Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs



Post Brexit - Music Touring in the EU isn’t working

Carry on Touring’s Tim Brennan explains why?

Do you like live music, going to a gig with your mates or partner to watch your favourite artist play their latest hits? It’s a real buzz, the whole night out is great, maybe a few beers, a meal before the gig, maybe staying in a hotel, or even flying somewhere to watch a gig, it really creates lasting memories and it’s great fun.

BUT did you know that so much of Britain’s talent and its creatives and those who make those gigs happen aren’t touring in Europe because of the Tory Governments failure to get an exemption in the UK’s trade agreement with the European Union? People are only allowed to be in the EU Schengen Area for 90 out of every 180 days, after which they need to return home. There is no universal exception for creative professionals.

90 in every 180 days is simply not working for so many and is causing damage to livelihoods and a vital asset of the UK economy.

The General Election on 4th July is your opportunity to vote for CHANGE. 

VOTE for the “Roadies” who put the show on the road

When you get to the gig, it’s all set up ready, the support act plays and then: WOW, the main event. If you look hard, you will see them – those shadowy figures in the background; the "Roadies" that come on and change the stage before the main artist comes on. They make the magic happen - for days, weeks and months.


But do you know the answer to this question?

QUESTION: How many people are involved in an average sized arena tour?

Let me tell you:

6 Audio engineers
6 Lighting technicians
6 Video technicians
4 Backline technicians
3 Set carpenters
1 SFX tech
3 Catering staff
6 Truck drivers
3 Bus drivers
1 Stage manager
1 Production manager
1 Tour coordinator
1 Tour manager
The artist
Artist entourage
Tour accountant
Promoters rep.

ANSWER:  CIRCA 50+ touring personnel.

Then at each venue we hire in 30/40 local crew to help with the setup.

Then there’s all the security personnel and bar staff at each venue.

If it’s a large arena tour can involve 150 touring crew, + 100 local crew at every venue.

Do you know what's involved in putting on an arena show?

Here's a quick video of the build and breakdown of a Lady Gaga tour I worked on for 8 months:

Lady Gaga Timelapse



When most people hear the term “Roadie", they think of a long haired bearded guy dressed in black with a leather jacket with Motorhead on the back, they think of the time when the industry was all about sex, drugs & rock & roll.

That might have been the case in the 70s, but 50 years on, “Roadies” are some of the most educated, reasoned people you could come across. We are all very highly skilled at what we do, most of us are freelance so we have to be good, or people wouldn’t hire us.

We have to deal with very long unsocial hours under extreme pressure.  You can imagine if a fault occurs halfway through a show in front of 50,000 people, you need to get that fixed fast, safely, so that the fans don’t even notice.

We also have to be discreet about our artists, the show and each other. You also have to be able to live very closely with a group of people that you may not know, for a number of months, so people skills are also very important.

As such modern day “Roadies” or “Touring Crews” are not always as well remunerated as they should be and they need to work when and where they can get it. Touring is mostly seasonal, traditionally Jan, Feb, March are the quiet months, April May through to festival season June, July, August and the autumn - up to Christmas  - is very busy.

Those, like me, who rely on touring for a living need the freedom and capacity to move from tour to tour.  The 90/180 days Schengen allowance for touring in the EU ends that freedom and capacity to go on tour.   For example, my summer tour will use up most of my allowance meaning I may not be able to take a tour in the Autumn, then because of the quiet period, I may not work again until April or even May.


Photo credit - Rammstein in Dresden 2024 - Tim Brennan

Music Touring is good for the economy

In 2019, the music touring industry generated £5.8billion for the UK economy. That’s been dramatically reduced by the effect of Brexit on the Music Touring Industry.

UK touring and all the gigs bring in a fortune to the local economies surrounding the events. All the pubs, bars and clubs, the restaurants, cafes, hotels, the taxis, buses and trains, all used by the fans, all generate revenue for the local economy.

I recently did a show in Germany for four nights at a 70,000 capacity venue, that means well over 250,000 fans saw that show, nearly everyone wore the artist T-shirt or hoody, and nearly all will have travelled and stayed overnight. Using flights, hotels, AirBnB, buses, trams, trains, taxis or jumping in their car.

Sasha Lord the night time economy advisor in Manchester told me once that Parklife festival brings in £17m+ for the local economy of Manchester. That's just in a few days!

