with other non-EU international tours.

It’s now necessary for tours to obtain ATA Carnets for all equipment travelling outside of the UK on a temporary basis. And while the carnet process is well established, its reintroduction is expected to add friction and cost to European touring, with its impact felt more intensely by grassroots and emerging artists.

“It’s a bureaucratic nightmare for smaller artists,” says Stanley. “It’s not only the lodging fee, it’s also what’s called the bond. You have to put up a bond which is the value of the goods being temporarily exported. If you don’t return them, you can actually risk forfeiting the bond. The bond is a way of making sure that what you temporarily export you are going to bring back.”

Martin from the FAC echoes Stanely’s point, adding that “for smaller artists, the cost of the carnet and the bond are prohibitive when it comes to touring”.

The FAC negotiated an agreement with London Chamber of Commerce, to offer its members a 40% discount on the purchase and bond for ATA Carnets. However, merchandise shipments and any other consumable items cannot be shipped on a carnet.

“This means merchandise will probably have to enter the EU on a permanent basis and, whilst they should be duty-free, a local company in the European destination country will have to take responsibility for the VAT due on the import,” John Corr at Sound Moves explained to IQ last year.

The other option, Stanley says, is to have merchandise made within the EU so the tax is already paid. “It’s straightforward once you’ve done it once or twice but it’s more friction,” he says.

“The most urgent and potentially the most impactful issues are clarity and engagement”

Clarity, guidance and support
“The most urgent and potentially the most impactful issues are clarity and engagement,” says Martin from the FAC. “One of my one of my members had a top 40 album this year and did not tour when they could have because of the complexity.”

“It is completely within the UK government’s gift to write guidance around what on earth this incredibly complex landscape means for professionals and operators in the sector, and they have not done that. It’s an unwillingness, it’s not an inability,” maintains Martin.

Since March 2021, LIVE, ISM, Musicians Union, UK Music, Music Managers Forum and Carry on Touring have been lobbying for a transitional support package to help the industry overcome the challenges presented by Brexit.

According to the coalition, 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.

Alongside government support, Stanley and Martin are also appealing to record labels to get behind the cause.

“There’s this invisible line between live and recorded but the success of an artist is generally predicated on them succeeding on both fronts – and British talent is at risk,” warns Martin.

Stanley echoes that sentiment: “The live side can’t understand why the recording and publishing industries – which are riding high on record-breaking profits – can’t put their hand in their pocket to support the pipeline of talent on which their future revenues depend.”

 


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