The overwhelming majority of musicians are self-employed independents. For them – but also, to a great extent, for the small minority of musicians who are salaried employees (such as in the major UK orchestras) the effects of a Brexit – hard or even soft – would create a negative impact in most areas of their life and work. The free movement of peoples, goods and services has enabled UK musicians and their counterparts in the EU to work and earn a living across 28 countries without hindrance – to gig; tour; sell records; be commissioned; get funding for projects; study in colleges and conservatoires as music students; earn royalties; join multi-nationality bands; pay tax with certainty; broadcast; sign contracts and licences; and be based anywhere in the EU and fully able to create and work.
Surveys in all genres of music show quite clearly that most British musicians earn at least part (and in many cases a substantial part) of their livelihood through work in other EU countries. And their counterparts in the other 27 EU nations have similar patterns of work and are free to visit and entertain British audiences at any time without the encumbrance of work permits, visas, tax restrictions and customs checks.
Experiences in non-EU countries show how limiting and restricting a withdrawal from the EU would be for UK musicians. As just one example, obtaining visas and work permits to gig in the USA entails each musician paying large sums of money for documentation and permission. The application process also takes a long time with no certainty of success. Non-EU musicians applying to work in Britain also face significant difficulties in obtaining work permits and agreeing taxation.
All survey findings show that the effects of the anticipation of Brexit has already slowed down opportunities for UK musicians getting work in other EU states. Promoters and other employers are understandably nervous about booking UK artists if they can’t be sure of what conditions will be imposed on the ‘import’ of musicians from a newly non-EU nation.
All three societies that represent musicians in the UK – the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the Musicians’ Union (MU) and Help Musicians UK – have published extensive analysis, research and advice on the potential limitations that Brexit would create for their members. The details are comprehensive and cut across most of the areas inherent in the Brexit process. For far more details and information – and for an unequivocal understanding that Brexit would be deeply regrettable and damaging for musicians and by implication for audiences in the UK – visit the sites of all three organisations: