Music Business

Brexit: How Will it Affect Touring?

18 Mar 2020

This post was written more than two years ago. The content or information below may no longer be accurate.

Until the digital age, the majority of successful artists’ revenue was generated through record sales. They would release a record, then go on tour to promote it. But over the last fifteen years, record sales have plummeted. While streaming figures and vinyl sales have since dramatically risen, this has nowhere near made up enough for the shortfall left by the decrease in revenue from CDs. In turn, artists have come to rely more and more on ticket sales to earn money.

International tours have always caused difficulties that domestic tours avoid, namely visas and work permits. But with music acting as such a unique and vital industry, governments have allowed several provisions to make the processes for artists as easy as possible. For British artists touring in Europe and European artists touring in the UK, this was aided by the free travel afforded to all European Union citizens. But with the UK exiting Europe, some of these benefits will be lost.

We talked to Andy Corrigan, founder and CEO of Viva La Visa, a company that specialises in obtaining passports and visas for members of the entertainment industry, about how touring will be affected in Brexit’s wake.

Brexit Latest – UK Bands Playing In Europe


Luckily, Andy says, the ‘doom and gloom’ set out by the media surrounding travel in the EU has been overhyped. The biggest difference for UK artists touring in Europe post-Brexit is that they will be treated as third country nationals, the same as any citizen from a country outside of the EU. These are split into two types: firstly, those who will need visas – such as people from many African and Asian countries, and secondly those from non-visa nations like the US and Canada.

The UK will be part of the second group, and once you’re in Europe, it acts as a single block, so for the most part there are no internal borders. However, some countries do require foreign performers to obtain work permits, though often these countries allow a grace period of 30 to 90 days. This means that artists who are popping into countries like Holland, Germany and France – where these regulations are enshrined in law – will not need to apply for work permits. While it is possible that individual countries may implement work permit restrictions for artists from the UK, Andy expects this to be very unlikely.

Post-Brexit, British citizens will be required to apply for an ETIAS to enter the EU. This is a kind of travel authorisation similar to the America ESTA. They will only cost around €7 and be valid for three years, but all applicants will be required to submit their criminal history. In contrast to America, where a single controlled-substance offence might stop you entering, the criminal bar is set quite high, and as such you will have to have committed a serious offence to be denied entry.

While the artists themselves will be able to visit the EU with little extra hassle, the goods they bring along will require a Carnet. Carnets are a kind of insurance bond that act as a ‘passport for goods’ to ensure you aren’t importing your equipment. The itinerary is checked at the borders on both entry and exit, and if there are any irregularities, the holder will forfeit the cost of the bond. Andy predicts that the cost for a small band’s carnet, which lasts a year, will be around £500.

Artists should bear in mind that carnets do not cover merchandise that they plan to sell on tour. As these are imported items that are specifically being brought to be sold, artists will be required to declare what they’re bringing in. One way to get around this, and to save carrying too much while on tour, would be to have your merchandise manufactured locally – though this could be potentially quite costly. As with any time there is a gap in the market, Andy predicts that companies will spring up to help bands with this aspect of touring.

Brexit Latest – European Bands Touring In The UK


Once again, the general view put out by the media about European bands entering the UK is incorrect. They almost definitely will not need a visa to perform in the UK, unless they are staying for longer than three months.

As with UK citizens in the EU, European citizens will be treated as non-visa nationals, and so will be required to enter with one of four provisions:

  1. Tier-5 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  2. Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE)
  3. Performing at a permit-free festival
  4. Performing for no fee

The majority of artists entering the UK from countries like the USA use a CoS. These are issued by your employer – usually either the promoter or through the artist’s agency – but are generally not geared towards the music industry. For example, one of the regulations states that anyone coming in under a CoS must not be paid in cash, which is a common practice for many smaller touring bands. The irony being, Andy says, that by far the largest users of Tier-5 CoS are the music industry, and yet this incompatibility still exists.

The main take from all this should be that, even though the nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU is changing, it will hopefully not be too disruptive for the touring industry. The biggest downside is that if work permits are implemented in individual EU states, and with the fees for carnets, it is the smaller artists who will be most affected. On the whole, budding artists shouldn’t be disheartened. With Britain exporting so much musical genius over the decades, and a powerful industry behind them, hopefully any creases will be ironed out as quickly as possible.

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