Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs

We need a 'cultural passport' for both European and UK professional creatives - Fish


Fish - Singer, Song writer


"In 1983 I stood for the first time on a European festival stage in Mannheim, Germany at the beginning of what would become a long and wonderful journey that would play a huge part in the international success of my former band 'Marillion' and in my own career as a solo artist. With the help of our record label EMI, who supported our early touring in small clubs across Europe and Scandinavia we steadily built a following and record sales. By 1984 we played as many shows in Europe as we did in the UK and by 1985 were playing the same size if not generally bigger venues to more people than in the UK. Record sales in Europe accumulated and went a long way in paying off our debts to EMI and the live income supported our forays into North America. In short , without our European success in the early 80's, and especially our rise through constant touring activity in 1984, it's unlikely we would have survived on UK sales alone and had the continued support of EMI records in order in 1985 to record the seminal international hit 'Kayleigh' and the 'Misplaced Childhood' album that propelled the band to worldwide fame.


Since leaving 'Marillion' in 1988 I have continued to enjoy success in Europe and touring there has been a constant factor in my career with over 40% of my mail order sales coming from the continent. I have had to adjust over the years to the impact of negligible streaming royalties and vastly reduced physical sales. I'm still enjoying decent audience numbers on tour but have had to adjust production and logistics to suit current circumstances. Over the years I have learned how to operate effectively and still manage to earn a decent living but without the income from European live shows and recorded products sold directly to customers through my independent record company my career would have been over years ago. 


In 2020 I lost around 20 UK shows and 50 European shows due to the Covid pandemic. These were rescheduled for this year and subsequently lost with the risk of the continued proliferation of the virus in mainland Europe as the principal reason. However the exit of the UK from the EU had a part to play in the decision making process as in order to attain the necessary working visas for the 8 different European countries I was scheduled to perform in September / October I would have to start applying at every individual national embassy at the end of April without any insurance available should the shows not go ahead due to Covid related cancellations.


With no existing centralised visa application process each country has to be dealt with separately and sending passports out with the required paperwork for 'short term work visas', more applicable to residential work rather than concert touring, was going to be a laborious, time consuming and costly exercise. Information is still scarce and difficult to decipher with some embassies requiring face to face meetings and biometric data. Going by the information I was finding I had a rough estimate of around £20-30000 in visas and administration costs for 10 people for 8 different countries. This is a massive expense to take on board at my level of touring and an impossibility for bands in the early stages of their careers and especially the independent units with no major record company support to finance them with royalty advances .


The prospect of carnets to cover equipment movement and the possibility of random customs checks, passport stamps in the middle of the night after shows at borders to ascertain Schengen territory movement and country by country VAT declarations on merchandise that can make the difference sometimes on making money or not on a show, are all contributing to making European touring a fraught adventure. I'm lucky that as I tour with a Nightliner coach and trailer I avoid the trucking cabotage movements but the overall experience of touring in Europe is becoming unnecessarily difficult and challenging.


If I want to tour in the USA I have to attend once at an American embassy for an interview and after the vetting and visa payment I can perform in 50 states. We require a similar approach to touring in Europe, the third biggest music market in the World that is literally on our doorstep and a 2 hour ferry journey away across the English Channel.


Fish In concert


We need a 'cultural passport' for both European and UK professional creatives to perform and travel across borders to at least ease some of these problems and allow them to earn a living in their chosen fields. There has to be some serious consideration at respective government levels on both sides to work this out or we are looking at the further demise of the music industry and the loss of a generation of musicians and technicians across the continent of Europe who have had their dreams and aspirations wiped out by needless bureaucracy. 


I sincerely urge politicians to give this subject the importance it deserves and to open negotiations as soon as possible to find a way forward out of this current situation."


More About Fish


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