28-Dec-2020 (Mon) Wherein Brexit's going really well, too.

It looks like musicians in the UK have finally noticed that the ongoing Brexit foot-gun disaster has turned "Europe" into a distant, foreign land that requires work visas. In other words, it will now be as difficult for a British band to play Paris or Berlin as it is for them to play San Francisco.

Welcome to The Colonies, you guys! We've been dealing with this shit forever. You have our sympathy.

Brexit will be "catastrophic" for British touring artists, music industry warns:

On fears that the state of play could become similar to that with the US, which recently increased visa costs by 50% with another potential 24% rise looming, Pritchard added: "The American touring model is interesting because it shows us just how costly touring can be for just wanting to play in one country.

"If you want to play a 10-date tour in five different countries across the continent and the costs are anything like what they are in the States, then you're looking at costs of £7,500 per person before you've even left the country. For a minimum touring party of four of you in the band and three in the crew, you're looking at about £45,000. You aren't going to cover that in fees and t-shirt sales." [...]

"If you take t-shirts to sell, then you'd be importing them into the EU and have to report what sold and what hasn't. There were tales from the pre-EU days where you'd take out four pairs of drumsticks, bring back three and they'd charge you for the pair that you'd broken at your gig in Belgium."

But they have a petition, so uh, good luck with that.

For those of you who don't realize what a nightmare it is for small, non-US bands to tour here, here's how it works... Or used to work. In the Before Times, when tours were a thing that still existed.

Option 1:

  • Show up on a tourist visa, without instruments. Tell customs you are "visiting friends". Don't even think about bringing a box of t-shirts to sell. Borrow gear, rent a van.

  • Hope that every venue and/or promoter is willing to commit tax fraud by paying you in cash and not asking for your IRS form W9 or O-1B Visa.

  • Hope that no one at Customs googles your name, because if they do, you get deported and can't enter the US again for any reason for (I think) a minimum of 5 years.

Option 2:

  • Apply for a work visa. But that's easy! All you need is to show that you have "extraordinary abilities", and that "have received or been nominated for a significant national award in the field, or prove [you] meet three out of six criteria, including national or international recognition as shown by critical reviews in major newspapers or magazines, evidence of substantial remuneration as shown by contracts, and testimonials from recognized experts in the field in which [you] are engaged."

    It costs several hundred dollars, and you have to schedule an in-person interview at your nearest US Embassy.

    Oh, also this requires you to know the dates and details of every stop on your tour, a year ahead of time. "But," you say, "nobody books tours that far out." You are correct. Also, dates can't be modified after submitting.

  • You won't get a response from the State Department until long after it's time to buy your plane tickets.

  • Still no response. Panic. There's nothing you can do, so go ahead and keep panicking.

  • Oh, they might deny you because they don't like your t-shirt art. Your tour is cancelled.

  • You might not get a response at all before your flight leaves. Oops, now you're not getting on that plane. Your tour is cancelled.

  • This is probably where you start getting hate-emails from your fans assuming that you're idiots who fucked up their simple, simple visa paperwork. You probably just sat around getting high instead of filling out a form, you jerks.

Sing it with me, ♬♬ "Everyyyyyyything is terrrrrrible!!"♬♬

34 Responses:

  1. Sh. says:

    Yep. Fun times in the labyrinth of immigration and visas. My personal favorite form of first-hand experiencing the Kafkaesque.

  2. Dara says:


    That's from before the new agreement, but the new agreement doesn't seem to make it any better. Page 695 (of the PDF on gov.uk) seems to say that the EU reserves the right to set up whatever the hell it wants for this sort of thing. (At least, I think that's what it says, as someone who has no real idea of how to read a technical trade agreement.)

    There's a parallel clause for the UK, a hundred or so pages later in the document. (Search for "entertainment" in the PDF.)


