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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FIM outlines recommendations for return to work
The International Federation of Musicians (FIM), an umbrella body comprising around 70 musicians’ unions worldwide, has issued a series of recommendations to enable artists to return to work in the safest possible way amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.
The guidelines – targeted at classical musicians but relevant for all touring artists – say while “there is a common desire of musicians, employers and audiences” to reopen music venues “as soon as possible”, this must be accompanied by the “adoption, implementation and enforcement of adequate safety measures in order to protect musicians against the risks arising from possible exposure to the Sars-Cov‑2 [coronavirus] as they return to work.”
Among the FIM’s recommendations are that musicians with one or more symptoms of Covid-19 infected should be “exempted” from performing or rehearsing; that distance is kept between musicians on stage, as well as between artists and performers; widespread access to hand-washing facilities or sanitiser; and one-way paths inside venues, and separate entrances and exits to enclosed spaces such as dressing or green rooms, to avoid unnecessary social contact.
The guidance also expresses a preference for open-air events; where that is not possible, everyone attending an indoor concert should wear face coverings, it adds.
The FIM document follows the updated WHO mass-gathering guidelines, put out earlier this month, as well as other previously released guides to safe venue reopening, available from IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre.
Download the federations’s recommendations in full in PDF format here.
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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“Back to the bad old days”: UK crews face Brexit backlash
Some British touring crews are reportedly being held up at European border crossings following the UK’s recent exit from the EU, despite the Brexit transition period running until the end of this year.
Touring in Europe was a concern for UK artists and crews as Brexit loomed, with industry experts repeatedly warning against costly visas and carnets, complicated bureaucratic procedures and lengthy border checks. According to multiple people affected, some of those concerns are already being realised – even though an 11-month transition, or implementation, period technically keeps the UK bound to the EU’s rules for the remainder of 2020.
Sound engineer and tour manager Jim Mitcham, who was recently stopped on the German-Dutch border for “passport and identity checks”, says it was made clear that border officials were “targeting British vehicles due to Brexit”.
“The transition period doesn’t mean waiting 11 months before making changes; the changes are being made now and have 11 months to settle in,” states Mitcham, who adds that “we are back to the bad old days.”
Another British tour manager cites similar grievances, saying his crew was stopped and held for six hours on the Italian border on the day after Britain left the EU. “It can only get worse,” the tour manager writes in a Facebook post. “It’s a sad day for the live music industry.”
The problems are not limited to road travel, either, with one musician describing issues encountered at Munich airport, where he was asked for proof of accommodation, onward travel and funds. According to the source, automated passport machines would no longer accept British passports at the airport.
“Everything is very up in the air at the moment,” Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union (MU), tells IQ. “The uncertainty is making people back off and a lot of tours are being put on ice.
“The idea of Europe now being difficult to get into is just horrifying”
“We need to establish a two-way agreement with the EU to allow musicians to easily visit and work in countries,” continues Trubridge, who states the MU is “very anxious” about what the end of the year may bring.
The MU, along with umbrella body UK Music, has been at the forefront of the push for a live music touring passport, which would allow musicians, their road crew and all their equipment to “go in and out of EU member states freely”.
The MU’s proposal would allocate the passport to musicians for a minimum of two years, provided they pass an application process. The passport scheme would be reciprocal, removing obstacles for European crews entering the UK, as well as for UK artists touring in the EU.
The MU are used to helping artists navigate the barriers imposed by stringent visa and border restrictions, having spent years advising musicians and their crews on how to get into the US.
“The idea of Europe now being difficult to get into is just horrifying,” says Trubridge. “I remember the days when you needed a carnet to get your equipment across borders – it was just a joke. We really don’t want to go back to those days.”
Expect further information on the new touring reality as the end of the implementation period approaches. For now, advice on how to tour in a post-Brexit world can be found on the Musicians’ Union and UK Music websites, as well as on the newly launched UK, Europe, Arts Work portal.
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.
PledgeMusic demise prompts industry support for artists
A group of industry organisations has launched an impact assessment survey to determine the severity and breadth of financial damage to artists affected by the demise of crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic.
Reports have circulated for close to a year that PledgeMusic was failing to pay artists who raised funds through its platform. Following the platform’s collapse, many artists remain deeply out of pocket.
The UK’s Musicians’ Union is hosting the survey, which closes on Tuesday 25 June, and is to be completed by individuals and businesses alike.
