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(Credit: SXSW)

Industry warns Brexit deal could stop UK artists from touring the US

Anxiety about how Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal would devastatingly affect the UK’s music industry was already rife as visa-free touring in Europe no longer exists. Now, crucial industry figures have warned that this deal may not just effect artists touring in Europe, but also in the United States.

The UK secured a Brexit deal at long last on December 24th and officially left the European Union on January 1st, 2021. This issue comes after musicians were left off the list of workers exempt from entering the EU without a visa. The new deal will also make it difficult for European artists to travel to the United Kingdom. The rules state that any artist from the UK who wants to tour the EU for more than 30 days must apply for visas like non-EU artists from the start of this month. Additionally, musicians must prove savings and a certificate of sponsorship from the event organisers. On top of that, it could threat artists who want to tour in the United States.

The United States is a vital breeding ground for British artists, a number of who, make the voyage to major festivals such as SXSW, Coachella and more every year. However, to receive visas that allow artists to perform at these showcase festivals, they must require “international recognition”. The most common way of acquiring this is through European shows or festivals but, whether that is possible remains up in the air.

VisaPro makes it clear that bands and artists “must be internationally recognised” to qualify for a P1 visa to travel to and work in America. Their website states: “It must have a high level of achievement in a field as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition that is substantially above what is ordinarily encountered. Such achievement must be renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.”

Mark Davyd, CEO of the UK Music Venue Trust told NME: “There will be a lot of ripple-out effects of Brexit that I don’t think we’ve really understood yet. For example, you need a US P1 visa to tour in America. One of the criteria is your international reputation. My question would be, ‘How do you acquire an international reputation as British grassroots band if you don’t have access to play internationally?’ I’ve filled out dozens of those forms over the years, and the evidence we send to US officials is a package of all the touring done in Europe. You take that out, then how do you get the reputation?”

He continued: “That’s without the fact that the US have nearly doubled their bloody visa fees. On a Coldplay tour, the additional costs hit the bottom line and you change the ticket price a bit. If a four-piece band from Hull want to get in a van and go build their reputation in The Netherlands and Belgium and you add up the extra hundreds of pounds spent on getting the permission to play, the carnet, the health insurance, is it really worth them doing it any more?”

Featured Artists Coalition CEO David Martin also told the same publication: “Touring in the US is prohibitively expensive. In fact, even established artists frequently tour the US at break even or at a financial loss. This is in no small part down to the visa costs and the bureaucracy of the US immigration system for performers.

“With new barriers to performers working in the EU, this will now extend to our nearest neighbours, making it impossible for new talent to tour, collaborate and exchange ideas with our European colleagues. Artists will not be able to demonstrate any international standing and this will make it harder for artists to establish their careers, build their businesses and to elevate Britain’s musical standing to the globally recognised position that it has enjoyed in the last seven decades.”

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