Brexit stage left: a British group recounts the eccentric barriers encountered during the European tour | Brexit

Night after night, the Beatles honed their harmonies in the clubs of Hamburg.

But now British bands trying to hone their sound by playing in Europe are struggling to make ends meet – or give up altogether – because of barriers created by Brexit, a musicians’ charity says. .

Walt Disco, an up-and-coming goth-glam band from Glasgow, have recounted the almost outlandish barriers they faced during a recent tour with gigs in Ireland and the Netherlands.

The first challenge was to complete the customs forms to obtain an ATA carnet, or instrument passport, in order to obtain a waiver for their van at border control.

For Walt Disco singer Jocelyn Si, 24, that meant buying their first bathroom scale and weighing themselves with and without each instrument to notify customs of the weight of their temporary exports.

The next challenge, upon arrival in Belfast, was figuring out how to get permission to cross the border into the EU and into Dublin.

“You think you get off the ferry and all you have to do is hand in the papers. But no… you have to find the customs area, which is not in the ferry port. You have to go around from Belfast to find him,” their manager Hamish Fingland said, a reference to Northern Ireland’s lack of implementation of protocol.

After their gig in Dublin, they took a ferry via the UK to the mainland, but had to take a more expensive ‘freight’ route as their gear was now a declarable item.

At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, there was similar confusion as they departed for another concert in Texas.

“We allowed ourselves three hours to be able to get through customs on either side of the airport, well before a show, but it was so difficult to find someone at the airport who knew where we needed to go. We would go to a customs and they would say, ‘No, you have to go to the other end of the airport,’” Si said.

At £570, the Instrument ATA Carnet eats away at the marginal revenue small bands crave in a world that is already proving more expensive due to petrol prices.

According to Help Musicians, live performances can account for 90-95% of a band’s income, but Brexit has cut one of their biggest sources of income, limiting them to £1,000 worth of merchandise before entering. in a higher tax bracket.

For Walt Disco, that’s no good, which equates to just 50 vinyl records at £20 each, a fraction of what they hope to sell after a performance in front of a typical crowd of 500.

“Really, we were getting to the stage where you think, ‘Is it worth going to play in this place right now? “, Fingland said.

“It’s a career issue. This is not about selling a box of keys in the EU. It’s about whether careers in music can be sustained for 10, 20, 40 years.

The Walt Disco experience was typical for smaller bands trying to forge careers with European tours in 2022, said James Ainscough, chief executive of Help Musicians, which set up a £250,000 fund this spring to help young people musicians to deal with Brexit.

“The Beatles’ time performing in Hamburg before their record deal was formative for their sound,” Ainscough said. “That’s where they learned their harmonies and learned to play incredibly tight and come together as a band. You only get that by playing live frequently and seeing what works and what does not work in front of a crowd.

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“The hurdles that Brexit has put in place mean that these types of careers are being held back, if not reduced, as some musicians will drop out.

“Most musicians are freelancers. They are small businesses. These are exactly the kind of people the Conservative Party should cherish. These are people who, in Norman Tebbit’s terminology, got on their bikes and went to find work.

“One of the cool things they should be doing is taking the shackles out of the music industry and allowing UK music back on the world stage.”

Si has another view: “They probably know that musicians and creatives aren’t conservative voters. Why would they appease us? From a Scottish perspective, many Scottish musicians are eager to vote for independence, as it seems to be our only path to the EU.

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