Whether you wanted Brexit or not is another argument that everyone has had over and over again. In our world though, the shit has really hit the musical fan and there is now a mass scramble to see what can be found in the wreckage of the Brexit deal.
It’s not only going to be tough for musicians but also for crews, promoters and the whole of the UK industry – one of the biggest businesses in the UK and a cultural force that is vital for the UK’s international image.
The future has to be more than a dwindling pool of old blokes (it’s always blokes) talking about the good old days and music becoming a rich kid’s hobby horse…
1. No future in England’s dreaming?
There are many hurdles to be overcome for touring bands but perhaps the biggest problem may be more cultural. With the next wave of young UK bands being edged out of vital European touring and festival circuit because of the potential cost and difficulty in booing them it will mean that British musical culture will no longer be so dominant in Europe. For a long time we here at LTW have been saying this and how our culture will fade. In the past couple of decades this process has already started with home grown scenes in all countries but the British pop culture that was once so cherished could now, post Brexit, slide into a backwater. The UK image was once The Beatles and the swinging sixties and is now Farage.
The Brexit agreement listed all sorts of exceptions and workarounds for other visas but nothing about musician visas. Bands are still left in the dark. It’s almost like Johnson, who is so bellowingly, annoying about his love of the Clash forgets musicians when it’s not convenient. The fishing industry, that was so long a priority in the deal brinkmanship, was also left shafted but at least they now know how – musicians have no idea what the visa situation will entail. Will there be a need for visas? Or will it have to be a visa for each country in Europe as you travel through? Each country, contrary to Brexit opinion, actually already controls its own borders. This could see a lot of added costs and long waiting times and the opportunity to escalate out of control like the USA (the country that we have a ‘special relationship’ with ha ha) charging 5 grand for UK musicians visas where we charge American bands 50 quid. There is a campaign for a musicians visa but it will be tough to pull off.
The return of the carnet will make all musicians over the age of 50 shudder. Memories of arcane forms and confused customs guards at 4 in the morning taking all your gear out of the van and leaving it on the roadside whilst they go through it item by time without a clue what guitar strings are rush back. The carnet was a list of all the quipment you started the tour with. It was all itemised and it all had to remain intact and be returned back to the UK or you would lose your deposit. The deposit could sometimes be up to 300 per cent of what your gear was worth. Before the EU got rid of this arcane nonsense touring over borders was a nightmare.
These days, bands will tell you all about the Swiss border Merch scam. Travelling through or gigging in Switzerland means having to pay a large deposit on your merch to get in and out of the country and in and out of the EU. Smaller bands hide their merch all over the van, larger bands go for the 2 in the morning border drive in the hope that the guards can’t be bothered to look through the T shirts. There is a chance now that post Brexit that this could now play out on every border for a British band. One solution is that the merch will have to be manufactured and receipted up in Europe – a workaround of course but hardly taking back control is it? We want to give our local friends the money for their business.
Where does Brexit leave touring bands and their insurance – complications are on the horizon.
The same goes for tax…
7. The cost of touring will go up and only middle class youth will be able to afford to tour…is this the future that people really want?
8. Maybe the future model will see all venues have to provide backline as well as the PA – this something we have long argued for. Of course it’s tough for venues already reeling from the pandemic to be expected to buy up back lines but a gear amnesty in every town and city would be a start with unused amps and gear going to local venues. It could be the only way that British bands will be able to afford or even get to the gigs in time – imagine having to cross three borders with visas and carnets to get to a show ? Or would it just be easier to not book UK acts at all – several promoters and agents I’ve spoken to in Europe in the last week have already said that in the future the UK acts will not be key booking any more due to all the problems with having to bring them in.
9. There’s even weird extra cost curveballs that no-one has thought of. At the moment your guitar which may be made out of an endangered wood can travel around Europe with you – in the future it will need paperwork declaring what it is and why it is made that way – that paperwork will be another cost.
10. There is also the uncertainty. In the rush to get the perfect PR shot of Johnson pretending to be in control the small details were overlooked. No-one really knows what post pandemic touring will be like. The virus has already made it tough without all these extra Brexit problems. Of course we will work our way around this because we have no choice but it does make you wonder why anyone who has to go through this lack of care or help from the government would be bothered to pay them any tax on the profits they make from touring and selling their music in Europe…