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Why Freedom of Movement was so important to music touring and why will UK based techs be at a disadvantage.

Why Freedom of Movement was so important to music touring and why will UK based techs be at a disadvantage.


There are three types of music touring that I as a UK passport holding Tech am involved with. The first is “Own Show’, this is when an artist will tour performing shows in clubs, arenas and stadiums where they are the headline act with 1 or 2 support acts. The second is a festival tour, where the artist will tour from festival to festival, whether they are a headliner act or further down the bill. Finally the third type is a mix of the first two.

Some tours can last for a long time and tend to be worldwide, my longest was 8 months away from home with Lady Gaga, but a lot of tours may last two – three weeks and will be a UK / EU leg of a larger tour.

The shorter tours are sometimes North American acts that will come to Europe and pick up extra equipment and technicians just for that leg, then move on to another part of the planet.

A technician might do 5 or 6 of these shorter tours through the EU a season, moving in and out of different countries often overnight whilst sleeping between gigs.

When we were part of the EU we were able to move between these countries unhindered, and it didn’t matter if this was your sixth tour of the season, you may have been in the EU moving from tour to tour, sometimes without a break, for up to four or five months.

Now that we have left the EU, this presents a number of problems. firstly the requirement for a Schengen visa if you stay over 90 days in any 180. Quite clearly this is a potential issue for a tech undertaking multiple tours within the EU27, it would be very easy to burn through the 90 days and then the requirement for a Schengen visa would kick in. But what will that look like, if like the American O2 visa where you need to be sponsored usually by the Artist you work for, then moving from tour to tour will not work because of the multiple artists, who do you get sponsored by? Can you change visa Artist?

The 2nd issue is work permits, whereas the Schengen visa is EU wide, work permits are arranged on a country by country basis, each country has its own rules and those rules vary from country to country.

I have been collaborating with Ian Smith at ukeartswork, Ian and his team have produced an excellent resource for work permit information. The following link is to their site.

For instance France has stated that there is no need for a work permit for stays up to 90 days in 180, as it’s unlikely that in a season you will be in France alone for 90 days, this is fine, however Sweden has stated that their allowance for work permits is 14 days in any one year. It would be very easy to reach that limit in a season.

It should be noted that some of the EU27 countries visa and work permit is an interchangeable term. Which leads to confusion over the issue.

So why will UK passport holding techs be at a disadvantage?

If a tour is booked to visit multiple countries in the EU27, the UK tech will be required to have work permits for some of these countries, where as a tech with an EU passport will not.

Imagine the scenario, an American band want to tour the EU, previously it was likely that they would pick up UK techs and equipment, but now that would mean an extra mountain of red tape for permits and carnets, and red tape costs money, and touring is about making money not spending it on red tape.

So those tours will simply not use UK passport holding techs or UK based equipment, instead they will use EU based resources.

We have already seen industry hiring companies asking freelancer techs what their EU status is, i.e. Do they hold an EU passport. There is only one reason for this, they will show a preference to the EU passport holders.

People have asked me whats the difference between music touring and other business activities in the EU and why are we a special case. Simple answer is that other activities, be it an exhibition, conference, sales meeting, or other business activity covered by  Annex SERVIN-4 at page 755 of the withdrawal agreement, tend to be at a single place, they do not tour and therefore will not need the multiple permits that will put us at a disadvantage.

Other people have said, “it will be fine, we’ll just carry on as before”.
Can you imagine a tour taking the risk that they reach a border in the middle of the night between gigs, and that border decide that actually they want to enforce the work permit rules, and the UK techs get refused entry. The result of that is a NO show.

This obviously isn’t just going to affect Technicians, musicians that also want to tour will be facing the same issues. Larger acts will absorb the costs involved for the Artists to get the permits needed, smaller acts that are just starting out will not be able to afford the extra red tape.

Feel free to comment below, it would be good to have other peoples thoughts on the matter.

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  • Hi Liam, its our intention to try to get this sorted out so that people from all types of creative industries can benefit, not just musicians and artists.

    Tim Brennan
  • Hey Tim,

    Firstly, I just want to say a massive well done for investing your time and energy in to creating an awareness in relation to visa free travel across the EU for touring artists and professionals.

    I have been following the debates around this matter very closely and I do hope the UK and EU can come to an arrangement that would allow musicians and other creatives, access to the EU without all the red tape that comes with visas and carnets.

    It is positive to see that this issue does seem to have a bit of momentum and I hope you don’t mind me commenting in here to see if you have heard anything from government that would suggest other creatives being included in the negotiations? I’m a destination wedding photographer who photographs many weddings a year all over the EU … half of my revenue is made up from weddings I photograph in France, Italy, and Spain. I have many friends in our industry who are also very worried about the prospect of not being able to continue doing the job we love. I have been following the progress of your petition and it does seem to suggest that if anything was to be agreed between the UK and EU, it would encompass a wide range of creatives including photographers. Some of my colleagues in the destination wedding photography world don’t share my optimism and feel that this will only cover touring musicians.

    I’m reaching out to you today to see if you have any further information that would confirm other creatives, such as photographers, are also included in the negotiations.

    Thanks so much for your time, Tim, and thanks again for all your hard work.


    Liam Crawley

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