UK quartet spends 1/3 of its fees on visas

UK quartet spends 1/3 of its fees on visas


norman lebrecht

April 20, 2021

From a Bloomberg report on the impact of Brexit:

Sara Wolstenholme is a violinist in the Heath Quartet, which normally tours Europe year-round. The quartet has an invitation to appear at a concert in Spain in May 2022, but with four work visas costing £232 ($320) apiece (over 30% of their fee), it is a significant pay cut. Wolstenholme is worried that some EU concerts will become scenarios in which quartets would be paying to perform. “Often, travel isn’t included,” she says, “or the hotel is paid for but not the flight. You have to ask yourself: Is the [opportunity] worth the money? It starts to look less viable.” 

More here.


  • Karl says:

    Maybe they could sell razors on the side. I am amused by some of the ads I am seeing on SD. Just saw a pic of a beautiful women holding an electric razor for manscaping. The Lawnmower 3.0 “Your balls will thank you”.

  • Chegu says:

    The classical music scene is def not as glamorous as it looks. We spend so much time and money on things that don’t even give us a lot of money. This is sad

  • TOPO says:

    Well, that’s exactly how you wanted it.

    • Sarah says:

      No, that is not totally the case at all! I did not join the singing profession or at my part of the profession to become a multi millionaire. There are very few stars in life. But I did join to earn a living and pay my taxes in whatever country I worked – and yes there were visas to get. But to just go on about visas and Brexit, and as if going to the EU to work as being prestigious, forget it. That is not the problem. And in any case no one should be flitting around abroad in a pandemic. A lot of people, particularly in this day and age, and I was advised on this very clearly by Laura Sarti even in 1975, that one should really have a second profession to fallback on, yet I had plenty of good well-paid work but not a star. There was work – full stop!

  • Brettermeier says:

    “You have to ask yourself: Is the [opportunity] worth the money?”

    Money. Ugh, how petty. You have to think bigger: Think fishing rights!

    (That’s not me gloating, that’s me being cynical and sad.)

  • PianistW says:

    Hey, but you got your country back. I feel no sympathy for a country that, has a whole, voted to leave a club – the EU – that it needed as much as the the air they breath. When I visited the UK I often heard things like “we don’t need them”. Now it seems you do need us. Good luck now!

    • UK Arts Administrator says:

      There were very, very few people who work in the Arts in the UK who voted to leave the EU.

      We are doing everything we can to try to retrieve something out of what is currently a disaster for UK performers, and brings nothing positive to mainland Europe either. There are huge efforts being made to sort out the visa catastrophe: nearly everyone now understands what needs to happen, including a growing number of politicians – even some of the ones who were pro-Brexit are starting to realise that they have created an awful situation for the Arts.

      We now need that small handful of politicians who actually have the power to do something to get on and take the necessary action, rather than to talk platitudes, schedule yet more meetings, create “task forces” etc. The EU offered a blanket exemption for performers during the Brexit negotiations: that was turned down by the UK’s negotiators. So the resolution now will have to come on a country-by-country basis, with bilateral agreements needed with 27 countries. There have been no winners here.

    • Maria says:

      There is a choice on life. You make your bed: you lie in it. We voted to leave, and we have left. Now, as in anything in life, we will make it a success. Keep going on about it will not change the fact we have left. The truth is other countries are there wanting to leave.

      • UK Arts Administrator says:

        If orchestras can’t actually afford to play any more in countries where they used to get good, profitable work (work that kept them and their musicians afloat) because of substantial costs involved in new visa regulations – additionally noting that this work used heftily to subsidise work in the UK – then it is hard to see how anyone can “make it a success”.

        The average orchestral player or pro chorus singer – freelancers, almost all of them – gets paid a fee of around £160 per day. But now, as example, if to give a concert in Spain on a tour costs an additional €232 (plus the unpaid half day spent going to the embassy to get the necessary visa) with the promoter in Spain unable to find substantial extra funding for (say) 60 visas, the concert becomes uneconomic. So the date is lost to the UK orchestra.

        Multiply that situation across hundreds of dates that used to be there in Spain, all now falling around our ears (with dates in 2023 already evaporating as there are long lead times in touring), then add extra visa costs for performing in Belgium, Switzerland (it may be non-EU but UK musicians now fall foul of rules there), Italy, half the Balkan countries, etc etc, that’s one heck of a hole in the UK’s Arts balance sheet, and one heck of a hole in the already precarious income of hard-pressed freelance musicians.

        If you can tell us how people working in UK Arts can resolve that, please, please tell us. No-one else has yet managed to work that one out, so, please give us your sunny solution so we can “make it a success”.

        • Terence says:

          I can think of several solutions but I don’t know EU or UK law so I’ll just suggest a possible one:

          Reciprocal appearances.

          Perform for free. The promoter then uses the profit (by agreement) to pay a e.g. Spanish group to play in the UK for free. The UK promoter then pays the UK performers for their Spanish concert.

          Not perfect I agree but surely possible?

  • Monty Earleman says:

    How does a String Quartet make $1 million? Start with $10 million-