David Furnish, husband of Elton John, has attacked the tide of Brexit bureaucracy and extra costs choking British musicians trying to tour the EU as the extent of the slump in British artists in Europe is revealed.
New analysis shared with The Independent shows that the number of British artists playing festivals across Europe this year is a third lower than before Brexit.
And the number of European acts performing at Glastonbury this year has fallen by half compared to pre-Brexit years, according to figures from campaign group Best for Britain.
Mr Furnish, Chief Executive of Sir Elton’s Rocket Entertainment Group, said: “Unfortunately, the new generation of artists touring Europe have to face a lot of red tape, a lot of complications and a lot of extra costs in order to launch and build a global music career. “
He urged ministers to cut red tape and said live music is “such an important part of Britain’s cultural landscape”, with British artists “leading the world” for decades.
Sir Elton has previously declared that he is “dying sick” of Brexit and has attacked the Tory government for its “petty-bourgeois” failure to recognize the “destructive” impact of bureaucracy on touring artists.
The number of British artists set to take to the stages of Europe’s major festivals this summer has fallen by 32 per cent compared to 2017/19, the new figures show.
The results represent a slight improvement on last year, when the number of British musicians playing post-Corona European festivals was down 45 per cent compared to the years immediately before Brexit.
But the sobering statistics have fueled fears that Britain’s ‘third country’ status is having a lasting impact on young British bands and singers.
The Independent revealed in 2021 that the Tory government rejected an EU offer of visa-free tours for musicians to all countries in the Union, despite blaming Brussels for the necessary permits.
A “standard” proposal to exempt artists from costs and red tape for 90 days was rejected, drawing criticism from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, Charlatans star Tim Burgess, Laura Marling and others.
The government said a majority of EU member states – including Spain, France and Germany – had made it clear that touring British artists had visa-free routes.
But both UK and EU bands are struggling with the Brexit changes. German punk band Trigger Cut announced they were recently refused entry to the UK after being asked for additional “sponsorship certificates” by all venues they were booked to perform at.
Naomi Smith, chief executive of internationalist campaign group Best for Britain, said emerging talent is “shamefully starved” of the opportunities of previous generations.
Music industry bosses have been invited to share their experiences and views at Trade Unlocked 2023, a conference at the NEC in Birmingham next month aimed at shaping trade policy ahead of the next election.
Deborah Annetts, head of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said the post-Brexit “heaps” of paperwork “continue to cost opportunities for emerging artists”.
Ms Annetts, a member of the UK Trade and Business Commission, said the conference offers musicians “a chance to make their voices heard and work with other industries to bring about meaningful change”.
Noel Gallagher described Brexit as an “absolute absolute disaster” and blamed the UK’s exit for the food shortages. “There are no damn eggs in the supermarket.”
The songwriter from Oasis and High Flying Birds narrated The big problem: “I feel sorry for the young people growing up in this country now – Brexit was an absolute disaster.”
The rock star said: “And it’s going to be a living nightmare until a politician has the guts to put a referendum in a manifesto, run on it and come back to the EU.”
A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Musicians and artists in the creative industries are an absolutely vital part of our economy and we are committed to helping them thrive.” We support them in adapting to the adapt to new agreements with the European Union and make touring and performing easier.”
They added: “We have been lobbying every EU member state that musicians should be allowed to tour and perform. Most of them, including the biggest touring markets like Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, have confirmed that they offer visa and work permit free itineraries for UK artists and other creative professionals.
“We continue the dialogue with the few remaining countries that do not offer visa or work permit-free routes.”
UK domestic regulations allow musicians and entertainers from visa-free countries, such as EU Member States, to perform in the UK without the need for a visa