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U.K Based Artists May Struggle To Tour In The EU Post-Brexit

Brexit is ever looming and the deadline that seemed miles away now is dauntingly close. No Matter what way you voted it’s clear that touring the EU as a U.K based artist is about to become extremely difficult and costly. 

Before we talk about how it’s going to possibly change and what the future may look like it is best to understand how touring in the EU looks before we leave. In addition to this we will also look at the estimated costs (estimated being a keyword). 

Right, you’re a band and you want to tour the EU. Brilliant, so first up is purchasing a tour van, nothing particularly fancy but something stable. Most bands will opt for some sort of white van/mini-van second hand*, this will cost anywhere between £4000-£7000. Then you will probably need to do some conversions to make it suitable for driving across countries and with acceptable storage space (a bed if you’re real fancy), that’s another £500-£1000. So, you’ve got your vehicle, it’s road legal and good to go. Now you need to insure it, this cost can vary based on a litany of reasons (age, years driving etc) but roughly speaking it is in the ballpark of £500. Okay, so you have your van, you’re insured and you’re ready to tour. Now we need to take in consideration fuel, eating, drinking and the ferry cost to France. All in all that is another rough estimate of £500. 

As you can see before you even set foot in EU territory as an artist or band collectively you have spent a lot of hard earned cash. Thankfully though on the other side is a wave of fans waiting to see you in hundreds of venues around one of the largest continents. Chances are they’re going to buy gig tickets (which you get a cut) and merch (that’s all yours). All of this is at your fingertips and there are no visas, hidden costs and for the most part it’s plain sailing. 

This is what touring in the EU currently looks like for most emerging bands and artists. However all this is about to potentially change and it may not be for the better. 

There has been plenty of warning signs in the build up to this and the government has been warned multiple times the disastrous effect the loss of free movement will be to emerging acts wanting to tour the EU. For some the argument would be that you could tour more intensely in the U.K, which is absolutely true, However, for a band to survive and grow, the U.K just isn’t a big enough land mass. Being able to head to the rest of Europe, free of charge with minimal fuss was a dream for U.K based artists. It has now been confirmed that free movement between “EU states will cease from December 31st 2020” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had this to say “Today marks the delivery of our promise to the British people to regain control of our borders and consider new arrivals on the basis of the skills they have to offer and the contribution they can make, not where they come from.”

You can read the full Government guidelines here.

After this date you will need a visa to visit an EU country. In fact, you’re likely to need a visa for EACH country you visit. Now, as you can imagine for a touring artist not only is this a pain it’s costly. Not to mention that a venue or booking agent is unlikely to pay for these visas, especially as every U.K based artist will need this. Thankfully, Ireland will be exempt from this, so free movement for artists will be in place. 

Now, big artists such as James Blunt has said that this won’t affect him and he’s not wrong. Bigger artists will be able to swallow these new financial hits but if you’re an emerging band where every penny counts this is a problem. As Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust CEO put it “You’ve got James Blunt saying it doesn’t matter and won’t affect him – and you know what? He’s right. He won’t even notice”.

It’s still unclear exactly how Brexit will affect musicians based in the U.K but it is clear to see that it may not be positive. However, composer, writer and broadcaster Howard Goodall highlighted the potential changes in a recent Twitter thread (read below).

You can also find more changes and information via the ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians) website. One glaring change will be added cost of traveling with an instrument. “We have calculated that musicians who travel to the EU27/EEA and carry an instrument may incur additional costs of up to £1,000 per year in the worst case, post-transition period Brexit scenario.”

The ISM also declare that if British musicians cannot work in the UE, it will damage the U.K’s cultural standing and influence with our world-class music industry. 

Watch the ISM webinar on what a No Deal Brexit Could Mean For Musicians here:

The U.K’s music industry contributes £5.2 billion a year to the U.K economy, a major part of our entire creative industries that adds a massive £101.5 billion a year to the economy. This is more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences, oil and gas industries combined.

There is much to consider when thinking about how Brexit will affect U.K based artists and touring. Although there is no clear advice or promise from the U.K Government, one thing remains clear to see. If you’re an artist or band based in the U.K touring Europe is about to get a lot more difficult and expensive. 

*It is also worth highlighting that a lot of bands will hire a van which is cheaper but still roughly around £3000 (including European road insurance and accident cover). A second note is that if the venue has amps and a backline then they can just hop on the Eurostar with their guitars and play a show in Paris that night.