If touring isn’t working local economies and local culture aren’t working either




Brexit has wrecked music touring

Since Britain left the EU on 1st of January 2021, there has been a 74% drop in artists and bands touring the EU. Many have simply given up because the extra red tape involved is too much of a headache and makes touring non-viable. It affects bands of all sizes from stadium sized players down to the smaller artists playing grass root venues starting out.

How does this affect you, the fans? Well, most artists don’t make money from music streaming, they used to make it from touring, but touring also meant they could grow their fan base, gain wider exposure. But that’s now changing and without the opportunities for EU touring many bands aren’t able to earn a living making music. So that next big thing that everybody wants to see may never happen, how sad would that be?




Photo credit - Markus Spiske


Ironically since Brexit, if you’re a UK artist wanting to tour in the EU, there is even more red tape to deal with.

1/ Those working on tour have to abide by the 90/180 day rule for access to the Schengen area. Which is most of the EU Block. That means for every 180 days we are not allowed to stay for more than 90, at 90 days we must leave the Schengen area and cannot return for another 90 days. This is always counted in the EU backwards from the date of the last visit unlike the UK which is one block of time. You can see how this affects our ability to work. It also counts for holidays, social visits, studying etc.

Look at Ian’s detailed explainer video for the 90/180 day rule. 

 90/180 Explainer video

2/ Each Sovereign country within the EU has its own rules on work in creative arts with most allowing some permit free periods, although you still have to inform the local authorities that you are working in their territory.

These permit free periods vary from 7 - 90 days. There are 27 different sovereign countries to check.

3/ The Carnet is a document for the temporary exportation and importation of all the equipment. There are some exceptions but in general if you are taking any sound, lighting or video equipment and all manner of other stuff, every item has to be listed on this document. You also have to place a bond of a certain percentage of the value of the equipment as a guarantee that you won’t sell the equipment when you’re overseas.

You have to get the carnet stamped out of the UK, into the EU and then in reverse when you come back. These documents have been 100s of pages, with each item listed with its serial number, value.

As I said there are some exceptions for portable musical instruments, here's Carry On Touring's Ian Smith to explain more:

Portable Musical Instruments exemption

4/ Merchandise rules govern how much merchandise you can take with you and the country it originated in. If you get T-shirts printed with the band logo, it is where the T-shirts are made for example China or Taiwan etc that counts.  This is called “rules of origin” and covers all goods.

5/ Rules governing instruments that contain rare species, woods or ivory etc which are often found in musical instruments are in place.

6/ Cabotage, governs the movements of our trucks on tour.  It is safe to say it costs the trucking industry £millions to adopt the rules, many having to move half their fleet to EU territories, which again has a knock on effect on the UK economy.

Are you still awake at the back?

We need a Reciprocal Deal to get Us Back on The Road

This doesn’t just affect UK based artists and crew, it also affects EU based artists and crew, let me explain:

An artist based in the UK looking to build their fan base used to use the EU as a stepping stone to the wider markets of the USA and beyond. Likewise an EU based artist would use the UK as a stepping stone to those same wider markets.

Whatever deal is reached it has to be 100% reciprocal so that both UK and EU based artists and crew can benefit from it.

In return inbound artists from those wider markets used to use a mix of UK and EU passport holding crew and equipment to tour the EU and UK as a joint tour.

Nowadays, less and less artists coming from those wider markets use UK passport holding crew due to the extra red tape involved.

We are also seeing artist skipping the UK altogether and just touring the EU. This leaves UK crew, UK Equipment hire companies, UK trucks and buses with less and less work, that in turn is a massive hit to the UK Economy.




Labour, if elected, is committed to introducing a touring visa. This is a simple step that would put UK touring artists and creatives back on their feet.  It would also provide a massive uplift to the UK economy.  

Write to your MP or ask candidates standing for election whether they support Carry on Touring and the need to get UK music touring working freely.

VOTE CHANGE and get touring working again. Tell them you want the next government to negotiate a proper deal for artists, musicians, dancers, all the touring crew and the teams that work in the background.

We need a government that will listen, that will support us, that will help keep music and creative talent alive.

Music touring is not working, help us carry on touring, in the coming General Election.

VOTE for music touring

VOTE for the creative economy


Thanks for reading.


Tim Brennan

Co Founder of the Carry On Touring Campaign

Freelance Music Touring Live Camera Director / Vision Engineer

Ref 74% decline in music touring in the EU post Brexit -

Older Post
Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now