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UK MPs announce inquiry into EU touring obstacles

The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG) has announced a cross-party inquiry into the barriers facing musicians touring the EU

The inquiry will focus on visas and work permits, carnets and CITES (instrument manufacturing materials), cabotage (transport issues), effect on the UK music industry, effect on emerging artists, and potential solutions.

MPs are keen to hear from those impacted ahead of the first evidence session later this month.

“This is a hugely welcome move by MPs from across the political divide who are as keen as we are to overcome the barriers facing musicians and crew touring the EU,” says UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

“The extra costs and red tape mean some artists are losing work and some tours, particularly those by emerging musicians, are not viable at the moment.

“We need urgent government action to break down the barriers facing musicians and crew including a transitional support package of financial aid and further steps to encourage exports.”

As part of its investigation, the group is calling for evidence on the impact the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – the UK/EU trade deal signed following the UK’s departure from the EU – has had on UK music workers and companies looking to tour and work short-term in EU member states.

Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away

UK musicians and performers can presently enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 20 of the bloc’s 27 nations, following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries.

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

Still absent from the list, however, are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

The APPG has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to demand “urgent action” over the current deadlock, and is calling for a meeting to discuss ways of overcoming obstacles around visas and transport red tape. 

“Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away,” says APPG chair, Conservative MP David Warburton. “Our cross-party group has written to the prime minister to ask him to take urgent action to clear these visa and travel barriers that threaten the success of the UK music industry, particularly emerging artists.

“We need the government to ramp up negotiations with nations like Spain where costly visas are still in place and to look for swift solutions to both the visa and transport issues facing musicians and crew.”

The APPG has voiced its support for artist-led music industry campaign #LetTheMusicMove, which launched in June and is pushing for a reduction in the costs and red tape which will face UK musicians and businesses when touring mainland Europe.


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UK live sector gives mixed reaction to 2021 budget

The UK’s live music industry has given a mixed response to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget, unveiled today (27 October) in the House of Commons.

The chancellor, who upgraded this year’s economic growth forecast from 4% to 6.5%, pledged an additional £850 million in culture sector funding, the majority of which is ring-fenced (including £2m earmarked for a new Beatles attraction on Liverpool Waterfront), alongside temporary business rates relief in England for eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure properties for 2022-23, worth almost £1.7 billion.

The government is also freezing the business rates multiplier in 2022-23 – a tax cut worth £4.6bn over the next five years, and has increased the headline rate of orchestra tax relief.

However, calls to extend the VAT break on tickets sales beyond next March fell on deaf ears, and no improvements to the government’s £800m insurance scheme for live events were forthcoming. In addition, no cash was allocated to help the sector deal with Brexit’s impact on touring, while the absence of the word ‘music’ from the budget document left a sour taste.

“We’re glad to see that live music will receive some benefit from today’s spending review – including tax relief, business rates, and some extension in terms of funding,” says a spokesperson for trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were, unfortunately, missing from today’s news

“However, with the word ‘music’ completely absent from today’s announcement, we remain steadfast in our drive to see government pay attention to the key issues we are facing: the impacts of Brexit, the recovery from Covid and the long-term growth of the sector. We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were, unfortunately, missing from today’s news.”

It remains to be seen whether music will be eligible for the £52m of government funding set aside for museums and “cultural and sporting bodies” next year to support recovery from Covid-19, with an additional £49m allocated for 2024-25.

“We look forward to hearing more detail about some of the measures announced by the chancellor today, in particular the allocation of further Covid-19 recovery funding for the cultural sector,” says Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed. “On the surface, however, it doesn’t go far enough in supporting our truly world-leading festival industry.

“It is clear that the most effective way for the government to support the industry’s recovery into 2022 and beyond would be to extend the VAT reduction on tickets, look closely at a permanent cultural VAT rate, and completely remove festivals based on agricultural land from the business rates system. Unfortunately, none of this was forthcoming today.”

Referencing UK Music’s latest This Is Music report, which revealed the impact of Covid-19 wiped out 69,000 music industry jobs – one in three of the total workforce – the organisation’s CEO, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, says further action is needed to support the music sector’s post-pandemic recovery.

“It is crucial that we get government support to help us continue to rebuilding and hiring people who went so long without work due to the pandemic,” he says.

“Covid halved music’s economic contribution to the UK economy from almost £6 billion a year to £3.1 billion in 2020. If the government strikes the right note by delivering the support we need, our music industry will come back stronger and bigger than ever.”

