Five years to the day of the original referendum vote on Brexit, today (June 23rd) sees the launch of a new artist-led music industry campaign – #LetTheMusicMove – pushing for a reduction in the costs and red tape faced by UK musicians and UK music businesses when full-scale live touring of Europe resumes.

The campaign starts with the support of more than 200 artists, including Wolf Alice, Annie Lennox, Biffy Clyro, IDLES, Radiohead, Anna Calvi, Skunk Anansie, Everything Everything, Graeme Park, Bob Geldof and The Chemical Brothers.

#LetTheMusicMove is urging the Government to act now to mitigate the slew of Brexit-related expenditure, restrictions and bureaucracy, which is making EU touring unviable and threatens the future success of British music.

Currently, the UK is the second biggest exporter of music in the world, and Europe is our most important overseas market. In 2019, UK artists played almost four times as many shows across the EU than they did in North America.

These gigs and festival appearances sustained an estimated 33,000 British jobs. Their successful return is absolutely vital, not only for the performers and musicians involved, but for an entire ecosystem of live music industry workers and businesses.

However, despite the Prime Minister’s promises to “fix” the multitude of problems resulting from the end to visa-free touring significant uncertainties and barriers remain.

For instance, under new post-Brexit rules:

  • UK touring vehicles will be limited to only three stops in Europe before having to return home

  • UK musicians will require an onerous goods passport (a “carnet”) in order to tour Europe, including a bond for their instruments and equipment

  • Those planning to perform in Spain, the UK’s second biggest touring market, face an unprecedented burden of work permits, paperwork and travel costs making many shows and festival performances unviable

Alongside the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, such additional costs and red tape will put future European touring in jeopardy – particularly for upcoming artists looking to build and expand their audiences.

There is now a growing sense of urgency for the Government to act.

#LetTheMusicMove launches the same day that 50 UK music artists sent a letter to the Prime Minister requesting that the UK Government urgently engage with the EU and its member states to ease the burden of seeking permissions each time artists and their teams wish to perform in EU countries.

Earlier this month, Elton John wrote to MPs on the DCMS Committee outlining how post-Brexit restrictions on touring the EU were a “looming catastrophe” for the UK’s music sector. Meanwhile, last week, new consumer research from Public First indicated that the UK public are not doing enough to address these issues. This follows a petition by freelancer Tim Brennan, as part of the Carry on Touring campaign, calling for a Europe-wide, visa-free work permit for touring professionals and artists that attracted more than 286,000 signatures.

Backed by a growing cross-section of the UK music industry, including the umbrella bodies LIVE and UK Music, #LetTheMusicMove is now calling on Government to deliver four immediate actions to help avoid an impending crisis:

  • An urgent Transitional Support Package to cover new and additional costs for touring artists and crews in the EU

  • Measures to overcome restrictive “cabotage” rules on UK vehicles touring Europe

  • A viable long-term plan for UK artists and crew to continue working in all EU-27 countries, without costly permits and bureaucracy

  • To ensure European artists have reciprocal freedoms and access to perform at UK venues and festivals

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, commented: “Despite sustaining thousands of UK jobs and bringing millions into the economy, the live music industry has been forgotten in the UK Government’s Brexit deal.

“Touring is the lifeblood of the UK music industry – sustaining musicians both financially and turbo-charging their transition into iconic music brands. #LetTheMusicMove is calling on Government to urgently work with EU member states to fix our abandoned sector, and allow touring to take place for generations to come.”

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, said:

“European touring is crucial to thousands of British musicians and crew, and the immense challenges they now face need urgent attention. The #LetTheMusicMove campaign has fantastic support and shows how united and determined our sector is to resolve this problem.

“The Government has shown with their recent trade deal with Australia that visa barriers can be eased and trade given a crucial boost where there is enough will and political determination.

“It is vital that the Government now shows the same political will in its talks with EU member states to support our world-leading industry which contributes £5.8 billion to the UK economy, £2.9 billion in exports and supports around 200,000 jobs.”

Following an earlier postponement, Lord Frost, who is responsible for securing post-Brexit EU travel for creative workers, is anticipated to be appearing soon at a rescheduled evidence session on EU visa arrangements at the DCMS Select Committee.