    • phuzz says:

      Well, they've only had four fucking years to sort out a deal.
      I mean, who could possibly have imagined that the EU wouldn't just cave to every single one of our demands?
      Apart from anyone with a functioning brain that is.

      Still, it's definitely not because we're racist, oh no. It's about 'taking back control'. Of our borders. To keep brown people out. We're definitely not racist though. ahem.

      /s throughout

      • Dara says:

        I was genuinely surprised - I mean genuinely surprised - at the amount of anti-Polish racism I saw during and after the campaign.

        (To be clear, this is from outside the UK, so I may have an outsized impression of its commonality.)

        I mean, I expected anti-brown-people racism, but I had no idea there was such a reserve of hate for the Polish diaspora left over from World War II.

        • Michael says:

          WWI & WWII were won by the British alone. Britain was nice enough to let some Poles stay while this all was going on, but it’s not like the Poles did anything to help Blighty /s

          I am seriously fascinated how national myths are getting created, by chance I got a front row seat with the US and Trump and.... yeah, we’re doomed as a species.

          • Dara says:

            That was absolutely one of the lines of "thought" I was seeing - though extended through the Cold War. "You've been here since WWII, The cold war is over, go the fuck home." Bizarre.

        • tfb says:

          You're right: we (England) hate the poles and all eastern Europeans generally. I mean they come here, clean our offices and hospitals, fix our plumbing, look after our elderly and generally make things better: of course we hate them, because we don't want things to be better.

        • phuzz says:

          I think the larger part of anti-Polish racism came after they joined the EU in 2004. The much hated (by the pro-brexit crowd) free movement meant that Polish people could come to live and work in the UK, and that's when I started to see more anti-Polish racism (see also Bulgaria and Romania joining in 2007).

          Possibly the hard-on for a hard brexit is a way to limit immigration in a more subtle way. By making the UK a really shit place to live, then that's going to make it a less popular destination for immigrants. That's what counts as joined-up-thinking on the right.

      • Louis says:

        It seems the Brits' plans were always to wait until the last minute and put out an "time is running out, this is our trade deal plan, take it or hard Brexit will be as bad and messy for you as for us.". But I suppose the EU was always able and willing to extend negotiations, meanwhile the clowns keep looking stupider and stupider in the eyes of their voters the longer they delay getting "the will of the people" realized.

        • tfb says:

          It's hard to tell what the brexiteers think – if they think, which mostly they do not – but yes, this seems to have been the intention. This despite it being obvious from well before the referendum that we (the UK) had a lot more to lose from a bad deal or no deal (or indeed just from brexit at all) than the EU did, simply because proportionally more of our trade is with them than theirs is with us.

          The correct way of thinking about the brexiteer mindset seems to be to always remember that, for them, it will always be1910 and we will simply need to dispatch a dreadnought or two (crewed by good English types) to keep Johnny foreigner quiet when he gets uppity. And we certainly don't want any of those dusky types around here: let them stay in bongo bongo land where they belong.

  3. Dude says:

    I'm reminded of how the infamously pro-Brexit Roger Daltry of The Who tried to support his position by writing an op-ed for the British tabloid The Mirror that was essentially "Make England Great Again". As quoted in The Independent:

    [The British Invasion] was all before we joined the EU [in '73]. We were just kids, but we were filling stadiums all round the world. Britain was the centre of the world. You got that because Britain was doing its own thing. It was independent. Not sure we'll ever get that agains when we're ruled by bureaucrats in the European Union.

    Oh yeah, he must be really fuckin' happy now. Maybe he can not tour on the same ticket as Eric Clapton and Van Morrison?

    • jwz says:

      Oh, you mean the Eric Clapton who was so racist in the 1970s that a whole movement was formed in response to him, with the message of, "not all rock stars think Blacks are ruining England"?

      That Eric Clapton?

      • Dude says:

        That's the one! It shouldn't surprise anyone that his views are so similar to those of Kid Rock.

