Let us play! The UK music industry cries out for support on European touring

Posted on 27 January 2021
By Alex Usher
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Sir Elton John, Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran are among over a hundred artists to sign an open letter demanding visa-free touring of the European Union for all UK artists.

The creation of a low-cost ‘musician’s passport’ allowing UK artists and their road crew to travel Europe has been proposed by The Musicians’ Union, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the Liberal Democrats.

The notion has the support of the general public, with a change.org petition supporting the idea having reached over 113,000 signatures.

UK government officials have responded to the signatories, saying they should ask the EU why they rejected the UK’s offer.

Meanwhile the EU deny claims they rejected the UK’s “ambitious proposals” and stated they offered the UK 90 days of visa-free travel, but the UK responded with their own proposal of just 30 days.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said the EU’s “very broad” offer “would not have been compatible with the government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders”.

The way it currently stands, artists will need work permits or multiple visas to travel over the 27-member states if they intend to tour Europe.

These extra expenses will be particularly felt by musicians at the start of their careers, who may rely on touring for their income.

Singer of Oxford band Low Island, Carlos Posada, said: “When we toured Europe we were already touring on very low budgets, breaking even if we were lucky.

“You can say on balance the opportunity is worth it even though we’re going to lose ‘X’ amount of pounds.

“As soon as you add in the potential of a carnet and visa costs, also for crew members, we’re talking of around £2000 upwards on top of your touring costs, where you’re already making a loss.”

With streaming services such as Spotify only offering £0.0034 per stream, many smaller artists rely on touring to survive.

Teresa Woischiski of Swedish band Ghost of Helags said: “Of course it will effect small bands, because sometimes they see the opportunity to support a big band on tour for the exposure to new fans. They’re not making a profit, they’re just trying to get their voice out there.

“It’s always been a struggle for musicians, it’s always been hard. I think we will just make a lot of noise and fight our way through this somehow.

“Everybody needs music and everyone wants to go to gigs again. I’m sure we’ll find a way to get heard.”