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Parliamentary Group urges UK government to help musicians and crew tour Europe more easily

21 July 2022. Published by Marlon Cohen, Senior Associate

The All-Parliamentary Group on Music (a cross-party group of more than 100 MPS and Peers) together with representatives from the music industry set out the urgent steps the Government needs to take to help UK musicians following Brexit.

British music and British musicians still remain at the forefront of music production and sales worldwide, with four of the top ten grossing tours of 2019 headlined by UK artists. Live music tours were not however covered by the 1 January 2021 Trade and Co-operation Agreement ("TCA") between the UK and the EU. This has left UK music workers facing more costs, more complications and fewer opportunities to work outside of the UK.

The All-Parliamentary Group on Music (a cross-party group of more than 100 MPS and Peers) together with UK Music issued a report setting out the urgent action the Government should take to help UK musicians and crew tour Europe more easily.

The impact of Brexit on the UK music industry

The music industry added approximately £5.8 billion to the UK economy before the pandemic and employs almost 200,000 people across the UK (ore than the steel and fisheries sectors combined). With the decrease in physical music sales and increase in streaming, most of that revenue is driven by live music and international touring of artists – many of which was a result of cheap access to the European live music market.

As a result of the changes brought in by Brexit, the music industry (including major artists such as Ed Sheeran, Radiohead and Sir Elton John) has been complaining about rising red tap impacting musicians' ability to tour within Europe and new complicated restrictions on short-term working in the EU for UK music workers. This lead to 2021's #LetTheMusicMove campaign, which campaigned against post-Brexit bureaucracy affecting the music industry. 

Following discussion with stakeholders in the industry, the All-Parliamentary Group on Music has issued a report detailing a number of urgent recommendations aimed at improving the TCA and the export of UK music. The report warns that UK music workers are “facing more costs, more complications and getting fewer opportunities” since the UK left the EU at the end of January 2020.

What are the recommendations?

1. Improving provisions under the TSA

  • The TCA currently only allows music workers (including artists, backing musicians, stage technicians, drivers and technical workers) visa free business visits to the EU for market research or trade fairs, but not for those workers to work for pay or tour in the EU. 

  • Music workers have to rely on local EU visas (such as Schengen visas) and are generally restricted to travel of up to 90 days in any 180 day period. The approach across EU countries is not however harmonised with different time periods applying in different countries. Individual EU states also place specific restrictions on the work that can be carried out by non-EU citizens – limiting the actual work that UK musicians can carry out in the EU.

  • The All-Parliamentary Group recommend that the UK government agrees an exemption for music workers supporting 'cultural performances' under the TCA (similar to exemptions made for architects and advertisers), and for the UK government to work with individual member states to get all EU states up to the current 90 in 180 day limit for working musicians.

  • Specific exporting requirements (including export compliance and tax requirements) are now required for acts to export music-related merchandise into the EU. The All-Parliamentary Group recommends expanding the number of checks points where export documents can be verified (including at Eurostar checking points) as well as improving UK border force training.

  • The Group also recommends improving road haulage rules, which have severely impacted UK event hauliers working in the EU.

2. Other key recommendations

  • To implement its recommendations, the Group recommends that the Government enters into a general agreement with EU countries to reduce bureaucracy and allow hauliers to properly support tours. 

  • The Group also suggests appointing a “Touring Tsar” to co-ordinate the response of Government and other stakeholders to the issues facing touring cultural workers. The "Touring Tsar" would work across various government departments to get rid of restrictions that are seen to be hampering the growth of the music industry and creation of new jobs. The chair of the Group has stated that "without urgent action there is a very real risk that the talent pipeline on which the UK music industry relies will be badly damaged for years to come.

  • The creation of a Transitional Support Fund to help UK music exporters deal with increased costs of trading in Europe post-Brexit is also seen as a key issue. The fund would be used to address EU transition costs (allowing live music exporters to overcome the new barriers) as well as bolstering existing programmes run by the BPI and PRS (such as The Music Export Growth Scheme and Showcase Fund). 

What are the next steps?

The All-Parliamentary Group on Music believes that that the issues highlighted will badly hit the competitiveness of UK music workers in a market that the UK used to dominate. The Group also believes that these issues will stunt the careers of developing artists, and block smaller acts and many music workers from accessing the EU, resulting in the long-term dragging growth and development across the sector. As this is just a report from a group of MPS and Peers it is not legally binding, but it may give the impetus to the UK government to address the growing crisis that the music industry is facing. 

The full report is available here.