Tough Gig: 45% drop in British acts booked for European festivals post-Brexit

New analysis suggests that in the first post-Brexit festival season, the number of British bands playing festivals across Europe has fallen by almost half.

Figures published today by internationalist campaign group Best for Britain show that on average, the number of British musicians scheduled to take to European stages this summer has fallen by 45% compared to the pre-Brexit years 2017-19. 

The sobering statistics have raised concerns on the impact that Brexit might be having on the next generation of British musicians and have been published ahead of a meeting of the cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission to take evidence on the post-Brexit challenges facing the UK music and travel industries during the first festival and holiday season without Covid restrictions.

Industry leaders have warned that the UK Government’s Brexit deal makes doing business much more difficult for touring musicians and is incompatible with common industry practice where musicians are often asked to fill last-minute vacancies in a festival line up. They claim that the end of freedom of movement has effectively disqualified British artists from these opportunities and is expected to disproportionately impact emerging artists as established musicians are more likely to be booked months in advance.

In April, British band, White Lies were forced to cancel a performance in Paris citing what they described as “an appallingly-run government system in the UK” which saw their equipment detained by officials enforcing post-Brexit customs rules.  

High profile artists including Elton John, Radiohead and Biffy Clyro have previously called on the government to address the issues facing musicians following Brexit. This week, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Music called for the appointment of a "touring tsar" to help solve the problems.

Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain said: 

“The Beatles famously made their name in Europe and it’s on tour that many musicians gain the formative experiences and audiences they need to take off. 

“With their dud Brexit deal, our lame duck Government has not only robbed emerging British talent of these opportunities abroad, but has also made international acts think twice before including Glasgow or London in their European tours.”

Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and UK Trade and Business Commissioner, Deborah Annetts said,

“Previous witnesses to our commission have described how, if you’re a festival organiser in Barcelona who needs to fill a last minute slot, British bands will be at the bottom of your list due to new barriers created by this botched Brexit deal. 

“Whoever ends up replacing Boris Johnson must commit to removing this needless bureaucracy which is stifling the prosperity and creativity of the next generation of British musicians.”