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The Brexit deal: What we know so far

The live music industry has been left with many unanswered questions by the post-Brexit trade deal, which was agreed upon by the UK and the EU on Christmas Eve (24 December).

The deal, which was signed into law yesterday, takes effect at 11 pm GMT today (31 December) – four-and-a-half years after the UK voted to leave the EU in a referendum and almost a year after the UK officially left the EU.

While much of the impact on touring musicians and productions is still unclear, IQ spoke with specialists across concert hauliers, freight and visas, to identify the current state of play for the live music business.

Concert Hauliers
According to Richard Burnett, CEO, Road Haulage Association, the biggest issue the new Free Trade Agreement presents to concert hauliers is restricted access to the market. This is due to reduced cabotage – a restriction of movements within a country.

Before Brexit, concert hauliers were not restricted in the number of times they could unload and load productions on a European tour. From tomorrow, trucks over 3.5 tonnes are limited to just three internal movements.

“So, a haulier could drop off a load in Paris, pick up a load in Paris, and then take it to Leon. And then the haulier would have to come home,” Burnett explains. The cabotage rules are also reciprocal; European trucks touring the UK would have equally limited movements.

From tomorrow, trucks over 3.5 tonnes are limited to just three internal movements

An estimated 85% of the European concert trucking business is based from the UK. Burnett says that currently, the only way those hauliers can continue to provide the same service they have for decades is by setting up a European operation which “costs a lot of money… hauliers have already had the worst year in their history due to Covid and are struggling enormously as it is.”

Seeking an exemption from the current rules, the Road Haulage Association and umbrella trade group LIVE is lobbying the UK Government to intervene and prevent large-scale European touring out of the UK from effectively being unable to resume in 2021.

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

It will now be 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.

“Merchandise shipments and any other consumable items cannot be shipped on a carnet so they 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,” says John Corr at Sound Moves.

While the carnet process is well established, its reintroduction is expected to add friction and cost to European touring

In terms of logistics, Corr points out that the new deal will require all trucks of 7.5 tonnes and above to have submitted customs clearance details and obtained a Kent Access Permit to be allowed to enter the county, to then make use of one of the document processing facilities and be allowed to board and cross.

His colleague, Martin Corr, stresses the inevitable delays tours will suffer while everyone gets used to the new customs procedures and processes.

“In the long term, promoters, managers and productions managers will have to budget for extra costs in relation to raising and bonding carnets. At the same time, itineraries will need to be carefully scrutinised to allow for the extra time and potential delays whilst carnets and other documents – including those for the truck and the drivers – are presented, approved, and customs and immigration release obtained,” he says.

For outbound immigration (UK to EU), visa requirements for touring musicians and crew will, in the future, be up to each individual country and enquiries are underway regarding immigration regulations applicable to each individual member state for outbound mobility from the UK.

A recent blog post by immigration specialists Viva La Visa states that, “The hoped-for provision for a dedicated clear permit free route for UK performers and their crews to operate in the EU was not there”. Industry associations are subsequently pressing for urgent clarification.

For inbound immigration, from tomorrow EU musicians (and entourages) will be coming into the UK through any of the existing three routes that apply to non-visa nationals: Certificates of Sponsorship (Tier 5), Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) and Permit Free Festivals.

Various petitions have been launched in relation to musicians working in the EU post-Brexit including ‘Seek Europe-wide Visa-free work permit for Touring professionals and Artists‘ which will be debated in Parliament after surpassing 100,000 signatures, and the Musicians’ Union’s ‘Musicians’ Passport’ campaign.

IQ will be updating readers as further details of the new Brexit deal are clarified…


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Live industry reacts to new UK immigration plans

Live music industry professionals are warning against the “significant barriers” that EU musicians and their crews will face under the UK government’s new immigration plans – and fear the consequences for UK artists if the European Union imposes similar restrictions.

Yesterday (19 February), the UK government unveiled its new points-based immigration system, which takes effect from 1 January 2021.

Under the new system, points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications or professions, with visas awarded to those who gain enough points.

However, musicians coming from the European Union to tour in the UK can curtail the points system due to their designation as being of a ‘specialist occupation’.

“Under the current immigration rules, there are a range of other immigration routes for specialist occupations, including innovators, ministers of religion, sportspeople and to support the arts,” reads the Home Office’s policy statement.

“Our broad approach for January 2021 will be to open existing routes that already apply to non-EU citizens, to EU citizens (the current ‘Tier 5’).”

