Analysis Finds 45% Drop In British Artist Bookings Post-Brexit

Brexit bureaucracy is making life hard for touring musicians.

The number of UK musicians booked to play festivals in Europe has fallen by 45% this year, according to analysis by campaign group Best for Britain.

The percentage decrease was estimated by calculating the average number of British bands playing across three major European festivals annually between 2017 and 2019, and comparing it to the number booked to play the same festivals in 2022.

See: LIVE To Help UK Government Sort Out Post-Brexit Touring

The three festivals were Benicassim in Spain, Sziget in Hungary, and Lollapalooza in Germany. Three festivals may be a small selection of events to go by, but Best for Britain still finds the statistics “sobering,” and enough to raise “concerns on the impact that Brexit might be having on the next generation of British musicians,” according to a press release from the campaign group.

It published its lineup analysis ahead of a meeting of the cross-party U.K. trade and business commission, where politicians will listen to evidence on the post-Brexit challenges facing the UK music and travel industries during the first festival and holiday season without COVID restrictions.

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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – AUGUST 12: Florence Welch performs at Sziget Festival on August 12, 2019 in Budap (Photo by Didier Messens/Redferns)

So far, this commission has identified the following issues: a lack of labor mobility from the EU to the UK, and stringent visa requirements discouraging overseas talent;
Brexit labour policy causing UK nationals to lose out on employment opportunities in the EU to EU workers; visa requirements, carnets and rules on cabotage making touring more difficult for British musicians disproportionately impacting emerging UK talent; current government policies not recognizing the international nature of the travel and music industries with the impact being felt by the UK economy and consumers.

Industry leaders have been warning that the UK government’s Brexit deal makes doing business much more difficult for touring musicians, emphasizing that it was “incompatible with common industry practice where musicians are often asked to fill last-minute vacancies in a festival lineup,” according to the press release.

Emerging artists are disproportionately affected by the Brexit deal, as they don’t have the resources to deal with all the added bureaucracy as well as pay for visas and carnets. They are also most likely to lose out on the aforementioned last-minute vacancies, as established musicians are more likely to be booked months in advance.

In April, British band, White Lies were forced to cancel a performance in Paris citing what they described as “an appallingly-run government system in the UK,” which saw their equipment detained by officials enforcing post-Brexit customs rules.

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High profile artists including Elton John, Radiohead and Biffy Clyro have previously called on the government to address the issues facing musicians following Brexit. This week, the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Music called for the appointment of a “touring tsar” to help solve the problems.

Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, commented, “The Beatles famously made their name in Europe and it’s on tour that many musicians gain the formative experiences and audiences they need to take off.

“With their dud Brexit deal, our lame duck Government has not only robbed emerging British talent of these opportunities abroad, but has also made international acts think twice before including Glasgow or London in their European tours.”

Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and U.K. trade and business commissioner, Deborah Annetts said, “Previous witnesses to our commission have described how, if you’re a festival organiser in Barcelona who needs to fill a last minute slot, British bands will be at the bottom of your list due to new barriers created by this botched Brexit deal.

“Whoever ends up replacing Boris Johnson must commit to removing this needless bureaucracy which is stifling the prosperity and creativity of the next generation of British musicians.”

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