As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to snatch headlines across the world, every industry is taking a hit in some way: no more so than the live music industry.
With clubs and venues being forced to close, as well as announcements of major festival cancellations, it’s hard to shred any optimism from the situation; but the virus is not a mainstay and there is light at the end of the tunnel in that respect. However the small decision made on the 31st of January carries with it a more damning threat to the industry, I think it’s called Brexit? whatever that is.
Music by Numbers annual report in 2019 highlighted the importance of the British music scene, with £2.7bn in revenue from sales of music and tickets of UK acts overseas making it one of the country’s most successful exports. However with the announcement from The Home Office that EU bands will require visas in order to perform in the UK from 2021, Did Brexit Kill The UK’S Live Music Industry?
For many performers visiting the UK, the previous system during the transitional period of leaving the EU was as welcoming as the festivals that book them to play, allowing artists to move freely between EU states and the UK without the need for a visa or work permit. However despite the efforts of many to have the decision overturned, Brexit happened on the 31st January 2020, hitting the industry with politically charged iron fist, requiring EU artists to carry a Tier 5 visa for gigs, festivals, as well as for non-UK artists coming to the country for promotional activities.
At nearly £250, this document comes with many stipulations, the most ludicrous being a clause that demands the applicant to prove that they have at least £1,000 in savings before even applying. On a human level, the stress and hassle involved in this new process will inevitably be a potential nuisance, especially when dealing with the personalities of global superstars; leading to many pulling out and festival lineups suffering, hindering ticket sales and growth. This is merely speculation, but there is a lot of substance to back it up , with Isle Of White Festival boss John Giddings saying “if it’s going to cost more money to tour there or you’re going to have to take extra days off, then it’s not going to be financially possible“.
Many will argue that this may inspire home grown talent to step up to the plate and I agree to a certain extent, yet I have to feel that without those crowd-filling, stadium-bellowing anthems that come fill the set-lists of the worlds most esteemed artists, festivals will be at a detriment and a ripple effect will ensue. The UK’s festival season attracts some of the biggest stars from across the world, and though in recent years Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds and Parklike have included more home-grown talent, their incredible roster of international stars hauls a massive contribution to the success of the event.
In many cases for smaller acts, though the artist or band members may be able to afford their own documentation, there is an underlying worry that having to get extra visas for British crew means that many acts will be financially be forced to use local crews and not employ people from the UK for those roles. Furthermore, there is further concern that the ATA Carnet is too complicated and costly, with no sure guarantees that the UK/EU ‘border’ will be set up to stamp them accordingly.
The graphic above doesn’t just voice the fears of musicians across the country, but it’s a damning statement that the referendum itself had already dramatically effected the relationship between those working in the UK music industry and their respective European employers. As the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic settles, the problems will still persist for the live music industry, leading to a devastating impact on a community that has continued to thrive throughout the last 20 years.
There is however a beacon of hope, with the government responding to an official petition ensuring that Brexit will protect the Touring Industry for Musicians and Crew, stating “the government recognises the huge importance of touring to the live music sector. We will promote ongoing mobility of people and their goods and equipment in negotiations with the EU“. Though the petition had to be closed because of the general election, the cabinets reply offers the chance of a lifeline for a community that has continued to grow and thrive into a massively important sector of society both creatively and financially.
For those musicians or individuals working in the industry that are struggling financially at this difficult time, below are a list of sites which may be able to offer some guidance: