EU musicians booked for British festivals down 40% post-Brexit

New research suggests that the number of EU musicians playing festivals across Britain has been almost halved since Brexit took effect increasing calls for visa waivers for cultural workers and a new Youth Mobility Scheme with the EU. 

(Italian rock group Maneskin were one of many EU based bands to have previously played major UK festivals) 

Figures published today by internationalist campaign group Best for Britain show that, on average, the number of European musicians scheduled to take to the stage at major festivals across the UK this summer has fallen by 40% compared to 2017-19. 

The findings mark a slight improvement on 2022 figures where in the first festival season after Brexit and Covid restrictions, European musicians booked to play British festivals had fallen by 53% compared to the years 2017-19. Industry leaders have attributed the improvement to festival organisers and musicians having some experience with new restrictions and paperwork in the second post-Brexit Festival season.

However, this year the number of European musicians playing at Britain’s most iconic festival, Glastonbury, has decreased even further, down 50% this year compared to 42% in 2022. 

These new figures have reinforced concerns around the impact that Brexit is having on the diversity of the music scene in the UK. Earlier this year, Best for Britain published research suggesting that the number of UK musicians playing EU festivals had fallen by a third since Brexit.

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.

In May, The cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission commission published 114 recommendations to help improve trading conditions for British businesses including touring musicians. They included more flexible cabotage, a visa waiver for cultural workers and a new Youth Mobility Scheme with the EU. 

Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, said: 

“Britain is renowned for its truly world leading music festival circuit, now we're seeing some of our famous stages absent of Europe’s biggest talent. 

“By failing to act, the Government is starving Britain’s creative industry of the diverse range of talent Europe has to offer, while suffering the economic consequences of European acts swerving the UK to perform elsewhere.”

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

“Collaboration is at the heart of music making, with European and British artists enriching each other’s music scenes and inspiring emerging artists. Yet since Brexit increasing numbers of European artists are deciding that it is not worth the hassle to try and perform on UK stages. This research comes on top of the ISM’s major new Brexit report, Paying the price, which reveals that nearly 50% of British artists have worked less in Europe thanks to Brexit.

“The ISM has repeatedly asked the government to streamline the mechanisms for incoming performers from the EU to the UK, but to no avail. There are solutions which the government knows about – but it has failed to take action. The government must introduce a visa system with increased flexibility for artists and seasonal workers, making Britain an attractive destination for performers all over the world.”