Government urged to solve musicians’ post-Brexit travel problem

It would be better if the Government solved the problem of musicians’ travel in the wake of Brexit than use “taxpayers’ money” on the issue, an industry figure has said.

Sir Elton John, Roger Waters and Ed Sheeran are among the leading music industry figures who have criticised the Government’s Brexit deal for not including visa-free travel for musicians.

Asked about a report that the Government would help to pay for work permits and transport costs, which are part of the new restrictions, the general secretary of the Musicians’ Union said the focus should be on fixing the problem.

Horace Trubridge said “getting into Europe to play live gigs could be as difficult and as expensive as getting into America”.

Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran

He told the House of Lords EU Services Sub-Committee he was concerned that “promoters in Europe are simply not going to try to book UK artists”.

And he added of the possibility, reported in The Times, of the Government offering financial support: “What troubles me slightly, is it seems to be saying it’s easier for us to give these people some money than solve the problem.

“I would prefer to see the problem solved than for UK taxpayers’ money being” used for a problem that “could be solved”, he said.

He said the music industry is worth around £5.8 billion to the economy, “considerably more than say the fishing industry”.

But “we are losing musicians and losing them at an alarming rate because they simply cannot stay in the profession” due to the pandemic, he added.

Sir Elton John has also criticised the deal
Sir Elton John has also criticised the deal

“The live music industry ground to a halt in March last year and has not recovered at all.”

It “is still on zero, without a great deal of prospect in the next few months of recovery,” he said.

The industry was “caught on the hop” on the issue of travel for musicians because of the “reassurances we were given”.

The response from politicians has always been, “‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine’,” he said.

“Right until the end of December we were told everything was fine. We just didn’t expect this to happen.”

The problems come against a backdrop of musicians struggling to make enough from streaming, he said, with many household names unable to “pay their bills”.

“There is a real problem right now. The record companies are making loads of money. The artists are really struggling,” Mr Trubridge said.