17th May 2021
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Brexit: Musicians Working In The EU From January 2021

Brexit: Musicians Working In The EU From January 2021
By Michelle Sciarrotta

While talks have been happening up to the wire as Brexit has grown ever closer, it seems musicians are being omitted from the deal so far, with an entire industry left without clarity on what the future might hold for working in the EU after the end of 2020.

The Brexit Deal – What do we know?

What we do know so far is that the Brexit deal has so far contained no detail for musicians or those associated with the industry, touring team including technicians and stage hands, or management. The Musicians’ Union has been advocating constantly for improvements to be made, lobbying for a Musicians’ Passport to be implemented to allow free movement for those working across the continent. The MU explains:

“Musicians need to know if and how they will be able to keep working in the EU after December 2020. MU members tell us they are worried about being priced out of working in the EU. The lack of clarity from Government is not helping.

We still don’t know what visas, carnet or other documentation musicians will need, how to apply for them, or how much it will cost. Touring is expensive. Artists, bands, theatres, orchestras have to work with high costs and low margins. Anything that eats into that makes being a musician that much harder.

Music is worth £5.2 billion to the UK economy. If Government is serious about an economic recovery, it must make sure everyone has the ability to recover – including you and the musicians you love.”

The Musicians’ Passport

The current petition from the MU has upwards of 90k signatures at the time of writing. The request of the petition calls for the backing of a Musicians’ Passport for musicians working in the EU post-Brexit, and outlines the request that the passport:

  • Lasts a minimum of two years
  • Be free or cheap
  • Will cover all EU member states
  • Gets rid of the need for carnets and other permits
  • Covers road crew, technicians and other staff necessary for musicians to do their job.

In more detail, the MU explains:

“Most musicians and performers rely on touring and performing in the European Union to make a living. Musicians, and other creative and cultural workers, are a distinct workforce with specific needs. Visa and customs rules post-Brexit need to account for that.

The Musicians’ Passport must be affordable, multi-entry and admin-light. Placing costly and resource heavy barriers to that could have a severe impact on working and aspiring musicians – as well as the broader UK music industry.

Musicians already have experience with difficult visa systems. It can cost thousands to take a band to the United States, and the cost of fast-track visa processing fees have just gone up 15%. Musicians have voiced their fears that something similar might happen with the European Union, to devastating effect.

The Musicians’ Passport should cover all EU member states. Musicians visit multiple countries on tour, often jumping across borders on a daily basis, often with very little notice. If every musician has to get a visa and carnet for every country they visit, it will make any work in Europe impossible to schedule regardless of whether they are an emerging band or a world-renowned orchestra.

The lack of clarity on the future of musicians working in the EU is already having an impact. MU members are already moving to Europe because they are worried about their future work; to get jobs, to make sure they can get work later, to travel, and to collaborate.

Music and the performing arts rely on exchange of ideas and interaction between performers of different nationalities. We love working in the EU and we love artists coming over here. If musicians can’t travel easily both ways, our reputation as a country that embraces all arts and culture will be severely damaged. Our members’ ability to earn a living will also be severely affected.”

Why is this important?

At present, the current deal will adversely affect musicians in the following ways if it remains unchanged:

  • Musicians do not come under the exemptions for short term business visitors and individual states could make their own rules making it particularly hard for touring musicians.
  • The 90 day max for short term business visitors in Europe has possible implications for touring musicians.
  • Carnets, at a cost of ÂŁ200 +, are required to dodge customs for equipment like cameras and sound decks being moved temporarily for projects. This will add costs and paperwork.
  • British TV and video-on-demand service providers will no longer be able to offer pan European services to European viewers, unless they relocate part of their business to an EU member state.
  • On data, the British Government have said, “the agreement confirms strong data protection commitments by both the UK and the EU, protecting consumers and helping to promote trust in the digital economy.” But there’s lots left to be confirmed and the quickest data adequacy agreement between the EU and another country – Argentina – took 18 months to finalise.
  • At the moment, short term VISA free travel is possible between the UK and EU, but could in theory change in the next couple of years. In the meantime we will be lobbying to get musicians listed as short term business visitors, permitted to work for up to 90 days in the EU.

Lastly, it is worth remembering that a Brexit deal needs to work both ways across the UK and the EU going forward, and that the arts at all levels from grassroots to the A-list will be adversely affected – not just music – if a practical way of working is not created in time when the entertainment industry reopens.

Follow the Musicians’ Union on Twitter

Sign the petition for a Musicians’ Passport

Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

Accessibility At The Smith Center Series: Part One

James “Fitz” FitzSimmons Interview: The Boys In The Band On Netflix

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