The survey is promoted collaboratively by UK Music, who last month called on competition watchdogs to investigate the beleaguered PledgeMusic, Music Managers’ Forum (MMF), the Association of Independent Musicians (AIM), PRS Foundation and International Showcase Fund partners including the Music Producers Guild (MPG) and Music Support.
The group hopes that information provided through the survey will illuminate the scale of the fallout from PledgeMusic’s collapse and help the industry to ensure artists and businesses receive the support they require.
In a joint statement, the industry bodies behind the survey wrote:
“As organisations who want to see the music industry thrive, we are deeply disappointed that PledgeMusic has announced its bankruptcy leaving artists and fans out of pocket and with little communication or advice on how to deal with campaign disruption.
“We are deeply disappointed that PledgeMusic has announced its bankruptcy leaving artists and fans out of pocket and with little communication or advice on how to deal with campaign disruption”
“The failure of PledgeMusic to appropriately ring-fence artist and fan money has the potential to damage artists’ careers and their relationships with fans and fellow creators if they can’t deliver on stalled campaigns.
“Individually, each of our organisations has been working hard to support our members during this difficult time. However, in order to consider collective action we have launched an industry-wide survey to assess the impact of the PledgeMusic closure.”
The survey has received artist support from UK band Jesus Jones, who used PledgeMusic to fund the release of their album Voyages, and has spearheaded the artists community’s reaction to the platform’s collapse.
“It’s really gratifying to see a strong industry-wide response taking place,” comment the band.
“As artists, as fans, as people who’ve come to realise the potential strength of crowdfunding, it’s vital that we all stand together, and rebuild confidence – and also seek to ensure that Pledge are held accountable for betraying such a vital bond of trust.”
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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MU throws support behind post-Brexit touring passport
The UK’s Musicians’ Union (MU), which represents more than 30,000 artists, has urged the British government to introduce a dedicated EU touring visa for musicians working in the European Union after Brexit.
A similar proposal, for a post-Brexit touring ‘passport’, has previously been mooted by industry umbrella association UK Music.
The MU says the visa should be “affordable, multi-entry, admin-light and cover all EU member states”.
“If musicians can’t travel easily both ways, our reputation as a country that embraces all arts and culture will be severely damaged”
Horace Trubridge, the union’s general secretary, says: “Music, and the performing arts more generally, rely on exchange of ideas and interaction between performers of different nationalities.
“We love working in the EU and we love artists coming over here. If musicians can’t travel easily both ways, our reputation as a country that embraces all arts and culture will be severely damaged. Our members’ ability to earn a living will also be severely affected.”
An MU petition calls on government and parliament to introduce this visa, and the union will also take the proposal to the Labour and Conservative party conferences. MU members are encouraged to contact their MPs asking them to visit the MU’s stand to discuss this and other issues affecting musicians.
Venues, promoters wanted for UK Live Music Census
British promoters and venues have until the end of May to take part in the inaugural UK Live Music Census, the first national music census in the world.
Commissioned by Live Music Exchange, the research project led by academics from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, and backed by UK Music, Music Venue Trust and the Musicians’ Union, the census aims to build a “complete picture of live music activity around the country” by surveying both artists and audiences, and those who make the shows happen behind the scenes.
Sample questions for the latter group of surveyees include: “Do you think that you will be promoting more or fewer live music events three years from now, and why?”, “What do you think are the main contributions that live music makes to your local area?” and “What could the government (local, national and/or UK) do, if anything, to improve the live music scene?”.
“The much-needed data collected by UK Live Music Census will help us protect live music going into the future”
“We know that live music is an immense economic and cultural asset, driving everything from tourism to civic pride, and that live music also has huge cultural and social value, whether it be a place for spending time with friends and family or even to improve health and well-being,” explains a spokesperson for the UK Live Music Census team. “However, at present, still not enough is known about it, and much of what we do know is anecdotal rather than presented in the ‘numbers and narratives’ manner to which politicians and other key decision-makers respond.
“This, then, is one of the drivers behind the UK Live Music Census, the world’s first national music census; a Springwatch for live music, if you will. As Lord Clement Jones, a driving force behind changes to live music legislation in the UK, notes: ‘Data about the sector has so far been relatively scarce and mostly anecdotal, and so the much-needed data collected by UK Live Music Census will help us protect live music going into the future.'”
There are separate surveys for venues and promoters, both open until 31 May (and if the the incentive to help safeguard the future of the industry isn’t enough, one respondent will win an iPad!). Find both at uklivemusiccensus.org.