British musicians booked for EU festivals down a third on pre-Brexit

New analysis suggests that British artists are still missing out on opportunities to tour this festival season as the number of British musicians playing festivals across Europe is a third lower than before Brexit. 

Figures published today by internationalist campaign group Best for Britain suggest that on average, the number of British musicians scheduled to take to stages across Europe this summer has fallen by 32% compared to 2017-19. 

The findings mark a slight improvement on 2022 where in the first festival season after Brexit and Covid restrictions, British musicians booked to play European festivals had fallen by 45% compared to the years 2017-19. However, this year the number of European musicians playing at Britain’s most iconic festival, Glastonbury, has fallen by half compared to the years 2017-2019.  

While industry leaders have attributed the improvement to festival organisers and musicians having some experience with new restrictions and paperwork, the sobering statistics have reinforced concerns around the lasting impact that Brexit is having on the next generation of British musicians.

Industry leaders have confirmed that the government’s Brexit deal continues to make touring much more difficult with new rules on visas and cabotage, and is incompatible with common industry practice where musicians are often asked to fill last-minute vacancies in a festival line up. 

The research has been published as the UK prepares to host a celebration of European music with the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool. Representatives of the entertainment industry have been invited to share their experience and expertise at Trade Unlocked 2023, a major new conference at the NEC in Birmingham that seeks to use frontline evidence to shape trade policies ahead of the next election.

Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, said: 

“Great British artists have historically cut their craft and made their name in Europe but emerging talent is now shamefully being starved of these opportunities.  

“This summer's outlook from British musicians is almost as grim as the one before and as the Government is failing to act we’re offering the entertainment industry a platform to create workable solutions at Trade Unlocked 2023.”

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Independent Society of Musicians and member of the UK Trade and Business Commission, said: 

“While some improvement on last year's figures is welcomed, this is most likely down to musicians and festival organisers becoming better versed in navigating the piles of post-Brexit paperwork which continues to cost opportunities for emerging artists. 

“It is essential that practical solutions are put in front of decision makers, Trade Unlocked is offering musicians the chance to make their voice heard and work with other industries to effect meaningful change.”

Speaking at a UK Trade and Business Commission live evidence session, David Furnish, CEO Rocket Entertainment Group, said: 

“The new generation of artists coming through unfortunately are now finding themselves, for touring Europe, with a lot of red tape, a lot of complications, and a lot of additional costs in order to launch and build a global music career.

“Live music and recorded music is such an important part of the British cultural landscape. Since the 1960s we have always punched above our weight in this area. Britain has led the world with its world beating creativity in the music sector and the live music sector.”