Freemuse campaign: Visa issues damage the music industry

If the European countries are serious about honouring their ratification of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity they need to make visa and work permit procedures and the general access to the European market for artists more flexible, transparent and homogenous.

“The current system is damaging the music industry,” says Ole Reitov, programme manager, Freemuse. The ‘white paper’ is based on answers from various European tour and festival organisers and their experiences with visa issuing offices outside Europe, and the paper presents various recommendations to these administrators of the visa systems.

“We have received numerous horror stories from concert organisers. When they receive wrong information or are being treated as ‘dirt’ by visa offices abroad, it creates an atmosphere of great frustration and sometimes lead to cancellation of planned tours,” says Ole Reitov.

The ‘white paper’ has been forwarded to the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the Council of the European Union, and hopefully international and national music organisations will also make use of the paper. “Lobbying at national level is extremely important in order to improve the current system,” says Ole Reitov.

During the international trade fair WOMEX 2007, held in Spain in October, a seminar organised by Michel Winter of Divano Productions discussed the complex visa and work permit issues.

Freemuse then offered to host the collection of case stories and present a “white paper” to the European Parliament, the EU Commission and colleagues at national and European artists organisations. The initiative was quickly joined by international organisations with huge expertise and experiences in the field of cultural presentations and cultural exchange.




Click to open PDF file with the white paper

Click to open pdfRead ‘white paper’ (in PDF format)  




The initiative is joined by the following partners:

European Council of Artists, ECA – the umbrella organisation for national councils of artists in Europe:

European Live Music Forum:

European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals:

Womex – the World Music Expo:


Other intiatives

In several European countries and in the USA there are national campaigns against visa and work permits restrictions in relationship to the artists. Amongst the inititatives are:

IG World Music Austria have started an online-petition/campaign called ‘ABGESAGT (which means ‘Canceled’) – no art without artists! no culture without culture-makers!’
IG World Music Austria ask for an immediate change in the aliens law (artists lost their undeterminded residency status with the last changes in the Austrian law in 2006) and for easy visa-issuing for artist on tour.

The National Campaign for the Arts, NCA, is the United Kingdom’s only independent lobbying organisation representing all the arts. It provides a voice for the arts world in all its diversity. It seeks to safeguard, promote and develop the arts and win public and political recognition for the importance of the arts as a key element in our national culture:

Artists from Abroad
Recognising the visa and work permit challenges the American Symphony Orchestra League and Association of Performing Arts Presenters have consulted with nationally-recognized experts to create Artists from Abroad – the most complete and up-to-date online resource for foreign guest artists, their managers, and performing arts organisations visiting the USA:

US Cuba Cultural Exchange
US Cuba Cultural Exchange – a national network in the US of artists and presenters – has created a campaign towards changing the current restrictions and the ban the US government has imposed infringing on the rights of artists in both countries to collaborate and create. A letter to the American president Bush bears the signatures of more than 200 actors, musicians, filmmakers, and producers such as Harry Belafonte, Ry Cooder, Peter Coyote, Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Bonnie Raitt, Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker:

Visiting artists campaign makes waves in the British House of Lords


Visiting artists logo

Manifesto Club’s Visiting Artists Campaign featured in a debate in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom on the effects of the points-based system on the arts and academia. The Manifesto Club has been working with the Earl of Clancarty, who opened the debate, and Lord Clement Jones, who contributed. Lords lined up to criticise the points-based visa system; the government was firmly on the defensive. The exchange can be read in full here.



This coincided with an important Greater London Authority survey, showing the damaging effect of visa rules on the arts. See full media coverage in the  Guardian, the Stage, Artsadmin, and Migrants’ Rights Network.


Round Table on the Grassroots Arts, 5 April 2011: The Manifesto Club is partnering Artsadmin on a discussion about the effects of visa rules on the grassroots arts. If you are an independent artist/curator/director with a story to tell, do come along.

Campaign latest: Manick Govinda reports on the shocking story of an African artist barred from visiting the UK because he is single.

See Valerie Hartwich’s blog for the latest visa stories, including south east Asian criticism of UK visa red tape, and why the world’s greatest pianist won’t visit Britain.

Media coverage

[ In Danish language: ]

Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), Kulturnyt – 4 February 2009 at at 3:30 PM on DR P2:

‘EU’s visumregler forhindrer kultur’  – audio interview with Freemuse programme officer Ole Reitov and music promoter Peter Hvalkof

Politiken – 12 January 2009:

‘Udenlandske musikere st

[ In English language: ]

Creative Choices – April 2011:

‘Bringing foreign artists to the UK’

Migrants’ Rights Network – 25 March 2011:

‘House of Lords debate rocks points-based visa restrictions for visiting artists and academics’

Manifesto Club, Valerie Hartwich’s blog – continuously updated:

‘Points-based system damaging and cumbersome to the Arts’ – 28 November 2007:

‘Cuba’s Legendary Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso’s Letter Ignites Massive Support from the Entertainment Industry’

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