Quarter of Music Industry Workers Have Had no Work in EU since Brexit

credit:; theguardian

EU (Parliament Politic Magazine) – A survey reveals that nearly half of musicians and individuals employed within the music industry in the UK have experienced reduced opportunities for work in the EU following Brexit, with over 25% having encountered a complete absence of work in the EU. The Independent Society of Musicians (ISM), the organization responsible for conducting the survey, conveyed that the consequences of Brexit on the music field have been highly detrimental.

 The limitations imposed have significantly compromised the feasibility of pursuing a livelihood as a musician, the ISM stated. Mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston emphasized that Brexit is progressively undermining the outstanding music sector in the country, and its far-reaching effects cannot be downplayed. Urging prompt action, Johnston called upon the government to take corrective measures to counteract the ongoing damage before irreversible repercussions ensue.

Industry Workers Having No Work

One participant in the ISM’s survey expressed, “Our work has come to a standstill… Opportunities for performances in Europe have suddenly disappeared. Our band is struggling to sustain itself in the limited UK market, leading us to essentially disband as working musicians.”

Another individual shared, “Gaining visibility and auditioning at European opera houses has become nearly impossible since January 1, 2021. European opera companies are hesitant to consider UK singers due to the post-Brexit changes.”

The ISM collected feedback from over 400 musicians and industry professionals regarding their encounters after Brexit, spanning from January 1, 2021, to April 2023. Participants were requested to focus on experiences unaffected by the COVID pandemic during this timeframe.

40% of the participants revealed that their work had been canceled, and a nearly equal percentage (39%) mentioned that they were compelled to reject job offers.

The primary additional cost reported post-Brexit was associated with visas and work permits. There were also references to expenses related to carnets, which are permits for transporting goods across borders, along with various travel expenditures. A respondent conveyed, “Carnets significantly prolong border crossing times, causing confusion among border officials; considering this, carnet expenses seem needless.”

Music Sector Paying the Price

Even in nations where visa or work permit mandates are absent, individuals within the music sector still encounter limitations. According to the ISM report titled “Paying the Price,” the Schengen visa waiver system confines their presence in the EU to 90 days within a 180-day span.

As stated in the report, “Many of my clients have fallen victim to the 90-in-180-day travel constraints. Consequently, some have suffered losses amounting to tens of thousands of pounds in potential work opportunities,” noted a respondent.

Despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) inked between the UK and EU on December 30, 2020, no explicit provisions were included to address short-term travel for creative professionals or their supporting staff.

In 2021, the House of Commons culture committee highlighted the consequences of this omission, citing the creation of barriers that affect the mobility of musicians, their supporting workforce (including visas and work permits), and the movement of equipment and merchandise.

The ISM has put forth several recommendations to the government. Among them is the proposal to negotiate a specialized visa waiver arrangement with the EU, permitting UK artists and support personnel to engage in work across any part of the EU for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day timeframe.

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EU Have Experienced a Lack of Employment Opportunities

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, conveyed, “The UK’s music scene stands as a remarkable tale of success, something we rightfully take pride in. Recognizing the creative industries as a potential arena for growth, the chancellor has made an accurate assessment.”

She further added, “Brexit should never have translated into restrictions on musicians’ ability to freely share their talents with our closest neighbors. This situation undermines our nation, diminishes our soft power, and jeopardizes our invaluable creative talent pipeline.”

Paul Carey Jones, an independent opera vocalist, remarked, “Undoubtedly, British freelancers are experiencing a notable influence on their livelihoods and professions, resulting in the outcome that European employers frequently opt to involve rivals from other regions.” She further explains:

“As ever, it’s those at the start of their careers, without the backing of an established reputation, who will suffer the most – and the consequent long-term damage to the UK’s position as a global force in the performing arts is incalculable.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.