Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works for several industries. Logistical nightmares, fishing disputes and faltering supply chains are just some of the issues impacting businesses fundamentally.
The impact it’s had on the creative industries has been less widely publicised in the news, but the consequences have been just as significant. British music artists and performers are facing unique challenges, particularly when it comes to touring in Europe. Live music generates a significant proportion of income for most artists, so it’s a pressing issue for professional musicians.
The current crisis is making it harder for artists to sell and deliver their live performance product in the EU, which has historically been a rich hunting ground for British music exports. What factors are creating this challenge and is anything being done about it?
No visa-free travel
Perhaps the most significant barrier to musicians touring in Europe has been the lack of visa-free travel. The EU and the UK government failed to reach an agreement over this issue, meaning that only one country (Spain) had allowed performers to tour the country without a visa as of 2022.
The only option for artists wanting to tour any other EU member state has been to buy a costly work permit, making touring less affordable for some performers. The visa requirements work the other way too, meaning that European imports are facing many of the same issues – a real blow for the art and performing industries across the continent.
Artists and crews are facing the logistical challenges of transporting equipment into Europe with the additional red tape at customs. Stranded equipment and delays create uncertainty around events and have even forced cancellations.
White Lies, a punk band from London, had their truck and equipment stuck in a queue for 3 days at Dover, forcing them to abandon their first tour date. Stage shows need equipment to deliver the full experience to paying fans, so disruptions are having a dramatic impact on live performances.
High cost of touring
Touring is a business venture and costs have a significant role to play in making operations worthwhile. Brexit has increased those costs remarkably, making touring a less attractive prospect for up-and-coming UK artists.
The fees for visas, additional documentation and authorisations add to an already expensive operation. These are on top of the usual transportation, accommodation, living, and insurance costs that performers have to invest in.
Is anything being done to improve the situation?
The EU and the UK government failed to reach a satisfactory agreement in initial Brexit negotiations and artists have largely been left to fend for themselves ever since.
Amid the pandemic and more recent cost of living crisis, artists have been pushed to their limits and many have struggled to make ends meet. Many artists are focusing their touring efforts on other parts of the world where they can get better returns on investment.
British performers playing at major festivals in Europe this summer has fallen 32% compared to a few years ago, while European performers taking to the Glastonbury stage has nearly halved since Brexit. Music scenes in the USA are starting to become more attractive to artists steering away from the EU. These are all signs of an industry struggling to thrive with the barriers put in place by the Brexit transition.