Wolf Alice’s Joff Oddie on post-Brexit touring: “We could lose this world-leading position if we don’t act now”

"We need a new deal for touring from the Government now. It is time to tear down the barriers artists are facing touring the EU. It is time to let the music move!"

Wolf Alice guitarist Joff Oddie has written an op-ed for NME regarding the ongoing problems for UK artists wishing to tour Europe post-Brexit, arguing that action is needed now for Britain to retain it’s “world-leading position” in music.

Last year, the UK music industry spoke out together on how they had essentially been handed a “No Deal Brexit” when the government failed to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew. As a result, artists attempting to hit the road again after COVID found themselves on the predicted “rocky road” for the first summer of European touring after Britain left the EU.

Last month, a study by Best For Britain – a group “pushing for closer relationships with Europe and the world” – showed that the number of British artists scheduled to perform in Europe as part of this year’s festival season had fallen by 45 per cent when compared to 2017-2019 (pre-Brexit).

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Today, NME published news of the industry insiders claiming that the first summer of touring post-pandemic proves that the ongoing situation is “strangling the next generation of UK talent in the cradle”, Wolf Alice’s Joff Oddie has written of the true scale of the problem and why the government should act on the recent report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music.

Members of Wolf Alice Theo Ellis, Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie and Joel Amey pose with their award in the media room during The BRIT Awards 2022 at The O2 Arena on February 08, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images )
Members of Wolf Alice Theo Ellis, Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie and Joel Amey pose with their award in the media room during The BRIT Awards 2022 at The O2 Arena on February 08, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images )

Oddie wrote:

“Live music really matters. It brings joy and builds connections between people across our country and across the world. It’s a forum for sharing ideas and experiences. It can exhilarate, console, and inspire and is exactly the kind of collective human experience that we missed, and for many realised was necessary, during the pandemic.

“It is an enormous domestic industry, made up of musicians, stage hands, engineers, managers, bar staff, cleaners, security, bookers, promoters, haulage and rental companies (to name just a few) – which create jobs, prosperity and stability for thousands of people.

“Live music is also a huge export and is a massive source of soft power around the world. UK acts consistently hit lists of the biggest-selling artists of the year, and pre-pandemic globally, four of the top 10 grossing tours of 2019 were headlined by UK artists. We have acts that people across the world want to see and a first-class industry of people making sure those shows happen.

“However, if we’re not careful, we could lose this world-leading position if we don’t act now.

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“Playing live shows – not just in the UK but across Europe and elsewhere – is a vital way for bands and artists to develop their skills, and grow their audience and has become one of the predominant sources of income for recording and performing artists.

“Touring the EU has been an important route for developing artists and bands to make that step up to being an international performer but that key experience is at risk of being shut off.

“It’s now more complicated, more expensive, and more challenging to get gigs in the EU. Emerging acts can’t afford for their tours to be loss-makers and don’t have the resource to spend hours filling in all the complicated forms that are now required. EU bookers are also more reluctant to book UK acts due to these issues. I fear these changes are going to seriously damage the prospects of so many new acts, who have already been held back by two years of not being able to tour due to the pandemic.”

“It’s not just emerging acts that are impacted. Leaving the European Union has caused a range of difficulties, from new rules preventing trucks carrying equipment for large tours being able to make stops in multiple EU countries, to severe delays at borders due to the increased paperwork now needed. For example, White Lies had to cancel a show in Paris because their equipment got stuck in border delays, and last year Imogen Heap cancelled shows across the EU because of the uncertainties of touring so soon after Brexit.

“We know some in Government understand the problems and are helping to fix them. Kevin Brennan and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music undertook an inquiry into the impact leaving the EU has had on the music industry.

“Their Let The Music Move: A New Deal for Touring report shows a way forward – practical suggestions for the UK Government – like having a one-stop-shop for musicians and music workers to get free and clear advice on the rules in any particular country, negotiations on some common sense exemptions and a Music Export Office to help UK musicians compete internationally.

“We cannot expect to retain our rich musical culture and heritage if we fail to support both upcoming and established artists. We need a new deal for touring from the Government now. It is time to tear down the barriers artists are facing touring the EU. It is time to let the music move!”

Joff Oddie
Joff Oddie (Picture: Andy DeLuca / Press)

Read more on industry insiders, managers and festival bookers telling NME of the threat that the ongoing Brexit problems show to UK music here.

Another recent recommendation was also for the UK government to appoint a Brexit tsar to focus on fixing these issues.

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