UK born and now based in Berlin, largely because of Brexit, touring songwriter Josh Savage has played more than 700 shows on four continents. Here he gives he thoughts on how the post-Brexit EU work permit fiasco is impacting independent artists.

The odds for breaking an artist are pretty steep. Talent and hard work alone aren’t enough. All the right cogs need to be spinning at the same time and there needs to be an element of support and luck.

When my blue passport arrived in the post, my heart sank. For myself and other artists alike, holding it in hand is a stark realisation symbolising the increasing difficulties to come and the odds stacking up ever higher. Something that will become clear as the world opens up again.

I expressed my dismay on my socials. It went viral on TikTok and Instagram with 250,000 views, fuelled predominantly by comments from proud apathetic Brexiteers.

Many of the derogatory comments said to stop whining and get on with it. Unbeknown to them I was. With touring being a major part of my income, I moved to Berlin in Germany before Brexit so that I still had free access to my biggest music market. I’m not the only one, the announcement of Sir Simon Rattle leaving the prestigious London Symphony orchestra for the continent shocked many.

It makes you question, how many more of Britain’s cultural lifeblood is it losing? And here’s why. First up, travelling for a holiday and for work are different things. They require different visas.

As it stands, UK musicians are now limited to work:

  • 90 days/year in Belgium, Finland, France, Iceland, Luxembourg.
  • 42 days/quarter in Netherlands.
  • 1 month/year in Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia.
  • 2 weeks/year in Latvia, Norway and Sweden.

All the rest of the EU and Schengen zone, you straight up need a work permit.

Work visas are a lengthy process, expensive and there’s no guarantee of success. We now need multiple work permits to tour the EU now.

Did I mention we now get charged for exporting our goods? That’s a thing too now. Bands have to pay to travel with their merchandise now.

That’s not affordable for independent musicians who comprise of 33% of the top 100 streaming Billboard charts. As I look towards the release of my second single In Too Deep from my upcoming second album on my own label Savage Tribe Records, I am not expecting a return in my investment.

The Beatles toured before the EU but they had a team of people and money wasn’t an issue for them. The time and money required to deal with the new complicated regulations puts a stranglehold on new music and independents. There was also a lot more money to be made in music in those days.

The worst part is that touring the EU could still be possible with our blue passport but strong evidence shows our government turned down the deal to do so.

In the UK we have an incredible music industry. It brings £6bn to the UK economy but with the pandemic and new limitations, it’s going to be the death of it.

I know I would like to return to living on the motherland again one day, but I don’t know how I can survive until there is more support and a musicians’ passport of sorts.