This means EU bands will need to meet the same criteria as those from the US and other nationalities as of Jan 2021. According to Steve Richard of T&S Immigration Services, the majority of US acts and those of many other nationalities do not need actual visas to tour the UK for a short amount of time, but rather carry paperwork with them issued by the UK promoter, agent, venue or label, and show it on arrival.

The news could mean more paperwork for EU acts wishing to tour in the UK, but also points to more bureaucracy for the UK live industry. As Paradigm agent Rob Challice asks: “Will the EU apply a similar system for UK artists travelling the other way – is this the Brexit people voted for?”

The retaliation from Brussels is a worry for all the industry professionals and experts IQ talks too – not least because touring crews have already reported difficulties crossing EU borders in a post-Brexit world – as well as a concern for the future of the grassroots sectors on both sides of the Atlantic and a strong sense of frustration at the continued lack of clarity coming from Westminster.


Tom Kiehl, CEO, UK Music

New plans confirm that from 2021 EU musicians coming to the UK for concerts and festivals will be treated in the same way as those from the rest of the world.

This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time and increases the possibility that member states introduce new bureaucratic hoops for UK musicians to jump through when seeking to perform across the EU.

It’s welcome the government has reduced its salary cap, yet these proposals will still not work for many in the EU who want to work in the UK music industry over a longer period of time given musicians average earnings are £23,000 and a reliance in the points-based system on the need for elite academic qualifications.

“This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time”

Mark Davyd, CEO, Music Venues Trust (MVT)

Assuming the EU responds reciprocally to this position, which it has publicly stated on a number of occasions is the intention, then this will create very significant barriers to touring in Europe for both artists and crew.

Those barriers will be experienced most severely at DIY artist and grassroots touring artists level, where tight margins and schedules simply do not have the capacity to absorb additional costs or waiting times, and where skills to manage such a process simply do not currently exist.

If this is the final outcome of Brexit for our industry, then a comprehensive immigration support service which is free to access for musicians and crew from the grassroots sector must be swiftly created so that it can professionally manage such a process.

An ability to tour is a key element of any music industry UK Export strategy, and we trust the need for such a service will already have been fully considered and costed within the government’s plans.

“This will create very significant barriers to touring in Europe for both artists and crew”

Horace Trubridge, general secretary, Musicians’ Union (MU)

Our major concern is that other EU countries will apply the same restrictions to us. Equally, UK musicians are going to lose work through the fact that others won’t want to come here – visiting bands hire local support and have UK musicians perform with them.

Therefore, this is a dual problem – it is reducing work opportunities for UK musicians, as well as causing difficulties for EU musicians.

We are, however, still getting positive noises for our Touring Passport, which would allow musicians, their crew and equipment to move freely. The good news is that our campaigning has meant the message has got through to politicians – they are aware of the issue and have repeatedly said they will do something, we just but don’t know what yet.

We are not giving up. Hopefully, there will be some sort of carve out for musicians – there has to be, the music industry is too valuable to the UK for them to cut us adrift.

We just want make sure that any solution is reciprocal between the UK and the EU – that is just as important to us.

“The music industry is too valuable to the UK for them to cut us adrift”

Ian Smith, founder, Frusion/Fizzion agencies, UK EU Arts Work 

This is going to have several effects on the industry. For one, there’s a lot of misunderstanding going on around this. Promoters are freaking out and will be hesitant to book artists post-2020. This will have a real impact on small venues and the live scene in general.

Uncertainty from market to market will mean that UK musicians won’t be booked into the EU, either. Whatever happens on the EU side now, the live music scene is generally suffering and will continue to do so.

The Permitted Paid Engagement currently exists for acts coming in for a short period of time. Promoters and artists need to know if there’s a simple entry point available to use.

While this uncertainty continues, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the industry resulting in, in my opinion, a lost year of potential bookings. This will only settle down in January/February next year, then there will be a slow uptake again until 2022 when things will flatten out as we all figure out how to deal with it.

For now, we all just wish it wasn’t happening.

“For now, we all just wish it wasn’t happening”

Paul Reed, CEO, Association for Independent Festivals (AIF)

It is a concern that these plans will increase bureaucracy for EU musicians coming to the UK for festivals from 2021.

The salary threshold remains unsuitable for the industry. Hopefully, this is also an opportunity for government to review other matters concerning the visa system, such as the out-of-date definition of what constitutes a ‘permit free’ festival [those not needing a certificate of sponsorship under the points-based system]. We have members below 15,000 capacity that programme from far and wide outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Deborah Annett, CEO, Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

It’s really difficult to understand what all this actually means at the moment. The government is talking about an immigration system, but what we are referring to is touring, rather than immigration and we are very keen to explain this to the Home Office.

