A new survey of music creators by UK Music, the collective voice of the industry, has revealed the impact of Brexit on artists based in Britain.
In the survey, which received 1,461 responses from musicians, vocalists, composers, songwriters, lyricists, producers and DJs, creators outlined the challenges they still face since the UK left the EU more than three years ago.
Thirty percent of music creators who responded to the survey said their earnings had been affected since the UK’s official exit from the EU on January 31 2020.
Of those whose income had been impacted by Brexit, 82% said their earnings had decreased. Musicians, DJs and vocalists were among the worst hit.
While those whose incomes were reduced made up 24.6% of all those surveyed, that downplays the impact, as the 70% of those surveyed who said they were unaffected by Brexit are not generally working in the EU. Only 18% of those actively working in the EU said their incomes had improved post-Brexit.
In a blow to efforts to grow British music exports, 43% of those hit by Brexit said it was no longer viable for them to tour EU nations.
Music creators used the survey to highlight the problems they still face with EU touring, despite government and industry efforts to remove some of the barriers.
Artists such as Katie Melua said the cost of touring the EU had risen by up to 30% post-Brexit.
Of those creators affected by Brexit, one of the biggest problems remains securing visas and work permits, with 59% of respondents considering this a major issue.
Asked for their views on other adverse changes, those creators impacted by Brexit listed a host of other barriers to making music in the EU including administration costs (56%); transport costs (55%); shipping and logistics (54%); production costs (34%); carnets for transporting equipment (32%); and cabotage restrictions on hauliers (13%).
Of the music creators affected by Brexit, 65% said they had received fewer invites to perform in the EU since the UK’s departure - and 57% said it was not possible to take up the invitations due to increased costs.
A total of 1,461 UK music creators responded to the UK Music’s Creators’ Survey carried out between April 4 and June 1, 2023.
Responding to the findings, UK Music called on the government to take urgent action to tear down the barriers facing musicians, music creators and crew trying to tour the EU. UK Music is urging the government to make it a top priority to secure a new Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU.
Our survey findings show the huge impact of Brexit on so many working in the music industry
UK Music interim chief executive Tom Kiehl said: “Our survey findings show the huge impact of Brexit on so many working in the music industry. Among the worst hit are the emerging music creators just starting out. Restrictions on visas, work permits, truck hire and merchandise sales along with excessive red tape are making touring simply unviable for many.
“The ability to tour internationally in the early stages of an artist’s career is crucial to their success and our sector’s ambition to grow British music exports amid fierce global competition. We need the government to make it a priority to secure a Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU to remove these barriers.
“As we approach key elections in the UK and EU over the coming year, it’s imperative all political parties get behind this to strike a deal that supports the music industry during the next Parliament and Commission.”
UK Music is also calling for a Music Exports Office to back British talent by helping them grow their international audiences and export profile. Similar offices are common across the world, including in Germany, Australia and Canada.
Maxïmo Park lead singer Paul Smith said: “I thought one of the aims of Brexit was to reduce bureaucracy, but there's more red tape than ever holding us up at borders, with similar issues affecting international musicians coming into our country.
“I've seen the situation from the viewpoint of a larger touring band, where Maxïmo Park's European tour costs have rocketed across the board, and with my folk duo Unthank: Smith, where our single Irish show became very stressful due to a lack of clarity over what merchandise, or even which instruments, we could bring with us.
“Cultural exchange is vitally important to a forward-thinking country, and our specialist industry requires a more bespoke approach from the government in order to enhance both economic and artistic output for UK musicians.”
Singer-songwriter Katie Melua (pictured) said: “Having recently toured Europe both on a headline tour and a series of summer shows, I can testify that touring post-Brexit has created certain challenging side-effects felt by my team as well as my crew.
“Our costs of touring, especially for transport and accommodation, have risen by approximately 25-30% on previous years. In addition, there remain vague protocols around taxation and compliance which have generated increased accountancy fees. Although my team did not suffer from equipment held-up at borders we are aware that this has been an issue for several of our colleagues.
“Touring is a complex endeavour at the best of times, so any efforts that help make touring more manageable from a costs and effort perspective, especially for younger and less experienced artists who are working hard to establish their touring businesses, would be a very welcomed advancement for the British music industry.”
I can testify that touring post-Brexit has created certain challenging side-effects
Everything Everything bassist Jeremy Pritchard said: “Young and developing artists benefit immeasurably from playing mainland Europe. Not only does it broaden your audience and horizons, but it makes you a richer person and artist, which in turn goes back into the work itself. I used to see artists from the USA and Canada base themselves in the UK for whole summer festival seasons in order to take advantage of our then enviable access to Europe. It was a privilege, as was the economic dominance of UK music on the European live music scene. We cannot expect that to continue under current conditions.
“Excellent lower and middle tier UK artists are now excluded from European shows by the associated costs, admin and man hours implied by Brexit, which simply make European touring unviable. At the higher end, headline artists in Europe are fewer, as it’s more onerous to book UK acts, which is yet more loss to the UK public purse. UK musicians urgently require the needless barriers to both profitable trade and to vital exchange of ideas and experience to be lifted.”
Mezzo soprano and creative producer Jennifer Johnston said: “The UK’s music industry is world-renowned, a powerhouse and the generator of both global soft power and significant economic benefit into the economy, yet almost nothing has been done to mitigate the impact of Brexit, for which the government must ultimately take responsibility.
“Opera singers and classical musicians have seen their volume of work in Europe shrink by as much as 80%, thanks to a combination of visa red tape, reduction in touring, and the general perception across Europe that it’s not a good idea politically to employ many British artists.
“With diminishing funding for the arts at home, the future looks bleak for many and for the UK music industry itself.”
A new Cultural Touring Agreement would help reduce bureaucracy and cut costs involved in EU touring outside of the next opportunity to update the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
A new agreement could contain a waiver on carnets for UK-EU travel; an exemption from cabotage restrictions for registered specialist event hauliers travelling in the UK and the EU; and a mutually recognised Musicians’ Passport, which could act as a visa and work permit waiver for a defined group of musicians and music workers to participate in tours and short-term engagements across Europe.
The UK Music survey findings come a year after the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music published a major report on the post-Brexit landscape for musicians.
UK Music and the APPG continue to call for a government Touring Minister to act as a single point of contact for the touring cultural sector.