      • Jonny says:

        That was a depressing article. I didn't realize David Bowie was running around literally praising fascism in the 70s. Uhg. Never learn about artist you like if you want to keep liking them.

        • tfb says:

          I think Bowie was off his head on everything at the time, and was later explicitly apologetic for it all.

    • tfb says:

      That's the whole point of brexit. A combination of old people whose decaying brains have invented false memories of a better (whiter) vanished England, usually from just before they were born (Daltrey, my mother's acquaintances) and explicit racists who are inventing stories of a whiter (better) England (Daltrey, Farage, the entire fucking tory party, and all the even more explicitly racist groups) to fuck the future. for everyone else.

      These people need &langle;things I dare not say&rangle; doing to them.

      • Dude says:

        You saying "old people [with] decaying brains" made me immediately think of pro-Brexies John-transphobe-Cleese and Michael "Maggie Thatcher was a goddess and I should NEVER have to pay taxes" Caine.

        • tfb says:

          Seriously, brexit is very much about elderly English (yes, English) bigots choosing to burn their grandchildren's futures so that they can live out their declining years without having to look at brown faces or hear accents which originated anywhere across the channel.

          Fuck these people: they will lie to you about why their opinion is somehow more important than yours because they are old, wise, and defended you in the war, but do the maths: no-one who defended us during the war is less than 93 now. These people are the generation who benefited from all the good things that happened well after the war such as the NHS and want to deny all this to their children (my generation) and grandchildren. Fuck them.

          • Elusis says:

            Take comfort: This is exactly what is happening in the US, with the "fuck you, Jack; I got mine" Boomers.

            (Why should that be comforting? I dunno. Misery loves company I guess???)

          • Michael says:

            Seriously, brexit is very much about elderly English (yes, English) bigots choosing to burn their grandchildren's futures so that they can live out their declining years without having to look at brown faces or hear accents which originated anywhere across the channel.

            I am really fascinated by this, considering they “grew up” in no small part with the EU / changes. It’s not like suddenly a wild EU appeared and the Continentals started flooding in.

            • tfb says:

              They didn't, really. The whole EU thing didn't start, in the UK, until 1974, by which time they were either bordering on middle age or actually middle aged. These are people who were born in the 1950s or even earlier (my mother was born in the late 30s[*]). And the big influx of 'nasty foreign types' (ie: the people who clean their loos, make the health service work, and will (or, now, won't) wipe their bottoms for them when they make their inevitable way to the care home) didn't happen until post 2000.

              [*] Disclaimer: my mother is not a brexon and finds the attitudes of her friends who are both incomprehensible and stupid. I am quite proud of her.

              • Michael says:

                Well, I guess it depends on what age group we're talking here. The 60+ type would have been in their 20s when it started and would have seen the change happening.

                Older people, may be a different story, but I think that generation experienced the war and most of them probably aren't thinking about how horrible Europe and the EU is.

                Then again, another pet theory: They all got a mild form of BSE in the '90s and it's totally rotted their brains.

                I'd be curious how my parents would take this, my mother was born in '36 my dad in '41, but they're both dead, so I can't really ask. Then again, I never remember them having any thoughts, good or bad, about the British so in all likelihood they'd just shrug.

                • tfb says:

                  Almost no-one now alive experienced the war in any kind of coherent way. If you were alive at all during the war you are 75 now, and if you were an adult (18) in 1945 you're 93. My father remembered it as being very exciting (finding shrapnel etc, possibly playing on UXBs although he may have made that up). My uncle (born in 1933) is old enough to understand how frightening it was, but my mother (his sister, 1936) really didn't understand that then.

                  I think the generation(s) that matter are the ones born just after the war: their parents really did not like Germans for fairly obvious reasons, and told them stories of a better world of the glorious British empire before the war, while they were growing up with rationing, watching as the US put Germany & western continental Europe back together again, and resenting. And they still resent, and still want to bring back some imagined English glory they never knew.

