3 in 4 British musicians don’t expect to play again in EU

3 in 4 British musicians don’t expect to play again in EU


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2021

The Encore Musicians booking platform has come up with some alarming analysis in a new survey.

76% of musicians said Brexit travel restrictions will stop them performing again in Europe;

40% said they have already had to cancel events specifically because of Brexit;

91% said Brexit will have a negative impact on their livelihood;

The survey involved 452 musicians, most of them classical.

It appears that classical sector will be hit worst: With average annual earnings of £5,713, classical musicians who performed in Europe in 2019 earned the most of any genre. Jazz musicians earned the least on average, taking home on average £3,402.

More details here.



  • will says:

    Appalling is the only word for this situation.

    • Rogerio says:

      I would not be surprised if 3 out of 4 British people who previously did anything at all in the EU will in future be doing less of it.
      Rather unpleasant side-effect of Brexit.
      And a bloody shame no one was able to see it coming.

      • Dave says:

        I can only assume your last sentence was ironic.

        Johnson and his shoddy bunch of crooks could have seen it coming, but as it wasn’t hurting their pockets they couldn’t give a damn.

        Rather like the 100k and rising…

      • Miranda Green says:

        I think nearly 50% of the UK population saw it coming.

  • Hilary says:

    Brexit is essentially inward looking In its motivation.

  • Kevin says:

    You can still play in Dublin

  • Gustavo says:

    It was naïve from the very beginning to believe that Brexit would be a success story and that being a member of the EU entails enormous costs and deprivation.

    There you are, we’re in a fine mess now!

    The problem is that the EU can probably do without British musicians post-Brexit and post-COVID.

    Protectionisms is an infectious disease.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Travel restrictions will evolve. These figures are probably more down to covid than anything else.

    • V.Lind says:

      Sentence 1: Let’s hope you are right. Sentence 2: They are not. They are down to visas and carnets and the lost time getting these sorted and the fees for them and other related administrative restrictions that have emerged post-Brexit.

      Did you not see the petition, available here, that was signed because of said restrictions? |did you not hear, or hear about, the debate in Parliament last week with a Minister from the Culture Department? Have you read no coverage of the same in the papers?

      There are real and specific problems that have arisen in the last three weeks that have nothing to do with Covid — if anything, they are currently irrelevant due to the closure of concert venues and the restrictions on unnecessary travel. Covid is actually giving the politicians and bureaucrats time, if they would but use it, to solve this issue before normal business resumes. But there appears to be a certain lack of political will — on the UK part particularly — to address this.

      Not out of evilness, but probably because, given the high street failures and other business problems, they do not see it as a priority — as always failing to see the economic benefits of a flourishing cultural sector, and — of course — being incapable of comprehending the enormous benefit to the general well-being of a nation when its cultural pursuits — all of them, some of you music snobs out there — thrive.

      This is so contrary to the attitude Churchill and his government (let us not forget a coalition government) took during the War. They strove to keep the theatres open, and although the galleries were emptied of their treasures, concerts and recitals were held in their halls. They knew that the theatre, in all its offerings, was essential to national morale.

      Covid is making it hard for people to assemble to hear music or see a ballet or a play or even a movie, but the artists will be ready and able to do their part as soon as these restrictions abate — if they can make a living at it after what will now be the years of privation. That does require the ability to earn from their previous opportunities throughout their neighbouring countries. That requires a deal that enables free movement of artists on work gigs — both ways, Boris — and it seems to me it would take very little to make this happen. What a pity the Tory ministers seem to be so spineless.

    • Miko says:

      Just like Boris Johnsons regime: attempting to hide brexit damage under the skirts of covid.
      Spoiler alert: it won’t work.

      • BruceB says:

        Similar in the US. Not that the government pays any attention to the arts, except to complain about them at election time; but many orchestra managements (see the MET for the most visible example; see Colorado Springs for a much smaller but even more egregious one) are using COVID as an excuse to impose cuts they’ve been wanting to impose for years.

  • Maria says:

    Blame Brexit again, but given the EU is 27 independent countries, not one like the US, with musicians of their own, and the classical music world broken because of a pandemic, why would the EU bring in outside people when their own musicians need the work? The Met did that a while back, and everyone was up in arms over that and berating Peter Gelb on here. If one is needed, then get a visa like anywhere else. It was what was done for me when I travelled to sing in Australia, Israel, HK, America, Switzerland and Kenya many times. But all this is far more to do with the lack of work for everyone rather than Brexit. The sooner people realise the world will not go back to what we left because of the pandemic, the better. People in the UK as one country voted to leave and will tell you they knew what they were doing. The EU and their unions will want to look after the thousands of unemployed musicians there.

