Outdoor events get go-ahead in England
Small open-air concerts, festivals and other live events can resume in England this weekend, provided social distancing measures are applied, the government announced yesterday (9 July).
The news comes in a week of positive developments for the UK live industry, following the announcement of a £1.57 billion aid package for the cultural sector on Sunday and a reduction in value-added tax (VAT) levied on event tickets on Wednesday.
The easing of restrictions, which sees the country move to stage three of a five-step roadmap for the reopening of the live entertainment industry, allows outdoor shows to take place “with a limited and socially distanced audience”.
Venues will also have to use electronic ticketing systems and keep a record of visitor details in case test and trace measures are needed.
“Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times,” says culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
“From 11 July we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots.”
The government is currently working alongside industry bodies including the Musicians’ Union and UK Theatre, as well as with venues such as the London Palladium, to pilot a number of small indoor performances to inform plans on how to get indoor venues back up and running.
“It is a step forward that some performances can resume in limited outdoor settings, but there is still no date for a return to indoor live performances”
Indoor events will be permitted to reopen in England in the next stage of the roadmap, restricted to a “limited, distanced audience” and stage five allows for the reopening of all events with fuller audiences, but dates have yet to be given for the latter stages of the recovery roadmap.
Dowden adds that the government is working to give “further clarity on restart dates”.
Members of the UK entertainment industry have repeatedly criticised the absence of dates from the government’s reopening roadmap.
“It is a step forward that some performances can resume in limited outdoor settings, but there is still no date for a return to indoor live performances, either with restricted or full audiences,” comments Incorporated Society of Musicians CEO Deborah Annetts.
“This uncertainty hangs over many thousands of musicians whose income is overwhelmingly dependent on performing, and whose lives have ground to a complete halt as a result of Covid-19.”
Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill says that the announcement “lack[s] any real detail or information on where our sector stands”.
“We implore the government in the strongest terms to recognise our sector within Arts and Culture, and prioritise sector specific support before some amazing cultural businesses are lost forever,” says Kill.
Photo: UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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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 associations respond to election results
The major UK music industry associations have given their verdict on yesterday (13 December)’s general election, which saw the Conservative party under Boris Johnson win the largest majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.
Johnson’s victory also ends the deadlock in parliament over the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, with ‘Brexit’ now almost certain to go ahead as planned on 31 January 2020.
Michael Dugher, the outgoing CEO of umbrella organisation UK Music, congratulates the new government on its victory and outlines his key music-industry concerns ahead of Johnson outlining his legislative agenda.
“Congratulations to the newly elected government. Hopefully this will now deliver the stability we need to get things done, including a new and comprehensive strategy to support music,” says Dugher.
“It is vital that the Prime Minister makes securing a trade deal with the EU a top priority. That deal needs to ensure that artists, creators and everyone involved with the UK music industry can move around the EU to do their jobs. It must also make sure that we have a legal framework to make the UK the world’s best place to make content. Copyright should be protected and enhanced in any new trade deals. […]
“Ministers also need to make good on their pledge to help protect small music venues by delivering on their pre-election promises to cut the soaring business rates bills faced by so many venues.
“Ministers need to make good on their pledge to help protect small music venues”
“We look forward to the speedy appointment of a new secretary of state for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. We desperately need some continuity in that post and UK Music stand ready to work with them to ensure our world-leading music industry goes from strength to strength”.
The Creative Industries Federation, which represents the UK’s creative-industry businesses, says it will also “continue to work tirelessly” alongside the incoming government “to ensure that they act on the areas that matter most to the UK’s creative industries and our country’s emerging talent.”
On the Conservative party specifically, Alan Bishop, the federation’s chief executive, similarly notes that its manifesto includes promises to introduce “business rates relief for music venues and cinemas”, as well as to continue to support for existing creative-sector tax reliefs. “We look forward to working with government on these commitments, ensuring that industry is able to shape these initiatives so that they develop in the right way for the creative industries,” he says.
In the recorded music sector, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) emphasises that the UK must maintain its commitment to protecting music copyrights when it leaves the EU on 31 January.
“The UK has a strong copyright regime. It is essential that this remains stable and the framework is not reopened in the event of the UK leaving the European Union,” reads a statement from the organisation. “The UK should bring forward measures to resolve the value gap in the UK and should ensure that the UK regime is an environment that will encourage investment in new recordings. […]
“It is essential that trade deals maintain a strong copyright regime”
“If any trade agreements follow as a result of the future arrangements between the UK and the EU, it is essential that trade deals maintain a strong copyright regime. It is critical to resist ‘fair use’ rules such as those found in the USA.”
The BPI also calls on the new government to commit to “reciprocal arrangements [with the EU countries] on visa-free travel, including for work purposes, [which] would ensure musicians will be able to work, tour and collaborate across the EU.”
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, which represents the UK’s record label community, and the Brit Awards, welcomes the new Johnson ministry, says he looks forward to working with ministers on music industry related issues.
