Musicians have been hit by a “double whammy” of coronavirus restrictions and the impact of Brexit, MSPs have been told.
Holyrood’s Culture and Tourism Committee heard that performing and touring in European Union countries has been made “significantly more expensive and more complicated administratively”, and the changes could make it unviable for all but the biggest artists.
During an evidence session about the impact of coronavirus on the cultural sector, music unions also argued that swathes of performers and industry professionals are missing out on financial support.
Asked about how the UK’s departure from the EU has affected the sector, Musicians’ Union Scottish organiser Barry Dallman said: “It’s a double whammy at the moment for the music industry, particularly the live sector which has been absolutely destroyed by Covid-19.
“And on top of all the problems that the pandemic has caused, we’re now faced with the implications of Brexit, which means that touring in the EU is going to be significantly more expensive and more complicated administratively in a way that will probably preclude a lot of the lower-level work that happens from being able to take place, as we emerge from this.”
He said international customs fees and temporary export documents that may apply for musicians to take equipment overseas could cost between £250 and £400, as well as a security deposit of 20% of their value which is not refunded for a year.
He said: “It’s not the top end of the industry that will be affected by the new requirements for potential visas, work permits, carnets et cetera.
“The arena tours for international artists will figure out a way around that and probably stick a few extra pounds on a ticket price to offset the cost.
“For musicians in the UK, Europe is effectively the domestic market for live work because the UK geographically is just not big enough to sustain a career touring up and down the country so Europe has really always been our domestic touring pool.
“Now we’ve got huge changes in the way that we’re going to be able to access the EU countries.”
Giving an example of a union member who had been booked to perform at a French wedding, Mr Dallman continued: “Previously that would have been logistically easy to organise before coronavirus – just make your travel arrangements, go over there, do you work, get paid, come home again.
“Now we’re looking at a cost, potentially, of far more than the economic value of the gig, just making it not viable.
“And that’s just one example of the low-level engagements that are just not going to be feasible anymore for UK musicians, and the knock-on effect is just going to be huge.”
Although he praised the Scottish Government’s cultural recovery fund, which has offered support to some self-employed workers in the arts sector, Mr Dallman warned there are still large numbers missing out on financial help.
He added: “Currently anywhere between 38% and 50% of our members don’t qualify for either of the Government support schemes – job retention scheme or self-employed income support scheme.
“Because either they’re a mix of employed and self-employed but they don’t have the correct percentages in the balance of the work, or they started self-employment in the wrong period after the deadline, or because they operate through their own limited company.
“So we’ve got a whole raft of thousands and thousands and thousands of members who effectively have had no support since March from central Government.”