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Report Released Recommending that Government Must Act Now to Protect Music

A new report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee says the Government must act now to protect music. The Musicians’ Union (MU) is delighted to see the inquiry take on board our concerns about working in the European Union (EU) post-Brexit.

Published: 20 March 2019 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM
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Read the report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee

Work opportunities

The EU is an important source of work for musicians. The report reflects this, quoting evidence from musician Tom Gray:

“People think that because back in the 1960s people used to tour in Europe it was fine, but here is the thing: there used to be a massive national touring circuit in the UK. You could do 60 to 70 shows regionally and build up and grow and get big enough that you had enough money to be able to go to Europe. You had already made it, effectively, when you left the country. But that has disappeared now.”

Touring in the EU used to be for those at the top of the industry who could afford to pay for travel and carnets. EU membership changed that. Now, venues and festivals in EU member states are an essential part of the gig circuit – relatively easy to get to, without any admin at all.

Opportunities in Europe are more important than ever. We’ve lost 35% of our music venues in the last decade, according to the Music Venue Trust. With business rates and poor implementation of planning policy that protects venues, what happens to the music industry if there aren’t enough places for musicians to work?

A touring visa

That is why the MU is calling for free movement for musicians – or, at the very least, a touring visa that is cheap, admin light and covers all member states.

The report agrees, “We support the industry’s calls for the introduction of an EU-wide touring visa, which the Government should pursue in its future relationship with the European Union.”

You can show your support by signing the petition for a touring visa for musicians working in the EU post-Brexit.

Visas by salary

Salary levels are not the best way of deciding whether or not someone working in the music industry can come to the UK. “Even if you are employed full time in an orchestra, you might be on less than £30,000 a year. They are the most stable jobs that musicians are likely to have and they are funded organisations,” we said in our evidence to the inquiry.

It’s also difficult in the music industry to define who is and who isn’t highly skilled. “How do you demonstrate that if you are not classically trained? Where do they draw the line in terms of skills?” asked Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl when she gave evidence to the inquiry in person.

This, combined with the loss of work opportunities in the UK, could be a real threat to the future of the music industry.

MPs on the DCMS Select Committee agree, calling on Government to develop an immigration policy that recognises the impact individuals make beyond their income bracket, and consult with the music industry in the formulation of its immigration policy.

It’s not just about musicians

It’s about equipment too. We’re concerned about the introduction of carnets for EU travel. A carnet is a legal document that shows you can temporarily move goods outside the UK – for example, any instruments or gear you need to tour or perform.

Some people say it will never happen. The problem is, it is already happening. For example, if you are a DJ in Gibraltar and you want to work in Spain, you have to fill in a carnet so that you can take your gear across the border. It is not unreasonable to be concerned that this rule will apply to British musicians too.

Again, the report agrees with us, calling on Government “to resist any arrangements that would result in the reintroduction of temporary customs documents for touring equipment”.

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