The creative industries are worth £111 billion a year to the UK economy, that’s as much as the finance and building sectors – we are so valuable. However, there is no evidence that the Home Office is listening to the creative industries at the moment.

We are also worried about this not being a great starting place when thinking of UK musicians working in the EU – what do we expect will happen in return? If we are coming up with a regime to harm EU musicians, that can only come back to bite us.

“If we are coming up with a regime to harm EU musicians, that can only come back to bite us”

David Martin, GM, Featured Artists Coalition

This policy demonstrates that the government has paid no heed to advice about the devastating impact of their plans on the UK’s music industry.

The impact of the loss of free exchange of ideas and experience, cannot be overstated but moreover, this policy would have a career-ending impact on many artists.

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UK Live hails new Ireland visa waiver process

Britain’s live music industry has welcomed new Home Office rules that will allow non-EAA artists, bands and sportspeople to enter the UK from the Irish republic, and work for up to three months, without a visa.

The new entry arrangements, announced today (28 February), will put an end to the requirement for individuals from outside the European Economic Area (EAA) working in the creative and sporting industries to apply for a visa to perform in the UK when entering through the Republic of Ireland.

The change follows months of meetings between Home Office officials, UK Music and the UK Live Music Group, whose members include the Concert Promoters Association, Entertainment Agents’ Association and International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

UK Music and the Live Music Group wrote to the government last October to urge a rethink of guidance that forced non-EAA, and particularly American, artists to apply for UK visas when entering via Ireland. According to the letter, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) altered the guidance in August 2017 so that visiting entertainers from countries such as the US and Canada would require British visas – changes, they allege, that were not properly advertised, with no consultation was held with industry stakeholders, with the result that “it was virtually unknown across the industry very recently.”

“Ensuring the best international talent can perform in the UK is vital for the creative industries’ continued success”

Commenting today, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher says: “I am delighted to have worked, alongside our Live Music group, with the Home Office to identify a solution so that non-EU artists and their crews can still enter the UK via Ireland under a certificate of sponsorship.

“The live music industry, which contributes around £1 billion to the economy, will put this into practice so that we can continue to attract the biggest and most talented global artists to perform at our world-leading concerts, festivals and venues.”

Eligible individuals will still be required to have a certificate of sponsorship (COS) under the Tier 5 (temporary worker – creative and sporting) route, which has been in existence since 2008.

Steve Richard, of T&S Immigration Services, who has been “struggling for [the new rules] since at least last May”, welcomed the changes, saying they should put an end to confusion around the rules for entering the UK through its nearest neighbour.

Previously, he tells IQ, passengers travelling on Aer Lingus flights from the US to London or Manchester – but which stop off in Dublin first – “don’t realise they’re even going to see Irish immigration, so they land in Dublin and find their cards aren’t valid, their COSes aren’t valid – sometimes Irish immigration don’t even know what the COS is. We’ve had musicians slung in jail overnight for not having the proper documents.”

“I am delighted to have worked, alongside our Live Music group, with the Home Office to identify a solution”

Richard also reveals T&S has already trialled the new system several times, and “it’s worked perfectly so far”.

Commenting on the new regulations, Caroline Nokes, minister of state for immigration at the Home Office, says in a statement: “Our creative industries are world leading. Not only do we produce elite talent, but we also host some of the most exciting live events in the world.

“Ensuring the best international talent can perform in the UK is vital for the creative industries’ continued success and that is why we launched this new process, ensuring creative talent can easily arrive to perform in the UK directly from Ireland. I look forward to continuing to work with UK Music and the wider sector so our leading live music industry can continue to thrive.”

Detailed information on the Common Travel Area (CTS) between Britain and Ireland, including all forms and guidance, can be found on the Gov.UK website.


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UK orgs slam “clueless” post-Brexit immigration plan

Michael Dugher, chief executive of industry umbrella organisation UK Music, has warned that government plans to limit immigration after Britain leaves the EU would jeopardise the UK’s “world-leading” music business.

Responding to the publication of a white paper setting out proposed post-Brexit rules for migrants – including a consultation on a minimum £30,000 salary requirement for skilled workers seeking five-year visas – Dugher says the salary threshold would exclude many musicians, songwriters and producers, who earn an average of £20,504 annually.

