Let’s keep rock and roll on the road
30th December 2020
I’m not a political person. To be truthful I’m far happier behind a PPU rack than I am on a soapbox, but this changed three days ago when I started a petition to highlight an issue that affects me and thousands of men and women like me in the touring events business.
As I write these words, MPs are debating an issue that will have a big impact on my life and my ability to earn and pay tax through my work in an industry that brings pleasure to millions of people. Parliament looks set to approve the Prime Minister’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. While I didn't vote for Brexit, I am pleased we have a deal; But it falls way short of what I was expecting, and it leaves me in a bit of a mess.
Maybe that’s why getting on for 200,000 people have signed my petition, including some well-known names from the entertainment business. The petition was mentioned by Kevin Brennan MP, Tracy Brabin MP and Rachel Reeves MP in the Brexit deal debate earlier today.
The UK music industry contributes £5.8bn to the UK economy; it also supports 200,000 jobs. In turn, those jobs also provide support to others in the community around them. The Prime Minister’s deal makes no provision for music and event touring in Europe after Brexit. This presents a grave threat to my industry. If individual EU member states require visas for touring professionals to work in their country, then touring the EU will become unviable for most artists and the techs that support them.
I am using the term ‘techs’ for the sake of Twitter. But, it includes the guitar and instrument techs, the sound, video, lighting, effects, riggers, automation, carps, wardrobe, makeup, catering, production, the bus and truck drivers, the merchandise sellers – the guys and girls behind the scenes that make a tour possible.
The red-tape, paperwork and cost involved will be considerable. It seems possible that only the biggest acts will sustain the additional bureaucracy required to tour in Europe.
Thousands of British jobs are at risk. Our vibrant creative culture is threatened too. In the days before COVID19, many up and coming artists toured the EU along with a truckload of kit and the skilled techs like me who made it all work. They gained experience and exposure to huge audiences. The new bureaucracy could kill this stone dead.
Bigger, well-known bands and artists will be affected too.
Imagine you are a headline act touring the busy European Festival circuit. These fast-paced tours cross borders to play festivals, one day in one country, the next day in another. I have personally experienced this many times during my career.
The turnaround time between festivals can be very tight. Border delays could mean a major headline act fails to show up – a disaster for the fans, the band, the techs and the event itself.
But it’s not a one-way street. Thousands of EU based artists and techs tour the UK every year. They face the same challenge as us. If they are unable to come to the UK, we all lose out. And it’s not just music tours that are threatened. Many touring events are at risk, including sports, exhibitions, plays and a whole raft of cultural activities.
The Prime Minister and the EU have argued that the deal creates a level playing field. It does no such thing. UK touring professionals will be severely disadvantaged. I have spoken with US-based production companies, and they have told me they would stop using UK based techs in favour of those with European passports.
Before a tour hits the road, there are several weeks of production rehearsals. This is where the logistics are developed, and the technical production is tested to make sure that it works – maybe in six countries in as many days. It’s a finely tuned operation that the audience rarely sees, and it may be about to fall apart.
This is why I am calling on the UK government to commence urgent negotiation to secure some form of special work permit for all UK and EU touring professionals. This arrangement will secure the future of a fabulous industry that puts a smile on the faces of more than 500 million people.
Tim Brennan has more than 30+ years of experience in the event industry. He lives in Leicestershire and is currently specialising in all aspects video production within the concert touring and corporate events. Tim has worked with international artists including Arcade Fire, The Chemical Brothers, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Morrisey, Peter Gabriel, Primal Scream, Rhianna, Meatloaf, Rod Stewart, Mike Oldfield, DJ Shadow, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Westlife, The 1975, and many others.
He has toured worldwide, including at major European festivals including Bennecassim, Glastonbury, Pukkel Pop, Rock-En-Seine, Roskilde, Werchter and many others.
Check out the progress on Tim’s petition here:
Follow me on Twitter @TimmoWorldWide