In Focus

Brexit and festival insurance issues threaten live music industry’s return

#LetTheMusicMove campaign is launched by 200 acts to save touring in the EU

Closed venues and a year without gigs has almost silenced the live music industry.

UK Music’s annual Music by Numbers report found that in 2020 the industry’s contribution to the wider economy would plummet to about £3bn – down from £5.8bn in 2019. The report painted a “dire picture” for the industry and the hardest hit sector has been live music, which includes festivals and venues, The Guardian said. 

Even though restrictions are now starting to ease, the music industry still has a number of major challenges to contend with, and not just the pandemic, but also the impact of Brexit. 


The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has left touring overseas for British musicians and bands in limbo as they are no longer guaranteed visa-free travel in the bloc. Acts are facing “insurmountable financial and logistical barriers” and have called on the government to “save” EU touring, Sky News reports. 

As part of the #LetTheMusicMove campaign, more than 200 artists – including Annie Lennox, Keane, The Chemical Brothers and Radiohead – want urgent action on the post-Brexit touring “fiasco”, says NME

Five years to the day after the original referendum vote, the campaign is calling on officials to “support the future of the music industry, and mitigate the Brexit-related impacts of restrictions, costs and delays on European touring”.

The UK is the second biggest exporter of music in the world, and Europe is its most important overseas market, Access All Areas reports. Primal Scream bassist Simon Butler said it’s “essential” that Europe is part of the geographic working space. “To make it financially and logistically unrealistic to do shows and festivals will be halting the livelihoods and careers of generations of musicians.” 

Insurance or bust for festivals

It’s not just touring in the EU that is causing concern for the British music industry. The future of UK festivals is also coming under the spotlight post-Covid. 

Due to the pandemic, major music events including Glastonbury and BST Hyde Park have been cancelled for a second successive year and many more followed suit when the government announced that lockdown restrictions would be extended until 19 July.

Peter Gabriel has warned that this year’s Womad festival may have to be cancelled unless the government helps organisers get insurance, the BBC reports. Womad is scheduled to start on 22 July, three days after Covid restrictions are due to be lifted in England, and without insurance Gabriel said there is a “risk of losing everything”. 

“Commercial insurance has run a mile, effectively, and you can understand why,” Gabriel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “So if we’re trying to restore cultural life and normality we need a bit of help here. There’s too much uncertainty for most festival promoters to take the risk.”

‘Pushing live music off a cliff-edge’

A new report published today by the Public Accounts Committee has called on the government to offer urgent support to outdoor events organisers. Parliament’s spending watchdog has found that dozens of festivals are facing “devastating consequences to their survival” and there is confusion within government over how a £1.57bn post-Covid arts fund will affect the sector, The Guardian reports. 

The committee’s 20-page report said that “festivals are making difficult decisions about whether to risk their survival by going ahead this summer”, but the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has “not modelled the cost of underwriting festival indemnity insurance”. 

Experts have told the NME that the government is “pushing live music off a cliff-edge” and the future of the industry is being endangered by failing to publish results of recent Covid-19 pilot events or providing festivals with insurance.


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