UK DJs and musicians will be able to tour Spain without a visa under a new deal hailed as “a big victory”. 

Throughout 2020 and 2021, music industry representatives in Britain have voiced concerns over the large costs, complex rules, and expensive visa requirements created by the UK’s departure from the European Union, effectively making touring the bloc unaffordable for many artists.

Spain represents one of the largest overseas markets for acts from the United Kingdom, thanks in part to major festivals such as Primavera Sound and Sónar. It was therefore a priority for the two countries to reach an agreement. 

It has now been confirmed conversations between UK touring body LIVE, the Association of British Orchestras (ABO), Spanish-based Asociación Promotores Musicale, and the Spanish Government have led to a deal that will mean any tour in Spain lasting less than 90 days will no longer be subject to visa rules. 

“We are delighted that our hard work has paid off and the Spanish Government has agreed to lift the restrictive visa process for touring artists, ending the complicated and painful process of expensive visa applications. A whole host of people came together both here and in Spain to fix this situation and this shows what we can achieve as an industry when we work together,” said Craig Stanley, Chair of the LIVE Touring Group. 

However, some complications remain, not least those relating to the transport of merchandise and cabotage. Currently, haulage trucks originating from the UK are only permitted to make one stop in an EU state before having seven days to return home, with a further two stops allowed during that time. This means crew, instruments, stage equipment, and other items are experiencing extreme problems within the bloc. 

“We are calling on the Government to follow our lead and urgently work to fix the rules with the remaining member states so that we can continue to tour across the entirety of the European Union,” Stanley added. 

“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,” Ina Tatarko told NME after the manager’s band, Squid, cancelled Spanish legs of their forthcoming tour.

“For emerging artists, these are costs that they can’t front from anywhere. A European support tour would be a really great way to elevate their career and profiles, but this just filters a lot of them out because you’d have to have the funds to do it,” she continued. 

In contrast to the new Spanish deal, many EU countries still require visas for musicians and other artists to work and tour within their borders. In August, the UK government was accused of “meaningless posturing” and “spin” over a well-publicised deal with 19 of the bloc’s members allowing visa-free touring. Criticism was largely due to the length of the period covered by the arrangement varying from 14 to 90 days.

In July, Lord David Frost, the UK Minister for Brexit, denied any responsibility in the ongoing touring crisis, which has unfolded since the UK left the EU in January 2020. However, key figureheads in the nation’s music scene — including The Chemical Brothers, Kelly Lee Owens, and Kano — have joined UK Music in demanding more action is taken to rectify the situation.