Touring and Working in the EU

UK Music is pressing the Government to help the music industry overcome the barriers UK musicians and crew face touring the EU.

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UK Music is working with the Government and Parliamentarians to resolve the issues impacting touring in Europe following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Europe is a key market for the UK. EU member states are a vital market for the UKs £2.3 billion music exports. This is particularly the case with live music, with the European Commission admitting in 2019 that UK acts “dominated the European panorama” (here).

Europe is also especially important for emerging artists, who are looking to grow their audience.

What’s The Issue?

Unfortunately the UK – EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement was mostly focused on goods rather than services and therefore did not cover many aspects of cultural touring.

While the Government has provided clarification on some issues, many major difficulties remain, including uncertainty around cabotage, carnets, visa and work permit charges.

Visa and Work Permit-Free Travel

Artists and crew are now facing the challenge of navigating multiple systems when touring Europe. According to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 21 member states allow “some form” of musical touring without a work permit or visa. These are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Sweden.

However the actual amount of visa free touring differs per country and is often far below 90 in 180 days.

Individual countries may also have additional restrictions, such as France requiring musicians to be employed by a registered venue.

There remains uncertainty and possibly a need for bilateral deals with six other member states in relation to work permits for musicians and performers for any commercial music performance or artists and crew face costly and time-consuming visa and work permit applications.

These are Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus, and Portugal are key overseas markets for UK musicians, and Croatia is especially important for DJs.

Musicians, singers, production and crew also benefited from short-term work in the Europe. The 90 days in 180 days rule poses challenges for anyone looking to do performances that requires rehearsal, tour or extended runs.

Carnets and CITES

The reintroduction of time-consuming carnets for goods, such as instruments and merchandise, when travelling across borders increases costs and complicated red tape that may cause delays. Certain instruments may contain wood from endangered species whose export is controlled and will therefore require a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit in addition to a carnet to enter the EU. Artists often use the Eurostar as an entry point, but Eurostar is not a registered entry points for carnet and CITES instruments which can create delays and complications for entry.


We need action on cabotage rules, which impose restrictions on UK hauliers over the number of stops they can make in the EU, making touring impractical and unviable for many.

In the long term this threatens the viability of the current number of UK based specialist touring, who may well choose to base themselves in the EU. This could lead to a shortage of specialist equipment in the UK, as well as large tours potentially preferring to be based in the EU with the UK as a leg of the tour, as opposed to using the UK as a base.

What can be done to fix it? 

Music Export Office

The Government should look to be more ambitious and systemic in supporting music exports. This should involve creating a Music Export Office to support creators and businesses looking to build their profile abroad.

Globalisation has created a hyper-competitive music marketplace with many countries’ industries being supported by their governments, to not just survive, but challenge for dominance. With the global recorded music market set to double by 2030, without an Music Export Office, there is a risk that the UK will be left behind.

An export office should have a defined remit to look at international examples of sector support in other nations to help make recommendations.

The body could closely resemble agencies in Australia and Canada, which provide advice on export logistics and strategy to artists, as well as helping them to expand into new markets and increase their exposure.

It would be a partnership between industry and government with all relevant sector organisations involved.

An export office would support future talent by allowing new artists to access international audiences and continue the great historic success of UK music abroad.

Transitional Support Package

As a sector, music has not been supported with financial help to manage Brexit implications in the way other sectors have, such as fishing. UK Music is calling on the Government to urgently deliver a Transitional Support Package to cushion the blow and cover additional costs for touring artists, musicians, crew and businesses arising from leaving the EU while new restrictions are clarified and resolved.

Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements

We also need the Government to make bilateral negotiations with individual EU Member States for each country to allow 90 in 180 days work permit free touring for UK artists and crew. As well as multilateral agreements on a derogation on cabotage for all trucks used for cultural events, a cultural waiver between the UK and the EU on carnets and CITES, a visa waiver agreement for music workers looking to work short term in the EU and work for an agreement on cultural touring covering cabotage, cultural waiver and visa waivers for geographic Europe (EU, UK, EFTA/EEA, Switzerland).

What’s happening to change it? 

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music Inquiry

In November 2021, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music announced it would be holding an inquiry into music touring the European Union under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

As the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG on Music) UK Music launched a call for evidence for the inquiry. The group have held two evidence sessions and accepted written evidence.

In July 2022 the APPG on Music, with support from UK Music, released the Let The Music Move – A New Deal for Touring report – which can be read here.

An online panel was also held, chaired by APPG on Music Chair Kevin Brennan, with songwriter and performer Anna Neale, CEO of LIVE Jon Collins, CEO of MMF Annabella Coldrick and Craig Stanley from Chair of LIVE’s Touring Group.

Chair of the All-Party-Parliamentary Group on Music Kevin Brennan MP speaking on the issues facing the music industry when touring the EU.

Useful Information

Government guidance on working in the EU can be found here.

UK Music members MMF and FAC campaign on the behalf of artists and managers on this issue – with the Let The Music Move campaign. Find out more here.

Carry on Touring is another high profile campaign, which saw nearly 300,000 people sign a petition to call on the Government to seek a Europe-wide visa-free work permit for touring professionals and artists. Find out more here.

The Musicians’ Union have also been campaigning for a Musicians’ Passport and have useful information on their website about working in the EU.

Information from AIM can be found here.

Information from LIVE which represents the live industry can be found here.

Information from ISM can be found here.

Information from UK EU Arts Work can be found here.