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Evidence on Challenges Musicians Face as a Result of the Brexit Deal Presented to House of Lords

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge spoke to members of the House of Lords about the challenges facing musicians working in the EU as a result of the Brexit Deal.

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By Maddy Radcliff Published: 25 January 2021 | 5:26 PM Updated: 02 August 2023 | 1:03 PM
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Together we can build on this momentum to be sure your voice is heard at all levels of the Government. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Giving evidence to Peers on the EU Services Sub-Committee, Horace highlighted an array of challenges including touring, fair pay, cabotage and taxation.

"The music industry itself is worth about £5.8bn to the UK economy. It’s considerably more than the fishing industry, which seems to be talked about quite a lot at the moment,” he said in his opening statement.

A vital part of post-Covid economic recovery

"I’m sure you’re aware the live industry ground to a halt last year and has not recovered…We are losing musicians, and we are losing them at an alarming rate," he added.

MU research shows that 38-50% of musicians are falling through gaps in furlough and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). As a result, 34% of musicians are considering abandoning their careers in music and another 37% of them are not sure.

Anything that makes it harder to tour in Europe will make it harder for musicians to make a living when the industry re-opens.

Grassroots artists will suffer the most

Explaining how important the European market is to grassroots musicians, Horace spoke about how difficult it is for musicians to make a living in the UK alone. He also contrasted pre-Brexit European travel with how difficult it is to get into the United States.

"Artists at a grassroots level don’t even bother trying to get into America. Those are the ones who have really enjoyed the festivals and live music opportunities that exist in Europe, and have been able to grow their fanbases in Europe so that they have businesses that are sustainable,” he explained.

Anything that adds cost and red tape, like work permits, carnets and other documentation, will make it even harder for our gigging members to make a living – and potentially make it less likely promoters will book them too.

"We're very very concerned that off the back of a devastating Covid-19 impact, this [Brexit Deal] will mean promoters in Europe will not even bother trying to book UK artists,” Horace told Peers.

Fixing streaming and keeping music alive

The EU’s relationship with music goes beyond touring. “We are desperate to see certain elements of the European Copyright Directive adopted into the UK and unfortunately they haven’t appeared in the TCA [The EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement],” Horace explained.

“One of them is the issue of fair and proportionate remuneration for performers, and transparency,” said Horace. These are key asks in our Fix Streaming campaign in partnership with The Ivors Academy.

“One of the reasons Covid has had such a massive impact on musicians is because they are not really earning very much money from recorded music. You’ve got to be a VERY successful artist to earn enough money from streaming in order to sustain a career," Horace told Peers.

In fact, asked how long it would take an artist to make £1 profit on a standard record deal with a relatively generous royalty rate in the third session of the music streaming inquiry, none of the major label representatives giving evidence could provide a clear answer. One even suggested that their thirty-five artists with a billion plus streams “would all be recouping that deal, I would think”.

Hope for the future

“I am honestly a genuinely positive person, normally. But I am really struggling to find positive things from the TCA that are going to benefit my members,” Horace said.

But hope is not lost. The increased publicity and sheer number of MPs and Peers on our side is a good sign.

Together we can build on this momentum to be sure your voice is heard at all levels of the Government:

Write to your MP

And if they need a little extra support, our door is always open...

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