“This clear result should help move the country beyond the Brexit impasse and provide the UK with a much-needed period of political stability,” he comments. “We hope the government will use this platform to deliver a trade deal with the EU that minimises barriers to trade, including simple travel arrangements for UK performers, and new trade deals with third countries to boost our music exports.
“The UK music industry is a fantastic success story both here at home and around the world. If the relentless creativity and commercial ingenuity of our artists and labels can be backed by the incoming government with some simple but effective support, we can take this success to the next level, growing our international trade, supporting access to music in schools, and boosting the industry’s contribution to employment and the economy by better protecting the valuable IP we create.
“We congratulate the new administration and we will be actively engaging with them on this agenda.”
“We urge the incoming government to listen to the music sector”
Paul Pacifico, of indie label body the Association of Independent Music (AIM), says the Conservatives’ “strong majority” presents the opportunity for a “fresh start” as Britain prepares for its EU exit. “We know from this result that the process towards Brexit will now accelerate,” he explains. “It is AIM’s priority to ensure our members are as prepared as possible. The unfortunate truth is that the grassroots SMEs and entrepreneurs of our economy face the greatest impact [from Brexit] on their businesses, so we call on this new government to give our members the support they need to ensure we avoid a Brexit that just suits big business.
“With a strong majority and the opportunity for a fresh start, we look forward to engaging with the new government across our key issues for creative entrepreneurs in music, including copyright and support mechanisms for small business in our sector, which is so important to the UK both in terms of commerce and culture.”
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), draws attention to the associations pre-election ‘Manifesto for Musicians’, which said the UK must strike a deal with Europe “which will protect every aspect of the musician’s working life post-Brexit”.
“This,” she says, “includes everything from a two-year, multi-entry visa, to ensuring that musicians can take their instruments easily across the channel to work in the EU.”
“As only reported this month, the music industry is continuing to grow and is now worth £5.2bn,” Annetts adds. “We urge the incoming government to listen to the music sector and ensure the future of this prosperous industry is protected.”
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UK Music: touring may be “unviable” for many in no-deal Brexit
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher has highlighted “growing concerns” around the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on the live music industry, in a recent letter to the home secretary.
Dugher states that the “viability of future tours” would be threatened if Britain were to exit the European Union without a deal.
The introduction of pre-paid income duty and value added tax on all merchandise brought on tour in the EU, as well as charges for moving equipment across borders, could result in an income loss of around 40% for touring acts, says Dugher.
The UK Music boss also calls for more clarification on what to expect in relation to freedom of movement post Brexit, stating the “worryingly inadequate” information currently available is preventing the industry from preparing for the possible changes ahead.
UK agents and promoters would find themselves under “considerable strain” if freedom of movement ended.
“Agents who have more EU acts on their books will see most impact,” writes Dugher, with some agents, promoters and festivals “who deal exclusively with EU artists” being “dragged into the immigration system for the first time.”
“[Immediate end to freedom of movement] would cause considerable disruption to the international live music touring industry”
The immediate end to freedom of movement “would cause considerable disruption to the international live music touring industry, in terms of UK artists travelling to the EU for concerts and vice versa,” says Dugher.
Dugher also states such a policy would “run contrary” to existing guidance which indicates there would be a three-month window in which EU citizens would be able to enter the UK to work.
“If an alternative ‘cliff edge’ policy is pursued,” continues Dugher, “it could result in retaliation from EU member states, requiring UK musicians to apply for expensive and bureaucratic visas and work permits in order to continue to tour the EU.”
UK Music and other industry associations, including the Musicians’ Union, have repeatedly pushed for a ‘touring passport’ which would allow musicians and their crews to move freely post-Brexit.
The UK’s Incorporated Society of Musicians recently called on the government to cover the additional costs incurred by musicians in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
ISM: Govt must cover musicians’ Brexit costs
The UK’s Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is calling on the government to cover additional costs incurred by musicians travelling to EU countries for work, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The ISM, a professional body for musicians, has calculated that additional costs of up to £1,000 per year will be levied against artists bringing instruments into the European Union.
Temporary international customs documents, or carnets, allowing musicians to move instruments and equipment outside the UK will set artists back £500 to £700. Currently, no extra cost is incurred when moving goods between countries.
If Britain leaves the EU, UK musicians will also have to purchase private medical insurance, costing £70 per year or up to £320 for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Other costs include musical instrument certificates for instruments containing endangered species (such as ivory, rosewood or tortoiseshell), international driving permits and, potentially, visas.
“The majority of musicians do not have the capacity to absorb additional costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit”
According to the ISM, whose Impact of Brexit on Musicians report shows 95% of artists will be negatively impacted by Brexit, the “lack of transitional arrangements” in a no-deal scenario will result in “chaos” for musicians touring in the EU.
ISM president Dr Jeremy Huw Williams says “this uncertainty threatens the livelihoods of thousands of UK-based musicians who rely on touring in EU countries for work”.
Williams urges the government to “fully cover [extra] costs” in advance of the Brexit deadline date of 31 October. Failing this, the ISM president states the government should “provide a full compensation scheme to support musicians in the first three years following Brexit, at the very least.”
