Today sees a debate in Parliament on Welsh Affairs, and it’s a good opportunity to look at the value of music to the Welsh economy, and the challenges it is now facing through COVID-19 and Brexit.

The music industry is of paramount importance to the Welsh economy. The numbers (from UK Music) speak for themselves:

  • In 2019 Welsh music tourism attracted 440,000 people and was worth £143 million to the Welsh economy, music contributed £260 million GVA to the Welsh economy in 2018. Highlighting the underlying strength of the sector.
  • This sector includes festivals like Green Man, as well as big one off events such as the Radio 1’s Big Weekend that was held in Swansea and iconic venues like the Principality Stadium that has hosted gigs by global artists like Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Bieber.

Recent figures show strong growth in Wales in music tourism, which was second only to London in the percentage growth of music tourists by nation/area (people visiting an area to attend live music).

Music Tourists 2018 363,000
Music Tourists 2019 440,000 (+17.5%)
Music Tourist Spend 2018 £124 million
Music Tourist Spend 2019 £143 million (+13%)
Music Tourism Jobs 2018 1,754
Music Tourism Jobs 2019 1,843 (+4.8%)


Welsh music is both a social good and a valuable engine for wider growth.

–          Every £10 spent at a music venue is worth £17 to local businesses (here).

–          5,000 person festival can be worth up to £800,000 (here).

–          One music venue, Le Pub in Newport was worth £275,000 pa to the local economy (here).


Impact of Brexit

The lack of agreement on touring musicians in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement has raised a lot of issues for the music sector in Wales. Welsh artists have expressed concern. Key issues include work permits/visas, cabotage and equipment. We have more detailed briefings on the impact of the Agreement available on request. 

Work permits and visas – While the UK treats EU nationals as non-visa nationals, UK citizens are being treated by EU states as visa nationals. This means that even though the TCA allows for 90 days visa-free travel, UK citizens could require a visa for short term work in certain EU member states. e.g. Spain charges £232 per visa. The Incorporated Society of Musicians have a country-by-country guide.

Cabotage – Under EU rules trucks may only make 1 stop in the EU (cabotage) and then 2 further movements before returning. This has not been applied while the UK was a Member States but is likely to be rigorously applied to UK hauliers now. This will encourage hauliers to relocate to the EU, and touring artists to base there.

Equipment – Welsh musicians will now need carnets and other paper work to take their instruments from the UK to the EU and vice versa (unless they are hand luggage), this will cost £325.96 plus a security deposit, per shipment. Live and posted merchandise sales now face numerous bureaucratic hurdles and red tape.

These issues need to be resolved, otherwise up and coming Welsh talent will struggle to play EU countries (as they do with the US) and some tours which previously just broke even will become uneconomical to go ahead. This will particularly hurt acts without financial security and restrict the talent pipeline.


The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously hit the Welsh music industry extremely hard; the Creative Industry Federation has estimated 10% of GVA and 26% of jobs in the Welsh creative industries will be lost.

Welsh Government support schemes have tried to fill in the gaps in support from the UK Government (with support packages for freelancers for example). Other Welsh Government measures such as Business Rate Relief, grant support and the Culture Recovery Fund administered by Arts Council Wales have helped the industry and been welcomed.


The value of music, and music tourism to Wales is clear. Welsh Government support has given the sector a chance to bounce back from COVID-19, but if left unresolved, the fallout from Brexit and it’s impact on touring musicians will hold the sector back for years to come.

In Parliament, I, along with other Labour MPs have been pushing the Government to come to an agreement with the EU that will allow touring musicians to tour freely. The Government need to get their heads out of the sand on this, and we will keep pushing for it.

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