Relief in sight as Spain ends work visa for UK performers

Relief in sight as Spain ends work visa for UK performers


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2021

In a major relaxation for the arts, the Spanish government has removed the requirement for touring British artists and crew to obtain a work visa.

A statement from LIVE and the Association For British Orchestras clarifies that ‘visas have been a significant issue for Spain which, despite representing the fifth largest live music market in the world, posed the most costly and complicated visa application process across the bloc for artists looking to travel for short-term work.

‘Until now, artists and their promoters have had to make applications for short-term visas entirely in Spanish, provide a host of itinerary details before having even been given the green light for the tour to go ahead – including accommodation and flight allocations – and give proof of applicant earnings of up to nearly £1000 before ever having left the country. Costs were also prohibitive, amounting to over £10,000 for an orchestra to visit Spain for up to five days.’

However: ‘Taken together with the visa issue still affecting other areas of the EU, the impacts of Brexit continue to cause a logistical nightmare for Europe-wide tours. Live music touring is reliant on low friction barriers to entry and movement, allowing tours to move through countries seamlessly and quickly, and, as the second biggest exporter of music in the world, the sector in the UK is feeling the pinch.’

That said, this is a breach in the EU blockade. Watch for more.

Que viva Espana.


  • Rogerclarinet says:

    Shame. Spain should had continue and let the UK musicians “starve” for a while, so the government will come back into its sense, call for a second referendum, and beg for readmission.

    The UK needs the EU (including its orchestras) much more than the EU needs the UK.

  • Rodolfo says:

    Probably no coincidence that this announcement comes just a few days after the Asociación Española de Orquestas Sinfónicas (AEOS) Conference in Madrid.

    Tim Davy, Tour Manager of LSO was a featured speaker. He gave a compelling presentation about the complicated touring regulations to Spain he’s faced since Brexit took effect. The conditions were mind-boggling. You could hear audible gasps from attendees. He urged the mostly Spanish audience to encourage getting these rules revised. Looks like they listened.

    The 2 other speakers featured in Mr. Davy’s segment (the segment focus was touring post-pandemic) were London based artist manager Jasper Parrott and Llorenc Caballero, head of Spain’s powerhouse management agency Ibermusica, responsible for organizing tours to Spain by major international orchestras. Both of these veteran managers described the challenges of international touring. Mr. Caballero, like Mr. Davy, related the enormously complicated conditions under which he’s worked to bring foreign orchestras to Spain.

    After the 3 spoke, they joined together for a panel discussion, moderated by the brilliant young orchestra manager Jesus Herrera, recently appointed as manager of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon in Spain. Mr. Herrera comes to his position with extensive international experience himself, having worked in management in the UK, France and Spain.

    The panel discussion was enlightening. The audience included Spain’s top artist managers, orchestra managers from many of Spain’s nearly 30 pro orchestras and opera companies, influential international figures in the classical music world and important Spanish music educators. Pretty sure the core Spanish readership of this blog was represented.

    So Mr. Davy of the LSO made his plea to exactly the right audience. I’d say this major change in Spain’s touring rules are in large part due to him, and to ideas brought to light on the topic of international touring at the AEOS Conference last week.

    Bravisima to Ana Mateo, President of AEOS and organizer of the conference.

    • Manu says:

      Yeah, sure… a speech of an employee of a London orchestra has made the Spanish public administration changed their policy in one week. I think you do not know how Spain works… be serious!
      By the way, Ibermusica has been bailed out by Spanish government with generous subsidies in 2020.

      • Rodolfo says:

        Yes well aware of both points, thanks.

        Look, we don’t know how close to passing these new visa rules were before the AEOS conference. But we do know that there were plenty of individuals at that conference who heard Mr. Davy who were capable of making a few calls to govt. officials. That’s all it takes to cut thru Spain’s legendary bureaucracy and to push it into reality.

        Mr. Davy was a catalyst. That’s it. At that conference were top industry professionals who would benefit tremendously from a revision to the old visa rules: Spanish orchestra managers who want to bring in international conductors and soloists, artist managers who want the best opportunities for their clients, they were all in that room networking.

        Take Joan Matabosch. He’s an influential, competent intendente with everything to gain from a revision of the rules. It’s in his interest to be able to bring in the finest international singers to the Teatro Real with the least amount of hassle. And he has the govt’s ear. It’s his job. He was front row center at the conference as one of the featured speakers.

        So don’t underestimate what could push bureaucracy into reality quickly like this. Arts managers of public organizations in Spain – nearly every single orch. on the AEOS roster – are very closely allied with politicians. That’s their funding. They have to be. Don’t underestimate that relationship. With a major player like BBV bank funding the conference, you just never know who or what could have brought these new visa rules to reality.

        And yeah, also aware of the Ibermusica bailout. We all followed the drama and its rise from the ashes last year. After hearing Mr. Llorenc speak, we now understand what he was up against and why that subsidy was well deserved.

        There are plenty of other factors at play here. Many more I could elaborate on. But I strongly believe that that conference – with all the major players who could benefit from a change in the visa rules in one room together – listening to a well prepared Englishman who systematically showed with projections and documents and figures what they were collectively up against – was a factor in the revision of the rules.

        • Manu says:

          Ok following your theory, Mr Matabosch, an employee of the Teatro Real, calls (let’s say) the secretary of the Ministry of Culture, this one sends an sms to the ministry of Culture and this one without hesitation says in the next minister conference: Le’ts change the visa status for Britsh artists, our orchestra pals told us so. And the MP and the rest say: yeah, why not.
          Come on, be reasonable. There are procedures, there are timings, there are adminsitrative steps… Spain is bizarre but not a banana republic.

          • Rodolfo says:

            OK, I hear you. But stranger things have happened! How do we know these rules weren’t on the verge of being changed just before AEOS & the conference tipped the scales into action?

            Big fan of AEOS here and of everyone who spoke. Wallowing in my idealism, perhaps but I’d like to think that they somehow made a difference. . .