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UK culture minister: free movement “essential” for artists

The UK minister for sport, media and creative industries, Nigel Adams, has stated that the UK government will endeavour to support continued freedom of movement for touring musicians after the country leaves the European Union on 31 January.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday (21 January), Adams stressed the importance of touring – “the lifeblood of the industry” – and of freedom of movement for “musicians, equipment and merchandise”.

“Visa rules for artists performing in the EU will not change until the implementation period ends in December 2020. It’s absolutely essential that free movement for artists is protected post-2020,” said Adams.

Michael Dugher, former CEO of umbrella body UK Music, previously described the prospect of losing free movement as “a death knell for touring”, with many other industry figures raising concerns over the additional costs, delays and red tape artists would face in a post-Brexit world.

“It’s absolutely essential that free movement for artists is protected post-2020”

The minster also stated the government was committed to supporting the “fantastic UK music industry at home and abroad”, adding that a “comprehensive music strategy” needed to be implemented to ensure the industry “continues to be the envy of the world”.

The Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, Conor McGinn, noted that the UK music industry “punches well above its weight economically”, citing the £5.2 billion it generates each year, as well as having a “profound effect on health and wellbeing”.

McGinn admitted that “challenges still exist” with regards to business rates for music venues – which were addressed both in the ruling Conservative Party manifesto and in the Queen’s speech – asking when relief would come in.

The debate was praised by Tom Kiehl, deputy CEO of UK Music, who says: “I would like to thank all the MPs from across the political spectrum who made such brilliant and heartfelt contributions about the importance of the UK music industry to our economy and society.

“We look forward to working with [Adams] on the new music strategy and a host of other areas to continue to grow our industry.”

 


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MPs slam Viagogo secrecy: “Odd practice” for ‘legitimate co’

British parliamentarians have written to Viagogo to express their concern over the culture of “secrecy” at the controversial secondary ticketing business, which is reportedly instructing receptionists to deny the company is based at its new UK HQ on Fenchurch Street, London.

In a letter dated 18 July, Nigel Adams MP – who sat on the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee at the time of Viagogo’s infamous no-show – and Sharon Hodgson MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, call on Viagogo to provide “more transparency about its UK presence” and advise on how both they and their constituents can “engage” with the notoriously publicity-shy business.

Viagogo in the UK is now trading as VGL Services, with one listed active director, Prabah Shah, a ‘digital marketer’ who founded the company Online Seller UK.

“We recently learned with interest that VGL Services/Viagogo are now operating from address at 71 Fenchurch Street,” write Adams and Hodgson to Shah. “This is different from the address listed with Companies House, and we understand that despite journalists and consumer advocates seeing correspondence for Viagogo on the reception desk in the building, the reception desk has been instructed to deny that Viagogo has offices there. We find this an odd practice for a company that contends it is behaving in an entirely above-board manner.”

“Despite journalists and consumer advocates seeing correspondence for Viagogo on the reception desk, it has been instructed to deny Viagogo has offices there”

The MPs also rebuke Viagogo for its snub of the CMS Committee’s inquiry, saying the company had told the committee it “did not have sufficient capacity in the UK [to attend] – something we had trouble believing given that clearly the operation is of significant size, as there were between 40 and 50 positions with Viagogo in the UK being advertised online at the time. We do hope that should be the committee resume this inquiry in the current parliament, Viagogo will be more forthcoming.

“However, it is also of concern to us an elected representatives that we, and the committee clerks, had such difficulty getting in touch. This seems to us to be somewhat obstructive, as select committees and their inquiries are an important part of public accountability. Additionally many of our colleagues have been contacted by constituents who have been Viagogo customers with issues and wish to make their own representations to Viagogo.

“They should be able to do so. In light of these issues, we would appreciate more transparency from Viagogo about its UK presence, and how we can engage.”

It is illegal to list an “unauthorised address” for a company trading in the UK.

 


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Viagogo snubs UK ticket abuse inquiry

Viagogo has been heavily criticised by British MPs after failing to send any representatives to today’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee evidence session on ticket abuse.

The hearing – a follow-up to a similar session in November attended by Ticketmaster, eBay/StubHub, Professor Michael Waterson and more – saw a cross-section of industry figures, including See Tickets’ Rob Wilmshurst, Hamilton ticketing director Keith Kenny, Ed Sheeran manager Stuart Camp, Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith, Daily Record journalist Mark McGivern and campaigner Clair Turnham, of the ‘Victims of Viagogo’ group, give evidence to MPs as they consider what action the UK will take on ticket touting.

Committee chair Damian Collins said: “It is of considerable disappointment to us that Viagogo have decided not to send a representative, despite the fact that they have a substantial office in Cannon Street [in central London].

“Given that other companies that operate in the primary and secondary ticketing space, like Live Nation and eBay, have given evidence to the committee, it is of considerable disappointment to us that Viagogo don’t feel they have any oral evidence they can contribute.”

Nigel Adams MP said the no-show demonstrates a “huge lack of respect” on Viagogo’s part.

Nigel Huddleston MP, another member of the committee, said Viagogo had shown “a lack of respect to parliament and, by extension, the British public”.

Mobile ticketing app Dice, meanwhile, used the no-show to take a pot shot at Viagogo, joking it had a “last-minute ticket for the intimate” committee hearing for sale.

According to The Guardian, Switzerland-headquartered Viagogo told MPs by email last night it would not be attending.

The publicity-shy company, which largely adopts a ‘head in the sand’ approach to negative publicity, has recently been hit with multiple speculative-selling lawsuits in Europe, while it – along with eBay’s StubHub and Ticketmaster’s Get Me In! and Seatwave – is under investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority for alleged breaches of consumer protection legislation and HMRC for alleged non-payment of taxes.

Ministers have previously discussed making non-attendance of select committees a crime, although no legislation has yet been introduced.

 


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