Sat. Nov 27th, 2021


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The laughingstock that Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson has become these days perfectly exemplifies the eggplant that has been the Brexi for British musicians, who can no longer tour Europe with the same facilities as before. The veteran vocalist at the time defended tooth and nail the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, but when he saw how it affects his work, he shouted: “Don’t make me start talking about the attitude of the government with the entertainment industry. We are probably one of the largest exports to the UK. Come now. And yet here we are, unable to do anything, “says Dickinson now, who acknowledges that” everyone knows “that he voted in favor of Brexit. But, you know, the idea is that after you’ve done it, you have to be sensitive to the relationship you have with people. So right now, all this about not being able to play in Europe and vice versa with the musicians who want to play here, it’s rubbish. They have to agree. According to an Encore Musicians poll of half a thousand artists, 76 per cent of British musicians believe that Brexit restrictions will prevent them from traveling in Europe.

English artists who want to tour Europe face bureaucratic obstacles that they did not have before, and that depend on the regulations of each country. And curiously, Spain is the one that makes it the hardest. “Each country sets its rules on visas for non-European visitors, and for some strange reason, Spain is the most damned,” he says. Verona Edo, from the London management agency Wild 45. “To Germany and France, for example, we can go without a visa for up to 90 days. But going to Spain requires a lot of bureaucracy and money, and although great artists will not care so much, for emerging artists it will be impossible to travel because it would be very expensive, “says Edo, who describes this situation as” depressing “since our country is “The second most important market for British tours”.

A British band that wants to come to Spain on tour has to pay a management company to process the visas of its members. That works out to about five hundred euros per head, and considering that the tour team includes about ten or twelve people (including sound technicians, tour manager, merchandising manager, etc.), the trip already has 6,000 euros in red. before starting. As Verona Edo said, this should not be a big problem for mainstream artists, but two things must be taken into account: the team of a famous musician is not ten or twelve people but fifty or even a hundred; and the bulk of British concerts in our country belong to medium-capacity hall bands, which would find it extremely difficult to cover expenses with ticket sales. To make matters worse, in the case of Spain there are two added problems: the technicians and the rest of the team are not considered ‘artists’ in the visa regime, with which they will have negative answers in the vast majority of cases, depending on the criteria that want to apply each consulate. And in addition, the visa gives permission for only two weeks, clearly insufficient time to organize an itinerary with a good number of stopovers that makes the trip profitable.

The British Association of Live Music Businesses, LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment), has made it very clear with a study whose results are reflected in three categories. The ‘green’ countries are the ones that make British tours easier. Those colored in yellow require the fulfillment of some more requirements. And then there are the reds, who pose real dead ends. There we are, along with Bulgaria and Croatia.

Getting out of that group of plagued people is a matter of political will, as he explains Manuel López, lawyer and director of the law firm Sympathy for the Lawyer, and member of the Federation of Music of Spain Es_Música. «The rest of the countries have changed the immigration regulations, or at least have instructed the consulates to facilitate the procedures. By making the issue of visas for technicians more flexible, we would already leave the red zone and enter the yellow zone, but not even that has been considered yet. It is not understood why we do not do the same as the rest of the EU, establishing criteria that change this situation, in the absence of a well-developed agreement for the long term. Almost all the countries of Europe were in that red zone a few months ago, but the others have been reacting and we are left alone. López believes that the Spanish authorities are not acting in bad faith with this problem, but rather that it is a matter of the “sloppiness” that usually exists in this country when it comes to the music industry. “We are never a priority, we are a minor problem. They will have proof of what is happening, but the matter is not put on the agenda, nor are resources put in to try to study what is happening ».

Es_Música has joined forces with the APM (Association of Musical Promoters) to pressure the Spanish government, but for now they have had no response. “That they don’t even give us something more than an acknowledgment of receipt is disrespectful,” says the president of APM Albert Salmerón, which has sent letters to the Spanish embassy and consulate in London, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidency of the Government, without any result. “They do not seem to want to take for granted,” laments Salmerón. “We are collaborating with LIVE, and they have received an answer from the consulate in London. But only to throw balls out. They are told that they are only officials who take orders. As they were told, orders had been received from Madrid to make the measures more flexible for everything that was the world of cinema. But there is a different standard for music, and we do not understand why. Well, we do understand it, but this difference in treatment for moving different amounts of money is not justifiable. Furthermore, if we count the impact that live music has on tourism in Spain, it is a very significant figure ».

Why don’t the Spanish and British authorities sit down and talk about this? Manuel López says half jokingly half seriously that the only element that differentiates our relationship with the United Kingdom from that of other countries is Gibraltar. And the sad thing is that who is going to pay the duck for all this are Spanish businessmen of all sizes, which are severely damaged by bureaucracy, cost overruns, and even legal mess. We are already seeing cases of tour cancellations derived from this situation, which are leading to contractual conflicts that, being international, represent a significant mess at an economic and reputational level ”. And he warns: “Our summer festivals next year could end very badly, because British managers are going to end up very fed up with the Spanish regulations and the problems it generates.”

Chen Castaño, director of the concert promoter Planet Events, belonging to Live Nation, qualifies this situation as «very negative», and summarizes the problem for Spanish businessmen in two sentences: «It affects us because as the British groups have more difficult to come on tour, the business fabric is going to suffer. Brexit is an inconvenience for us because it makes tours more expensive, when it does not make them unfeasible. This last option is the one that is already being imposed today, and they assume it in Mercury Wheels, which from time to time manages stadium tours like Dua Lipa’s, but is known for being one of the most important promoters of the Spanish theater circuit. “We have already stopped working with medium-capacity British bands between now and the next few months. We can not do anything else about this disaster, “laments its director Barnaby Harrod. “That we are the same as Bulgaria says it all, taking into account the difference in business volume that live music represents in both countries. We do not understand why France, Italy, Germany, Portugal have solved this problem, and Spain is the only one unable to do so. It is very shocking.

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