An Un-Viable Option?

First up, when I use the word ‘techs’, it includes and I hope you don’t mind, the dancers, the backline, video, sound and lighting crew, the riggers, automation and set carpenters, the wardrobe, makeup and hair, the production team, catering, the drivers, and anyone else I’ve forgotten.

As the debate over music touring in the EU27, and for that matter the UK, after Brexit rumbles on, with both sides blaming each other but both wanting a solution, I thought I would raise an issue about industry representation and just who is involved in the discussions with the UK government.

I had a lengthy chat with one of the industry bodies on Friday, who told me in no uncertain terms that the issue was being looked after by themselves and a few other bodies and that ‘they’ had been advising the government from the start. They also told me the “badly worded” petition was completely unnecessary and had likely caused more problems than solved.

Since having discussions with other industry professionals, who back what I am doing, I thought that I would do a quick straw poll of my fellow freelance music touring technicians, to see if they felt represented in the on-going debacle.

The question I asked was “Do you feel represented by an industry body in the EU touring argument?”, with a simple yes /no / don’t care choice of answers.
Out of currently 152 votes, a staggering 136 freelance music touring professionals felt they had NO representation in the argument, only 14 felt they were represented, with 1 “don’t know” and 1 “don’t care”.

If the industry bodies that say they represent us as freelance music touring professionals and are fighting our corner, they are not doing a very good job at communicating that back to the us, the guys and girls with boots on the ground.

Moving on,

In other discussions it looks as if it will be down to the local promoters both to police the work permit issue and organise the relevant paperwork on our behalf. Now I am a little concerned about this and that’s why I, a UK passport holder, feel that I am not being represented at the table of these discussions.

The music business is as much about making money as it is about the music, and the promoters are trying to make as much as possible for the artists as well as themselves. So, if there is extra hassle or cost involved in sorting out paperwork for UK passport holding Technicians, then there is an extreme risk that they will choose EU or Dual nationality passport holders over us, making us an unviable option.

In fact, yesterday an email was sent out from one of the major players in hiring freelancers for gigs asking what their EU status was, by which they mean they will favour the EU passport holders for future work. And that is not good for an industry that has been decimated by the Covid19 pandemic with little support from the UK government.

The Government say repeatedly that they have put £1.5bn into the pot for a cultural recovery fund, but that’s not reaching the freelancers many of which are among the 3 million excluded!

I write this not only as a concerned freelancer, that’s potentially destined for the scrapheap at 55, but also as the concerned parent of a freelancer who has just established themselves as a music touring professional, that may also have their career cut short for the same reasons above.

But it’s not just the techs, the dancers, the drivers, and everyone else behind the scenes,

it’s also about the new emerging bands that are just staring out and want to play the EU27 to gain exposure.

It’s ok for the likes of Mr Daltrey to say it’s going to be fine and he will still tour like they did before the EU, of course he can, but it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for the techs that make him look and sound good, like me back the mid 90s.

All the established artists and bands will still tour, it might cost them a bit more, but largely they will continue.

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the fantastic help they have given us in getting this petitions message into the public eye and to the heart of the government, without them we would still discussing this for years to come.

So, thank you to all of you for helping but please don’t forget the techs when you talk about this in the press.

Lastly an update on what has occurred since the petition went through the roof.

I never thought that the petition would get anywhere, it has thanks largely to the great support mentioned above and stands currently about 262,000 signatures.

Normally I’m a fairly quiet chap, but since then life for me has changed a little to say the least. I have been giving press interviews, talking to politicians and industry leaders, the petition has been like a rash all over the papers, it’s shaken the bones of the government, it’s prompted a response from the EU. It’s been in the press all over Europe and the States.

I’m currently due to have a meeting with the Petition Committee clerk to discuss the next steps, I have a meeting with UKMusic and other industry bodies next week and I’ve got parliamentary lobbyist helping me organise a cross party meeting of politicians to put pressure on the UK govt to sort out the situation.

What do I want out of this? I’d like to see some form of Tech passport similar to the one the Musicians Union is fighting for:

https://musiciansunion.org.uk/campaigns/musicians-working-in-the-eu

Which allows us to regain freedom to work throughout the EU27 without the need for a work permit or visa. Preferably without any timescale.

That’s asking a lot, it has to be reciprocal for it to work, the EU would not accept that if it wasn’t, So half the battle is persuading the UK govt to see sense before it helps destroy the livelihoods of nearly 200,000 people.

I’m not saying that I want to be a representative voice, there are far more experienced people to take that mantle, but for the moment I will post any further updates I get, so for my part I will try to keep my fellow freelance techs informed, and hopefully help prevent us all from becoming UNVIABLE!

Best,

Timmo.

Sign the petition calling for the UK government to “Seek Europe-wide Visa-free work permit for Touring professionals and Artists” now:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/563294

6 thoughts on “An Un-Viable Option?”

  1. Hi Tim – brilliant work mate and in answer – No I do t feel represented at all bar one mp asking the odd question.

    The lack of care or interest from both sides of government is totally disturbing so we need to do as much as possible – personally wouldn’t necessarily follow the MU. We need to have an agreement which includes us and they have always been heavily biased towards to classical musician.
    Anyway I think you have done a brilliant job and anything I can do to help etc

  2. Good straw poll Tim. I definitely don’t feel represented by any industry body not even by my Union? Which is why I decided to take action myself. Pretty much like yourself I am concerned about the industry i have worked in for 40 years my own career I am over 60 and want to end my working life in the industry I
    love and ready to be placed on the scrap heap. I feel we have very little representation in this from the start and I don’t know about you but not one officail body or union has ever asked me for my opinion or thoughts? and considering freelancers make up the bulk of touring/ performing folk this seems a bit wrong! I am and have been lobbying hard but so far the only people to ask my opinion has been some if the press?
    I shall like you carry on fighting.I cant imagine why anyone would consider the petition was in anyway negative? “Don’t give up the fight”
    Best wishes
    Miec “heggy” heggett

  3. This is brill. Good luck mate. One point I have noticed of late. No one is quoting a figure of how much your industry brings to the UK. Find the amount and shout it out loud. Put them fishers in the shade. How much and how many people are employed in the industry.

    1. I’ve seen various figures, but the main one I’ve seen is that we contributed £5.8bn in 2019.
      I’ve seen figures of around 200,000 employed in the industry.

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