ON Tuesday, July 19, an influential cross-party group comprised of over 100 MPs and peers, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Music, published a major report titled Let The Music Move – A New Deal for Touring.

The report highlights the key issues facing creatives and makes several recommendations to the UK Government on improving musicians’ ability to tour in European member states through the improvement of the Trade and Co-Operation Agreement (TCA), the agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom implemented in January 2020. For many musicians, there has been no clear benefits of Brexit.

The report, discussed on BBC Radio Scotland Good Morning Scotland, states that “there has not been any compensation from improved access to other markets.”

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It was of very little surprise to musicians that when the TCA was initially revealed there was next to no mention of the creative industries regarding a post-Brexit. This set the tone for how freelancers, creatives and musicians would be treated by the UK Government throughout the pandemic.

For most of my career, I had enjoyed the ability to tour to several European countries with my band with no carnets, instrument certification, restriction of movement, issues with splitter vans, carnets, musical instrument certification, work permits or visas requirements. But this bureaucratic nightmare is very much a reality.

Compounded with the pandemic, Brexit has been catastrophic for both emerging an established musician, with many 2020 shows being cancelled and deserted, as opposed to rescheduled.

The National: Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent. Christmas stockpiling and Brexit uncertainty have again caused huge queues of lorries to stack up in Kent. The latest delays came as the UK marked less than two weeks until 2021 and the end of the Brexit

The restriction on UK haulage trucks working in the EU has left many more established acts without their rigs, forced to cancel shows in mainland Europe, whilst their gear sits in queues at Dover (above). I should note that even despite the music industry being decimated by the pandemic, the sector still employs more workers than the UK steel and fisheries industries combined.

Already, many promoters, festivals and organisers are simply choosing not to book emerging acts from the UK to avoid the bureaucratic headache. The Musicians Union have stated that “Artists need to remind bookers and promoters in the EU that it won’t cost them anymore to use UK acts than it used to”. This adds to the difficulty of emerging musicians getting a foot in the door.

And even those who do get bookings on the European tour circuit or at festivals, what is often the financial make-or-break of a tour – selling merchandise – has also been effected. Currently, export declarations apply for all shipments of goods into the EU above €1000. So, if you want to sell just 100 CD’s, you’d need to register as an exporter, get an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number and potentially face additional customs duties and VAT charges.

Whilst larger established acts can often absorb the additional costs associated with this, smaller acts told the APPG inquiry that they found it prohibitive to take merchandise for sale on tour – cutting off yet another life-line of possible income.

We all know that streaming of music doesn’t pay musicians equitably, so it’s a huge hit on emerging acts that even selling 100 CD’s will be subject to hefty bureaucracy and import taxes. Streaming has almost single-handedly decimated the recording industry, yet in December 2021, when Kevin Brennan MP tried to introduce a private members bill which sought to #FixStreaming from the top down, the bill was voted against, primarily by Conservative MPs.

Back to the report ... one of the key recommendations is that the UK Government “appoint a Minister to act as a single point of contact for the touring cultural sector.” Whilst this has been cringely dubbed as the “Touring Tsar”, this comes as a welcome move, considering the current Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries seems to completely lack a basic understanding of her vast portfolio.

A dedicated minister for the creative industries touring in Europe post-Brexit is a great way to begin to ensure that there is continued focus on improving on the issues that affect musicians here in the UK as well as musicians in the European countries.

After all, the UK is the largest exporter of music to European member states.

The National: Pete Wishart

Musicians are generally very appreciative of the work of MP’s such as Kevin Brennan, Harriet Harman and Pete Wishart (above), who continue to raise awareness and campaign on issues such as streaming and touring in Europe post-Brexit.

But at the end of the day, a report, is simply just a report. I won’t hold my breath until we see tangible real change from the UK Government on the way creatives are treated in regard to policy making. Given the turmoil that Westminster is currently embroiled in, who knows just how long this current culture secretary will even last?

For too many years, we’ve had UK Government culture secretaries who have proven to be extremely out of touch with the issues facing creative industries. For example, there was a five-month delay between Dorries’ predecessor Oliver Dowden announcing that the department had established the EU countries where touring was allowed permit-free and a list actually being published.

The lives of creatives have been up in the air for too long, but for me, the only opportunity to take back control of my career, my livelihood and my ability to work in Europe visa-free is to rejoin the EU as a citizen of an independent Scotland.

Read the full report Let The Music Move – A New Deal for Touring here: https://www.ukmusic.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/APPG-on-Music_Let-the-Music-Move_A-New-Deal-For-Touring.pdf