“The majority of musicians do not have the capacity to absorb additional costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” comments ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts. “These costs would be impossible for most freelance musicians, who earn on average around £20,000 per year.
“They would simply be unable to allocate up to 5% of their earnings to additional costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
Through its Save Music campaign, the ISM aims to secure either freedom of movement for musicians or the introduction of a two-year working visa dedicated to musicians post Brexit.
Report: Brexit negatively impacts 95% of musicians
The UK’s Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has published its fourth report into the effects of Brexit on music professionals, identifying future work in EU countries as a key issue for musicians post-Brexit.
Impact of Brexit on Musicians, builds on previous surveys to reveal the concerns of more than 2,000 musicians. Almost 50% of respondents identify an impact on their professional work since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Of these musicians, 95% report the impact has been negative, up from 19% in 2016.
Over two thirds of respondents state the difficulty in securing future work in EU countries is the biggest post-Brexit concern, with one in ten musicians stating employers cited Brexit when cancelling or withdrawing work offers.
“I’ve had ensembles questioning me as to whether it’s feasible for them to employ me post-Brexit,” comments a survey respondent. “They’re turning to me for guidance and there is nothing I can offer them.”
Out of the musicians surveyed, the vast majority visit the EU for work at least once a year and 22% work in EU countries on a regular basis, clocking up more than eleven visits per year.
Freedom of movement for musicians post Brexit has been a key concern across the industry, with associations including industry umbrella organisation UK Music and the UK’s Musicians’ Union calling for the introduction of a dedicated ‘touring passport’ for musicians which would act as a waiver for visas and permits.
A proposal of setting a minimum £30,000 salary requirement for skilled workers post-Brexit sparked major concerns in December. UK music chief Michael Dugher pointed out that the migration rules would exclude many musicians, songwriters and producers, who earn an average annual salary of £20,504.
“Musicians’ livelihoods depend on the ability to travel easily and cheaply around multiple countries for work in a short period of time”
In a letter sent to Dugher, department for Exiting the European Union minister Robin Walker stated that artists would not face the effects of migration restrictions until the end of the implementation period in December 2020. Walker also offered assurances that the safeguarding of touring musicians would be a priority post-Brexit, but did not specify the ways in which the government would do so.
In case of the loss of freedom of movement, ISM’s Save Music campaign advocates the introduction of a two-year, multi-entry working visa tailored specifically for musicians. 64% of those surveyed stated that such a visa would alleviate concerns relating to EU-based work in the future.
The report also recommended more resources be made available for musicians seeking guidance on mobility issues, urging a government department to set up a hotline for this purpose.
“Impact of Brexit on Musicians demonstrates how much the music workforce depends on EU27/EEA countries for professional work, and reveals a profession who are deeply concerned about the future as the UK prepares to leave the EU,” says ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts.
“Musicians’ livelihoods depend on the ability to travel easily and cheaply around multiple countries for work in a short period of time.
“At a time of great uncertainty, musicians need to know their jobs in EU27/EEA will be secure once the UK leaves the EU. Therefore we call for the government to take action, using the recommendations outlined in this report, to protect musicians’ livelihood and the all-important music and wider creative industries.”
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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.”
Save Music: ISM adds voice to post-Brexit movement debate
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the professional body for UK musicians, has launched a new campaign, Save Music, that aims to secure either freedom of movement to be maintained for artists post-Brexit, or the introduction of a two-year working visa specifically for musicians.
The campaign follows an EU Select Committee report which recommended the introduction of a multi-entry visa for creatives, including musicians, post-Brexit, as well as the ISM’s own Musicians and Brexit report, which highlighted the post-Brexit concerns of the association’s 9,000 members.
“For decades our musicians have had the right to travel freely across the EU, performing their music in numerous different countries to countless audiences,” comments ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts (pictured). “For many musicians this has been of immense value in creating music, establishing their careers and keeping a roof over their heads.
“The ability to travel freely lies at the heart of creating music – music is universal and knows no boundaries. The very best music often comes from musicians from all walks of life coming together to collaborate.
“It cannot be underestimated the damage that will be done to the music we enjoy … if we don’t get the two-year visa”
“The House of Lords EU Select Committee report, published in July 2018, recognised the importance of freedom of movement for musicians and recommended a multi-entry visa enabling creatives, including musicians, to continue to work freely across the EU post-Brexit. We, along with many other music organisations, believe that a two-year visa is what is needed.
“And yet at the moment government does not seem to be able to differentiate between immigration and life as a touring musician. Instead they are suggesting an extension of the disastrous PPE [permitted paid engagement] which prevented so many musicians performing at Womad earlier this year. It cannot be underestimated the damage that will be done to the music we enjoy, and the music that is yet to be created, if we don’t get the two-year visa.
“That is the ISM has launched Save Music, a campaign calling on everyone – and not just musicians – to lobby their MP and endorse the two-year visa.”
A similar proposal, floated by UK Music and backed by at least one prominent pro-Brexit MP, is the creation of temporary ‘touring passport’ for British artists playing EU countries, while the Musicians’ Union, similar to ISM, has called for a dedicated EU touring visa for musicians.