    • James says:

      Ah, but another problem is that the UK cannot alone sustain any but the most starry of careers at a decent level. Even top UK orchestras pay considerably less than even quite low level European orchestras in very many cases. That has always been sort-of-ok until now, because there are other advantages to performing in the UK, such as exposure to so many top recording labels, developed and respected English-language media, many influential people in the industry being based there etc. Now Brexit seriously threatens to undermine many of these advantages (Berlin has already been catching up in any case for some time). What is left is, of course, the incredible artistic talents of some of the world’s best orchestras, musicians, administration teams and service providers. But British singers and instrumentalists need to eat, pay for their children’s schooling and frankly high-level professionals should reasonably expect to live well as in every other profession (lest we forget, the average London Underground train driver these days gets paid about £70K-£80K, while the top train drivers get more than £100K).

      • Andrew says:

        James, my wife plays in a British orchestra. I voted Remain, she voted Leave, much to the horror of her colleagues. We are still married and respect the others opinion! Now she is shunned, passive aggressive bullying is rife all because she democratically voted Leave. Brexit is her fault, in the eyes of her colleagues. Coupled with lockdown due to covid, lack of work leading to financial difficulties for us, her mental health is sad. And shame on her London freelance orchestral colleagues for treating her like sh**. Selfish.

        • fflambeau says:

          In a real sense, she is one of many who are responsible. It isn’t going to be pretty. Scotland will soon pull out and become independent.

      • engineers kicking-A says:

        “exposure to so many top recording labels”. Can you name ONE?
        They have all gone to the wall.

        I don’t understand why so many people are still so dumb as to think the CD is still useful.
        The CD was already trashed 20yrs ago, with mp3 and all the other formats, and CD sales particularly for classic music are worthless.

        Musicians are still thinking like in the 70s and 80s.
        Not even jazz or pop are paying CD sales any more.

        Those times are gone, and they can’t even pay the recording engineers a semi-decent wage!
        A CD doesn’t even serve as self promotion any more, nobody listens to them, least of all in the car.
        “British singers and instrumentalists need to eat, pay for their children’s schooling”.
        If you think this is viable good luck!

        String teaching doesn’t provide a decent income, not even in Germany, as most people got saved by the “back to period instruments twaddle”, but it paid.

        Find something else to do while the government waffles on, and stop being “whinging poms”.
        You have to be cruel to be kind.

    • psq says:

      Have you not seen one contribution here where the costs of visas were added up to the end result that the musicians netted practically nothing when they come home after a tour?

    • psq says:

      It is difficult to argue, going from a no-visa to a compulsory-visa with cost situation is not a step backwards, literally in the time line. Before joining the EU pesky bureaucratic rigamarole were everywhere, but were mostly smoothened out after joining the EU.

      When one looks beyond the end of Covid, these barriers will still be there. It does not help very much to say that we are just going back to the situation of 50 years ago. Going back far enough, there was no chance of convenient travels. Your probably would not have a career singing in “Australia, Israel, HK, America, Switzerland and Kenya many times”. You might say, “what so bad. I would have another career”. Well, going back even further, unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you would have ended up as a …..

    • Dave says:

      People in the UK voted in an advisory referendum that was then hi-jacked by the right wing. To claim that UK voters knew what they were doing is rubbish; UK voters did not foresee the duplicity of the Cameron/May government, although any idiots who voted for the Johnson government really should be asked what they were thinking. They are the facilitators of Johnson’s Brexit.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I have a close relative in the music business and he would confirm these figures are down to cover not Brexit. It is perfectly ridiculous at the moment saying ‘40% said they have already had to cancel events specifically because of Brexit’ as concerts are not being held and cancellations all over the EU are due to Covid not Brexit.

    • V.Lind says:

      That aspect is true enough. But the post-Brexit recovery is not going to be helped by expensive visas and carnets and permissions.

      • M McAlpine says:

        What expensive visas and carnets? I was reading the other day that there is already agreements on movements of musicians anyway.

        • Robert King says:

          No such agreement for UK musicians going into the 27 EU countries has been reached – at EU level the EU and the UK are still blaming each other for not being able to start negotiating any sort of agreement.

          At the moment, for a UK musician to enter, say, Germany, to play a concert, they need a visa (€80, plus a load of form filling and then half a day – unpaid – attending the German Embassy), plus a carnet (around £350, together with a deposit, its cost relative to the value of the instrument). And a CITES declaration if the instrument has even a speck of protected wood or ivory.

          If that musician is paid for a day of rehearsals in the UK, plus a concert fee, an orchestral violinist might earn perhaps £375. But when the carnet and the visa actually cost more than that entire fee, it is uneconomic to do the date.

          Multiply those lost £375 fees across hundreds of symphony and chamber orchestras, chamber groups and ensembles, across thousands of annual engagements, and the loss to the UK’s economy is many millions per annum. Surely no-one wanted that sort of outcome.