The government has missed an opportunity

Setting out a three-point plan to boost the business, Njoku-Goodwin adds: “We are pleased to see the extension of the orchestras tax relief yet the government has missed an opportunity to not take forward further music tax incentives to help boost jobs and economic growth. Similarly, business rate relief for venues is very welcome yet we remain concerned about next April’s VAT hike for live events.  

“Ministers must put turbo-chargers under the efforts to clear away the barriers that are still making it so hard and expensive for musicians and crew to tour easily in the EU. As the domestic music market recovers, the government should also build on recent trade deals by giving more funding and support for music exports.

“As well as music’s huge economic and cultural importance, we also need to see the government fully recognise its huge value to our wellbeing by properly funding music education to help nurture our talent pipeline and provide the stars of the future.”

AIM CEO Paul Pacifico welcomes new measures for venues and hospitality, but stresses the importance of a tax relief scheme for music.

“It’s encouraging to see the government recognise the serious blow Covid dealt to the UK’s music industry in today’s budget, discounting business rates for music and other hospitality venues and for premises improvements and green tech use as well as increasing tax reliefs for orchestras,” he says.

“However, more must be done to support the globally significant independent music sector to ensure a viable future for diverse music, creators and entrepreneurs. One key proposal is a tax relief scheme for music, like those successfully implemented in other creative industries such as film and games. This cost-effective measure could provide our sector with the boost it needs, attracting inward investment and creating a ripple effect across the wider music ecosystem. We urge government to include music in such schemes at the next opportunity.”

There were also contrasting emotions from Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief Michael Kill.

“The improved forecasts for growth announced by the chancellor today are good news, and the reopening of the night time economy has been a key part of this better-than-expected bounce back,” says Kill. “We were disappointed that the chancellor chose not to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality – this is a missed opportunity, and it will prevent those forecasts from improving further still.”

 


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69k industry jobs lost to Covid, report reveals

UK Music’s annual This Is Music report has revealed the impact of Covid-19 wiped out 69,000 music industry jobs – one in three of the total workforce.

Employment plummeted by 35% from an all-time high of 197,000 in 2019 to 128,000 in 2020, according to the 2021 report, while the industry’s economic contribution fell 46% from £5.8bn to £3.1bn year-on-year. Music exports also dropped 23% from £2.9bn to £2.3bn in the same period.

Launching the report, UK Music has called on the government to introduce tax incentives and other employment-boosting measures to help the sector rebuild. It also calling for urgent action to resolve the problems facing musicians and crew touring the EU.

UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: “The past 18 months have been exceptionally challenging for the UK music industry, with billions wiped off the value of the sector – but we are determined to look to the future and focus on recovery.

“Music matters to us all. And in a year when we’ve seen just how important music is to all our lives, it’s more important than ever that we take the necessary steps to protect, strengthen and grow the industry.”

“In our Music Industry Strategic Recovery Plan we identify the policy interventions required and set out a clear action plan to get the industry back up on its feet.”

With the right support, the UK music industry can help drive the post-pandemic recovery

UK Music, which carried out the flagship study with its members since 2013, is now urging the government to implement tax incentives for the music industry to stimulate growth and jobs, and to take action to remove the barriers to touring the EU.

In addition, it is calling for a permanent reduction in VAT rate on live music event tickets, more funding and support for music exports, and an increase in funding for music education and for the self-employed to help secure the talent pipeline.

“With the right support, the UK music industry can help drive the post-pandemic recovery,” adds Njoku-Goodwin. “This Is Music sets out the positive role the music industry can play in our country’s future, and the steps that need to be taken to achieve that.

“Music is a key national asset, part of our history and our heritage. More than that, it’s part of our future. And we can’t value it highly enough.”

UK Music has also commissioned Public First to survey the views of the general public on the music industry. Among the findings were that 75% of the public are proud of the UK music industry and its heritage, 59% believe music improves the UK’s reputation overseas and 74% say music is important to their quality of life.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries adds: “I know how difficult the last year and a half has been – with venues closed, stages dark, and artists prevented from doing what they love. The whole industry has shown great strength, patience and resilience during these hard times, pulling together to help the whole country get through the Covid-19 crisis.

“Our £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund has been a vital lifeline, helping music organisations across the UK to survive one of the worst peacetime crises on record. As doors reopened, our Events Research Programme has enabled music events to return safely.

“We have also listened carefully to UK Music’s arguments about a market failure regarding events insurance, and introduced the Government-backed £700 million Live Events Reinsurance Scheme to ensure future events can be planned with certainty.

“Until now, our focus has been rescue and reopening. Now the priority is to ensure a strong recovery. The UK music industry is one of our country’s great national assets, and I give my commitment that the Government will continue to back it every step of the way.”

 


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