COVID-19 has choked off the live music industry, but Brexit won’t offer musicians a speedy recovery either. Most members of Ġenn, an all-woman punk band, have Maltese citizenship that’ll help them beat Brexit red tape, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find bumps in the road the next time they grace Europe’s stages.
“We’re not 100% sure what lies ahead because obviously touring is off the table at the moment. We don’t know what’s going to happen with borders,” Ġenn’s guitarist Janelle told Lovin Malta.
“Two years go, travelling across borders was like going to Gozo. Now obviously for Maltese bands looking to expand their fanbase to Britain, or even take the plunge and live here, it’s going to be a hassle,” she said.
The UK has withdrawn from the European Union as of 31st January, spelling the end for visa-free, fast-track movement to its European neighbours. In a recent blow, the UK government announced it wouldn’t pursue a scheme to allow British musicians to tour the EU without visas, custom waivers and work permits for each member state.
“Hopefully there’s some sort of compromise,” Borg said.
“Everyone is all over the place with Brexit and COVID-19 because there’s just so much uncertainty,” the guitarist continued.
“Since our manager is British, I don’t know how that’s going to work. There’s also the issue with visas for the crew, how payments will work, merchandise and so on. But at the same time, it’s going to be an adventure,” Borg finished.
More than 100 artists, including big names Sting and Elton John, signed an open letter in the British newspaper The Times to negotiate paperwork-free travel for British musicians, warning they have been “shamefully failed” by the government’s withdrawal deal.
Meanwhile, England-based lobby the Musicians Union has been pushing for a “musician’s passport” that would cost little, encompass all EU states and cut through new red tape. A petition supporting the idea reached 113,500 backers.
Musicians in the UK have been hit with a double whammy: facing a pandemic that forced major revenue streams to dry and a UK-EU deal that left them in the short end of the sick. Hopefully, a deal will be struck before COVID-19 is under control and we can experience live events again.
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