“The UK music industry contributes £4.5 billion to the economy, with live music alone contributing around £1bn,” he comments. “As we’ve made repeatedly clear, a crude salaries and skills approach to freedom to work post-Brexit just doesn’t work for so many artists and musicians. We risk limiting the ability for European musicians to play in our world-leading festivals, venues and studios.

“If this approach is reciprocated by the EU and there is no visa waiver in place, we risk making it very hard, if not impossible, for so many UK artists to tour in EU. This is how they build an audience and, frankly, make any kind of living from music.”

The organisation has previously called for the introduction of a ‘touring passport’ or visa waiver for musicians and crews.

“It is frustrating in the extreme that there are still some people in government who have their fingers in their ears”

“It is frustrating in the extreme that there are still some people in government who have their fingers in their ears,” Dugher continues.

“This is utterly clueless. It’s vital that we don’t pull the rug from under Britain’s world-leading music industry.”

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) – which is leading the Save Music campaign for post-Brexit freedom of movement – has also voiced opposition to the government plans.

‘The end of freedom of movement will have a devastating impact on British musicians,” she says. “The introduction of harsher immigration rules after Brexit will cause declining diversity and creativity in the British music industry. It could also potentially lead to the introduction of reciprocal immigration rules by EU countries.

“While it is good news that government does not intend to immediately introduce a £30,000 minimum income threshold for new immigrants, we do urge for any future plans to be abandoned. Such a threshold is not compatible with the music profession, where earnings can be less. We look forward to working with the government during the consultation period.”


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Phil Collins detained in Rio over visa blunder

The Latin American leg of Phil Collins’s Not Dead Yet tour has got off to a bumpy start, after the singer was detained at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão international airport owing to confusion over the status of his visa.

Collins – who returned to touring last June after a seven-year hiatus – was held for three hours on Tuesday by Brazilian officials because he did not have a valid work permit, according to local media.

However, that wasn’t the case, says Collins’s agent, Solo Agency’s John Giddings, who tells IQ his act did have the right visa – but that the night staff at Rio immigration “didn’t know the rules had changed”.

Everything is “all good down here” now, he adds.

Brazil introduced a new immigration law, intended, among other things, to simplify the process by which foreigners gain entry into the country, in November last year.

Collins will play the Maracanã stadium (78,838-cap.) in Rio tonight, before heading to Sao Paolo, Porto Alegre, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, wrapping up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 23 March.


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Italian artist on ESTA deported from US

In news that bodes ill for international acts hoping to play South by Southwest 2018 with ESTA or tourist visas, Italian singer Damien McFly was forced to cancel a planned appearance at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, after failing to gain entry to the US under the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver programme.

Padua-based McFly (real name Damiano Ferrari) was booked to play a set at the NAMM Show, the world’s biggest musical instrument/pro-audio industry conference, on Saturday 27 January, but found himself detained for 26 hours at LAX then sent back to Italy after authorities denied him entry.

He explains: “I left Venice thinking about the sense of freedom I feel every time I tour the US, performing in the land of folk, country, blues – all the music that inspires me. Unfortunately, this time that was not the case. After passport control the Department of Homeland Security decided to further check my documents and the type of performance I had to attend at NAMM Show.

“ESTA is a very restrictive visa – actually I think it is not even a real visa. And my showcase was not officially sponsored by the Italian government. So they declared me inadmissible, seized my phone and baggage and kept me in a detention room until I could take the next flight home, 26 hours – and some regret – later.”

“They declared me inadmissible, seized my phone and baggage and kept me in a detention room until I could take the next flight home”

The incident has echoes of South by Southwest 2017, when at least ten artists were barred from entering the country after attempting to enter on ESTAs or tourist visas – a previously common practice for showcases or other non-commercial shows.

Fees for performance (or “nonimmigrant worker”) visas for the US have skyrocketed in recent years, most recently jumping a huge 42% at the end of 2016. Writing in IQ shortly after, Tamizdat’s Matthew Covey, an immigration lawyer, explained that the increase in fees is “not the [only] problem with the US artist visa process. The problem is that the process is so slow that almost everyone has to pay the government’s $1,225 ‘premium processing’ expediting fee, and it is so complex and unreliable that almost everyone has to hire a lawyer to get through it (costing anywhere from $800 to $8,000).”

Amid last year’s controversy, SXSW took the side of the performers, saying a tourist (‘B’) visa should be sufficient for playing unpaid showcases. Following the hike in visa fees, it is likely many artists decided to try their chances on B visas or ESTAs – although it remains to be seen how many foreign acts will risk doing so in 2018.


