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Music organisations criticise government for “misleading” post-Brexit touring claims

"This announcement has done nothing to correct the misleading information"

By Hollie Geraghty

Live music
In an open letter music organisations criticised "misleading" claims around post-Brexit touring. (Photo: Pexels).

Leading music industry organisations have written an open letter to the government criticising “misleading” post-Brexit touring claims.

In August the government announced that visa-free short-term touring would be allowed in 19 European Union member states, but now industry chiefs have claimed that the meaning was misleading.

Last week (October 19) there was more frustration from industry members when the government announced ‘visa-free short term touring’ in 20 EU countries, adding Romania to the list. There were complaints about the “spin and misinformation” that failed to address previous concerns.

Addressing the original August announcement, the open letter said: “We were concerned that this claim gave a misleading impression to members of the creative industries who rely on work in Europe and that your announcement implied that musicians (and other creative professionals) touring in those 19 member states would be permitted to work visa-free for up to 90 days.”

It added that existing short-stay visa-waivers between the EU and third countries are commonly 90 days within a 180-day period, but highlighted this is not the case with many countries on the list, which could cause confusion. 

“It was therefore extremely disappointing to see a new announcement from your Department on 12th October which claimed that visa-free short-term touring was now allowed in 20 member states due to the addition of Romania to the original list.

“This announcement has done nothing to correct the misleading information from August and, more worryingly, is being shared widely online without question or qualification.”

The letter was signed by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Musicians’ Union, Association of Independent Music, Featured Artists Coalition, Carry on Touring and Music Managers Forum.

This comes after Elton John criticised the impact of Brexit on up-and-coming musicians, arguing that his own career would have taken a different route without the opportunities of European touring.

“It would have been totally different,” he said in an interview with NME. “As an artist, you learn your craft by playing live. I started out going to Europe; you’re in a different culture, which makes you a little fearful, but you embrace the culture, and the culture embraces you…”

He made similar comments to The Observer in June, describing the situation as “A nightmare […] To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”

In the same interview he had strong words for the British government, describing them as “philistines. We’ve got used to governments – especially the British government – just telling us lies every day, and I don’t feel OK with that.

“Look what they did with the NHS. After all that those people did during Covid, they give them a 1% [pay] increase. I find that extraordinary. I just can’t live with that. It makes me so angry.”

Elsewhere, a new report by UK Music recently revealed one in three music industry jobs were lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The letter highlighted the report, adding that the Secretary of State gave her commitment that the government would continue to back the UK music industry “every step of the way”.

It continued: “Now, more than ever, it is vital for DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] to fulfil this pledge and work in partnership with the sector to support a music industry in crisis.

The UK Music report found that 69,000 UK music industry jobs were lost during the pandemic, also noting that many self-employed people in the industry were “not eligible” for government support.