  • Miko says:

    Don’t worry: Norman Lebrecht has a plan that involves home grown talent, endless Vaughan Williams symphony cycles and nurturing our own musical sprouts (who needs Brussels?).
    The brexit sunny uplands are just over the horizon folks, complete with frolicking unicorns, Spitfire fly pasts and
    cherry British fish in gunboat laden British waters.
    Land of Hope and Glory (disclaimer: the glory could take 50 years to appear)

    • Hayne says:

      I guess you’re right. It’s never the EU’s fault for anything.

    • buxtehude says:

      UK also runs best rankings of James Bond actors to date. Still to come: best Winston Churchill operas. Also best chocolate cigars once trade deal with Cote d’Ivoire finalized.

      Tres bon, mais oui!

  • Tomtom says:

    We must remember that the unrestricted access to Europe by UK performing artists and vice versa, is currently the hostage of the EU not accepting the UK’s revised offer regarding travel, to include support staff, roadies etc, which the original EU offer omitted. Once this has been thrashed through all should be fine. As Roger Daltrey pointed out, The Who, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones all toured Europe in the 1960’s without a problem. Why is it a problem now?

    • Robert King says:

      The difference is that in the 50+ years since those mega-tours of the ‘gods of rock’ (whose fame and pulling power ensured the necessary permissions, whatever they were, to perform in those countries) things have changed, with countries creating rafts of new rules, procedures and processes to get a work permit and visa. Gone are the days when a phone call from one cigar-smoking diplomat to another could ensure the necessary stamp would be placed in a passport. For the last few decades, performers from 28 countries and their support/technical crews could move without hindrance across the EU. The benefits, economic and cultural, to the huge Arts and Culture economy in the UK and indeed in the wider EU were significant.

      The UK voted to end that. But, to quote Deborah Bull (now a Crossbench peer), “taking back control of our borders was surely never intended to leave UK artists with less freedom to pursue their craft than their creative peers in, say, Tonga, St Lucia or the Federated States of Micronesia”.

      When “The Times” recently published a letter calling on the government to “urgently do what it said it would do and negotiate paperwork-free travel in Europe for British artists and their equipment” the response of Secretary of State Oliver Dowden (to quote Simon Munday) was to convene “a meeting with musicians’ organisations to find out about their particular concerns, as if he had not been well aware of them for all his year in the post. After listening for a bit, the best he could offer was to set up a task force to advise him”.

      There is little point in knocking blame back and forth between the EU and the UK – the fault probably lies on both sides – for what now is needed is action. Whether the UK government is interested in taking that action, and not just buying time by considering setting up “a taskforce”, well, we shall all see. But for anyone working in the multi-billion pound UK Arts and Culture economy, this survey is another example that things are not perceived as looking so great.

    • Anon says:

      I rather suspect that Mr Daltrey didn’t know quite how big a problem it really was to tour Europe in the 1960s. He had people to deal with that sort of thing for him.

    • Gabriele says:

      I’m afraid this is not true. By unilaterally ending freedom of movement the current mess has been caused by the UK government. Time to start owning responsibility for your actions.

  • Doc Martin O'Hara says:

    I am sure most Brits could dig an Irish father, grandfather etc out of the wardrobe.

    Not only did we build most of GB, but we helped to populate it as well.

    An Irish (EU) passport is yer only man.

    Foreign Affairs Dept have tightened up on applications. You now must know all Father Ted episodes especially the one where Mrs Doyle guessed the priest’s name!

  • AK says:

    Sad to hear this indeed but I’m not sure if I’m naive…but, as an American artist myself, I used to travel and perform in the EU on a monthly basis. I always have to go through customs. We generally don’t need a visa coming into the EU, and I can’t imagine as a UK citizen you would need to enter as if you’re from a third world country.
    Usually it’s not much longer than the other line, if you’re strategic about the time and port of entry. Yes it’s inconvenient but what else am I missing something out here?

    • Robert King says:

      Sadly the rules for UK musicians wanting to work in the 27 EU countries (there’s a different entry requirement for each country) are often now more stringent than those for musicians hailing from other non-EU countries. Thus a US performer such as yourself entering one of the EU countries with which the US has negotiated terms for performing artists may well find it easier to get that visa (or even have a no-visa deal) than a Brit: the UK authorities have not negotiated any such deals. So UK musicians are indeed now at the back of the queue, metaphorically and sometimes literally.

      As quoted above, the former ballerina Deborah Bull (now a Crossbench peer), says: “taking back control of our borders was surely never intended to leave UK artists with less freedom to pursue their craft than their creative peers in, say, Tonga, St Lucia or the Federated States of Micronesia”.

  • Tony says:

    What’s more disturbing was the annual earnings to begin with…

  • AllesMahler says:

    Those must be monthly incomes, not “annual earnings”. No classical musician can live on £475 per month.