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Stricter immigration and rising visa fees ‘could harm touring’

Last week’s announcement by the British government it is to enshrine the date of Britain’s exit from the EU – 29 March 2019 – in law has once again thrust into the spotlight the issue of freedom of movement after Brexit, with leading visa experts warning of the impact a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have on international touring.

“If the current customs regulations are made more time-consuming [post-Brexit] that will impact live tours, putting tight time schedules at risk,” Steve Richard of UK-based T&S Immigration Services tells IQ.

While the unwelcome return of visas for artists and carnets for equipment – both for British passport holders in Europe and EU artists playing the UK – is by no means a certainty, Oleg Gaidar of Artist and Entertainer Visas Global says he has already received enquiries from managers about the possibility of attaining European passports for the UK clients with European parents or grandparents. “That shows us the concern of people who are trying to look ahead and at least secure the principle to play shows in Europe without needing work permits,” he comments.

One potential solution, backed by UK Music and at least one prominent pro-Brexit MP, is a temporary ‘touring passport’ for British artists playing EU countries, although the proposal has yet to find support from the British government, which is currently negotiating with EU authorities over trade and Britain’s supposed exit bill.

The UK’s uncertain future aside, visa experts across the world are already grappling with an increasingly complex international touring market – not least in the US, where the surprise election of Donald Trump and stricter immigration rules caught out a number of acts this year, including at least ten artists heading to South by Southwest 2017.

“The goalposts are always changing, and very often people aren’t on the same page,” says Michelle Rubio of LA-based Creative Mind Access Visas & Passport Services.

“The goalposts are always changing, and very often people aren’t on the same page”

Among the recent changes in the US are tighter scrutiny of first-time visa applications, adds Andy Corrigan of UK-based Viva La Visa, which has looked after visa processing for tours by Ed Sheeran, Kings of Leon (pictured) and Sam Smith, including “more stringent questioning at American embassies and are being asked more searching questions than they previously would have been.”

Also of concern is the recent hike in fees for ‘non-immigrant worker’ visas, with the fee for filing a US visa alone now US$460, rising to $1,225 for the fast-track service.

Although the United States remains one of the trickiest and most expensive countries for touring parties to visit, it is far from the only market to have tightened immigration procedures. In the past two years, Russia and China have both introduced biometric fingerprint testing at select border controls. In 2015, Argentina introduced work visa requirements for British nationals, while UK passport holders flying to Canada now have to fill in an ESTA-type form online prior to travel, and acquire waivers if they have certain criminal convictions.

In line with tougher procedures, visa-processing fees have also increased in many touring hotspots, including Australia, which has removed bulk discounts for large tours that capped visa fees at A$7,200 (US$5,450). Now it costs A$275 per person – or between A$22,000 and $27,500 for a touring production of 80–100 people.

“Where one country eases up, it feels like another starts tightening the buckle a little harder,” says Rubio.

Read more about how global experts are keeping artists and crews on the move in the full feature in IQ 74.


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Polska muzyka

There are many sides to the migration and Brexit debates that have gripped Europe this year, and the Polish live business has a very particular angle.

“Apparently, there are 800,000 Poles between the ages of 18 and 24, in the UK alone, and normally, those are the people you would expect to come to your gigs,” says Steven Todd, Live Nation’s head of central and eastern Europe. “We don’t have a problem selling tickets, but in the long-term, it is an issue. If the UK lost a million people of that age, they’d have a problem there too.”

The counterweight to the population drain, however, is that Poland is, in the wider analysis, a country on the up, and that goes for its music business too. “There are 40m people in Poland, and the latest economic report said that GDP grew 3.1% in Q2,” says Todd, who reports that 2016 has been “a boom year” for concerts, on the back of a very decent 2015, with 2017 looking better still. If all that migration has put a drag on the market, imagine how fast things would be growing without it.

“If the UK lost a million people of that age, they’d have a problem there too”

Last time IQ profiled Poland, in 2013, Marcin Matuszewski, CEO of ticketing market leader eBilet, estimated the Polish concert ticket market at 200million Polish złoty (zł). These days, he puts the figure at zł600m, or €140m, with zł500m of that spent online, indicating both fast growth and a technological shift for a country that scarcely had a concert business 15 years ago.

“Sometimes, in the past, not everyone would come here, and often agents would treat Poland like it was some sort of difficult, mysterious eastern country,” says Tomasz Waśko of promoter Go Ahead. “But now it has changed a lot and I think we are treated more as an integral part of the European music scene.”


Read the rest of this feature in issue 68 of IQ Magazine.

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