navigating brexit – update

On the 8th February a 90 minute debate took place in Westminster Hall after a petition with nearly 283,000 signatures called for visa free travel for artists and technicians in Europe. MPs from across the political spectrum spoke up for musicians who are being hit with additional costs and bureaucracy to work in the EU.

It appears that visa free travel for musicians and their touring crew wasn’t included in the Brexit agreement because when the UK Government suggested this, the EU wanted a broader agreement which covered several sectors. The UK government wasn’t prepared to accept this.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage spoke on behalf of the Government at the debate and said that their original offer to the EU was still on the table if the EU would like to reconsider it. In addition, she has set up a working group regarding the issue, which includes the Musicians Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge, and since the debate has made a commitment to work with music organizations to find workable solutions. The government has also indicated that it intends to begin discussions with key EU Member states in the next few weeks to discuss issues regarding work permits.

bringing instruments on tour

One welcome piece of news is that Minister Dinenage has now confirmed that an ‘oral declaration’ can be made by musicians who are traveling with portable musical instruments and a carnet will not be needed. However, if musicians are transporting instruments or equipment by car, van or truck, they will need a carnet. The MU has secured discounts with two carnet providers, further details of which can be found here.

what you can do

In the meantime you can find out how you can take action to support work permit free travel here.

New music: why we need to challenge the “repertoire”

“The composer is a bit like the director of a movie and we are the actors and the actors have to express what the script says to their best ability.”

Avguste Antonov

The case for performing new music is a compelling one, but one that keeps having to be made in the face of entrenched views, a conservative mindset towards programming and a fear that audiences simply will not enjoy contemporary work.

Professor Avguste Antonov is a concert pianist and a professor of piano at the Châteaubriant Conservatoire who has made a specialism within his distinguished career of performing contemporary American music. When he spoke to Music Works in January, he described how he experiences the collaborative relationship with living composers and why he thinks this repertoire is important and needs to be heard.

First of all he challenges the idea that there is only one type of new music and the perception that it is inevitably atonal and “difficult” for the average listener. Instead he wants to see programming and promoters celebrating the wealth of work that is out there and have the courage to allow new pieces to be performed. And not just once as a world premiere which can catch the eye, but then see a work slip into oblivion, but to market cleverly.

“What’s left? Country premieres, city premieres, village premieres, you’ve got a whole type of type of premieres you can do and it all depends on how you promote that premiere…It all depends what you do with it.”

He also speaks compellingly about the special relationship that is possible when performing the music of a living composer. Although the performer feels a duty to perform a work in a way that reflects the composer’s original intention, no one can go back and ask Bach or Beethoven what they meant by any particular piece of scoring, but direct access to a living composer offers huge opportunities.

“You can actually go and talk with them and understand where they’re coming from as far as how they composed the work, what type of ideas, where they came from, and where they’re looking to go.”

But he also acknowledges that, once a piece has entered the domain of the performer, the composer has to allow that performer to place their own mark and interpretation on the work.

“Each composer is different. I’ve known composers who never want to hear me practice or rehearse their work before the concert. Not because they didn’t care, but because they want to give me that complete freedom.”

And that brings its own responsibilities. His approach is to always to be open minded whilst keeping a weather eye on the composers intent. It’s highly collaborative work.

“Composers write what they what they would like to express. But if we look on the other side of the map, it’s the performer when he gets on stage, that puts everything into place.”

One thing Avguste is certain of: new music offers a wealth and variety of pieces that should and can be heard. All it needs is a little more courage on the part of programmers and the persistence of artists like him in seeking out more repertoire, engaging with composers and making the case both in the lecture theatre (as well as the occasional podcast!) and on the concert platform itself.

You can listen to Avguste and all our other great guests on the Music Works podcast here:

Navigating brexit

Musicians everywhere are trying to work out what Brexit means for them. Unfortunately, it is not straightforward.

After attending the brilliant Navigating Brexit webinar hosted on 28 January by the Music Publishers Association, we wanted to share with you some of the key advice and resources that were given.

What to do if you’re a UK national living in the uk and have paid work in Europe

When accepting paid work in Europe, you might need a visa (which may have to be paid for) and/or a work permit (which are often free).

The Musicians’ Union are pushing consistency of approach from all European states, however, if this isn’t possible, they will try to get deals with the individual states which are as straight forward as possible.

Here is a list of the 27 European governments’ websites, where the current travel rules are detailed for each country.

UK Music are currently putting together a resource where one will be able to look up all the travel rules in one place, and the Music Publisher Association will share this as soon as it’s available.


There’s currently a petition for visa free travel for artists & technicians. It’s still open for signature.

 As a result of this petition, today (Thursday 4 February) MPs will hear from a range of artists and other sector professionals about arrangements for UK touring professionals and artists in the EU. Watch the session live from 2.30pm

You can find out more about the session here.

Parliament will debate this on Monday 8th February 2021. You can watch the debate here.

What is still ongoing

The Musicians Union are currently trying to get advice together regarding touring, as a lot of points are not clear in the current Brexit agreement. 

Current potential hurdles include:
– needing a carnet if you’re bringing a truck of instruments into Europe (NB this paperwork lasts a year and costs £325) 
– the issue of cabotage (whereby UK lorries can only make 2 stops in Europe before returning to the UK, the MU are currently lobbying for a cultural exemption)
– needing a cites certificate for instruments that are made with endangered materials, for example ivory or rosewood (NB this paperwork takes 5-10 minutes to apply for and is free)
– needing an EORI number for merchandise you are bringing into Europe to sell

Further guidance

The MU have put together a guide to working within Europe with the current information available: 

•    The UK government is not planning on implementing the Copyright Directive whereas Europe is (by the 7th June 2021 all EU states will be following it). This will affect digital service providers in the relevant EU member states, however it’s not entirely clear as to how it will affect UK performers and creators yet. 

•    The General Secretary of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is currently forming a group which will structure the way politicians hear about the issues the music industry is facing and help push things forward. 

•    The MPA have put together this excellent Business Advice, Support and Guidance Flowchart on Brexit.

This was the first of 3 sessions that will be hosted by the MPA this year on navigating Brexit. For further information on when the next sessions will take place and how to book your (free) ticket, visit the MPA’s events page.