20th March 2023
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Spain scraps visa requirement for short-term tours by UK artists

The music industry has welcomed the announcement this week that Spain is scrapping the need for visas for short-term tours by UK artists, calling it a ‘big victory’ – but with warnings that significant issues still remain that will make many tours ‘impossible’.

It is largely seen as an important step in the arts sector generally, allowing more freedoms to travel and work in Spain for short periods.

The Spanish and UK governments have been working closely in recent weeks to establish a framework that will allow UK artists, and their support crews, to tour Spain for 90 days or less without the need for a visa.

Representatives from the music industry had been warning of the significant impact of Brexit and future UK tours in Europe, saying that the visa requirements were ‘costly and bureaucratic barriers that threatened the industry’s talent pipeline’.

In recent months, other EU nations had signed similar agreements with the UK government, but Spain had not negotiated a deal until this week.

Discussions had been taking place in recent weeks to finalise arrangements, with input from Spain’s Asociación de Promotores Musicales (APM), their UK equivalent LIVE, and the Association for British Orchestras (ABO).

The agreement allows for musicians, actors and other artists involved with the audio-visual sector to work in Spain for 90 out of 180 days, without requiring a work visa.

The UK’s Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, said that the agreement is ‘really great news’, explaining how the Spanish and UK governments had been working closely to make touring easier for UK artists.

She also highlighted that of the 27 EU member states, ‘21 now offer visa and permit-free routes for touring performers’.

Speaking about the agreement with Spain, UK Music Chief Executive, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, said that ‘the lifting of visa restrictions by the Spanish government is a hugely welcome move. It marks a big victory for all our members and reflects all the effort we have put in trying to get rid of these barriers’.

However, he highlighted that there were still challenges to the industry, particularly around the transportation of goods or passengers in Spain by a foreign operator – a process referred to as cabotage – and which he said ‘makes many tours impossible’.

Njoku-Goodwin said that ‘it is important to remember that major issues still remain, particularly cabotage. We will continue to press the case with the government here and with EU nations to remove all the costly and bureaucratic restrictions that remain when it comes to touring in the EU’.

Explaining the impact of touring on economies and culture in both countries, he said that tours were vital to allow musicians and crew to tour freely to ‘grow their fanbase and share the very best of British music across Europe and the rest of the world’.

The issues around touring restrictions had recently been highlighted by UK emerging indie bands Squid, Black Country and New Road, who all had to pull out of Spanish shows recently, due to visa restrictions.

Speaking to British music magazine, NME, the promoters of these shows said that the cancellations were ‘without any hint of rescheduling’ and that challenges remained ahead.

Ina Tatarko, a manger of Squid, said that ‘it’s been super-frustrating that you now have to pay customs to take your merch items into the EU. You have to get carnets for all your equipment and all the costs that weren’t there before are just adding up’.

With many Spanish music festivals planning for a return to pre-pandemic activities in 2022, the agreement reached to allow visa free travel for UK artists is expected to generate a flurry of bookings in the days and weeks ahead.

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