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Gigging and Performing Live Abroad

It is not uncommon for British bands, even those on small record labels, to attract interest outside the UK. Should you be offered any gigs or tours abroad, here is some basic advice.

Last updated: 18 February 2021
  • This may seem obvious but ensure that all members of the band have valid an ideally computer-readable, passports.
  • The tour or engagement should be covered by a written contract (in English) and this should be vetted by the MU. It is difficult for us to assist you in recovering unpaid fees, either by legal action or trade union representation, if we have not seen the contract in the first place.
  • Fees should never be less than those paid in the UK for similar performances. If you are working with a new promoter, it is wise to ask for some sort of deposit in advance and further payments should be made promptly during the tour at the times specified in the contract.
  • All travelling expenses from the UK to the country abroad, in that country and return must be paid by the promoter. Once again, it is good practice to try and get these pre-paid so that you have return tickets in your possession before you leave home.
  • In many cases accommodation is provided by the promoter. Where this consists of bed and breakfast, an additional subsistence payment could be negotiated for each musician. These payments are commonly referred to as per diems. Alternatively, you may negotiate a single gig fee that will sufficiently cover all out-of-pocket expenses such as meals and refreshments.
  • Responsibility for obtaining work permits rests with the promoters of the tour in the country abroad. However, it is likely that either you or your management will be required to obtain any visa associated with the work permit issued in the UK.
  • Ensure your equipment insurance covers you abroad, and have your contract checked (please also refer to the MU’s equipment insurance cover for members). It could also be advantageousto have up-to-date Electrical Safety Certificates for all the equipment that you intend to take with you.
  • Legislation introduced in 2013 to combat the illegal trade in endangered species affects musicians whose instruments may contain such species as Brazilian Rosewood, Mother of Pearl or Ivory. Carry as much documentation with you to enable identification of date of purchase and the composite parts of the instrument.
  • There is always the possibility of illness or accident during the time you are abroad and you should therefore ensure that you are covered for medical treatment and legal expenses.
  • If you are being paid as individuals, rather than as a ‘company’, the promoter will often need to deduct a Withholding Tax from the gross performance fee, which could amount to almost a third. It is important to ascertain whether the agreed fee is gross or net of taxes. If you communicate with the promoter at the outset, they may be able to help you in structuring your fee to reduce the tax withheld. It is often possible to split your fee between production and artist’s fee.
  • Public Performance Levies. As in the UK, when you perform your songs you should be paid a royalty through the local equivalent of PRS for Music. This money normally comes to PRS for Music and to you, as a PRS for Music member.
  • If you are travelling by van, it is sensible to join the AA/RAC/Green Flag and take advantage of their free advice on motoring abroad.
  • If you are taking along your own amplifiers, ensure that you have information concerning plugs and power supply for the countries you’ll be visiting. You may find that hiring equipment abroad could be cheaper.
  • Foreign claims: when undertaking professional activities with a contracting party based abroad, MU members are advised to ensure fees are paid up front
    before the contract is performed and to obtain an advance against future royalties payable. 

Tour management

If a band is at the level where it is able to take on freelance musicians and foreign tours, there will usually be a tour manager whose job it is to make all the
travel arrangements. A competent tour manager can take a large portion of logistical stress off the musicians’ shoulders when they are touring overseas.