                  But also, just with Trump supporters I think that a lot of people just have vile attitudes and always have had. It seemed like these were dying away, but actually all that happened is that it became unacceptable for people to say what they thought. They just hate Europe because Europe is foreign, and they hate foreign.

  4. Flotsam says:

    I commented recently about crossing the Channel three times in one day due to a paperwork error. That was in the bad old days of ATA Carnets, random checks by stroppy customs officers and EU non-membership. Today's bands, crew and drivers are going to discover what it was like in the bad old days. And f**k Daltrey and his "I'm all right, Jack" ilk.

  5. Michael says:

    I suspect the countries in the EU will be less punishing, if for no other reason than that there seems to be much more appreciation for the support of the arts in European capitals. Despite how the British media has presented the negotiations, nothing the EU did was really meant as “punishment”, but it was clearly perceived that way by the Johnsonites and Farrages of the UK.

    Personally, I have stocked up on popcorn for January 1st. Especially with regards to Northern Island. I doubt very much this will go smoothly. Johnson and his gang are just too deluded to have adequately prepared the country for what is about to go down.

    • Michael says:

      I should add, what will make this more of a shit-show is that Britain is a third country, so immigration / work permit requirements are up to the individual member states. Even if they don’t throw up any additional barriers, you want to tour through a dozen or so EU countries? Prepare to deal with a dozen different Government processes to get the paperwork sorted.

      The EU, despite what the English speaking media likes to proclaim, is not a single entity, especially not when it comes to immigration from third countries. Each individual member can decide who they want to let in.

  6. The Scottish knew this would be a nightmare. Many Scottish bands, especially in the metal realm, tend to be joint bands with Danish or Dutch members. Now they can't even rehearse together anymore, never mind perform on either side of the channel.

    As for customs/immigration - the Scottish folk band Old Blind Dogs lost their fiddler for a tour. Coming in from Canada (Vancouver to Seattle), customs found that the spelling of his name didn't match their records, so they wouldn't let him in the country. He had to fly home to Scotland, and wait it out (they toured the US as a 3-person, putting the pipes/whistle player into the front) except for being able to fly to Toronto for 3 dates across Ontario and Quebec.

    The source of the hassle: The Americans. When they copied the forms over from state to customs, they are the ones who put the 'h' back in his name, from Jonny to Johnny. The band and manager did everything right, as did the US embassy in Edinburgh. Back here in the states, the ignorance broke everything.

  7. Jai says:

    I assume this has already been drawn to your attention, but just in case:

    • tfb says:

      Yes. This shows just how carefully it was read by our hugely competent team of highly trained negotiators. It will, inevitably, be declared to be the EU's fault by our jolly clown emperor.

  8. jwz says:

    Much like in the States, most of the Brexit discourse I see is about how racist and self-destructive the people who voted for this insanity are. It's easy and enjoyable to point and laugh at the old racist idiots. Your Leavers are our MAGAs, and they are the sharpshooters of the foot-gun. But they are not why this happened, they are how this happened.

    This didn't just happen to you, it was done to you. Just like it was done to us.

    There's rarely any discussion of who did this, who sold that narrative to the voters, who benefits. The Klept, the Disaster Capitalists, the people who will end up richer by owning a much larger slice of a much smaller economy.

    • Dude says:

      It reminds me of getting out of high school and learning about The Crusades from non-Eurocentric sources: yes, all the serfs were pretty damn racist, but that racism was fueled by The Church and the Crown, who kept the serfs poor, only to tell them "The Moors and Saracens are why you're poor! Doesn't that make you want to kill them?! If you do, God will love you and you'll get rich, probably!"

    • Elusis says:

      "Cui bono?" is the critical question that has made me the cynical, furious, middle aged white lady that I am today.

      (I'm finally getting into the Throughline podcast. This is basically their central question for every episode.)

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