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Freelance Touring Abroad

If you are offered gigs abroad as a freelance musician

On this page you will find information about:

  • Contracts, fees and expenses
  • Accommodation
  • Permits, insurance and customs
  • Working with promoters and tour managers
  • Public Performance Levies and PRS

Written contracts

The tour or engagement should be covered by a written contract (in English) and this should be vetted by the MU. It is difficult for us to assist you in recovering unpaid fees, either by legal action or trade union representation, if we have not seen the contract in the first place.

Getting paid

Fees should never be less than those paid in the UK for similar performances. If you are working with a new promoter, it is wise to ask for some sort of deposit in advance and further payments should be made promptly during the tour at the times specified in the contract.

Expenses

All travelling expenses from the UK to the country abroad, in that country and return must be paid by the promoter. Once again, it is wise to try and get these pre-paid so that you have return tickets in your possession before you leave home.

Accommodation

Accommodation is normally provided by the promoter. Where this consists of bed and breakfast, an additional subsistence payment should be paid to each musician. These payments are commonly referred to as per diems and should not be less than £50 per day.

Equipment insurance

Ensure your equipment insurance policies cover you abroad (the insurance provided as part of MU membership is worldwide but needs to be activated, and have your contract checked). It could also be advantageous to have up-to-date Electrical Safety Certificates for all the equipment that you intend to take with you.

Carnet

To get your instruments through Customs on the way out and on return you will need a Carnet. Details of how the Carnet system works are available from the London Chamber of Commerce.

Medical services

There is always the possibility of illness or accident during the time you are abroad and you should therefore ensure that you are covered for medical treatment and legal expenses. Check NHS website for details of the healthcare available overseas or contact the HMRC NI helpline for non-UK residents on 0845 915 4811

Tax and social security abroad

Read our short guide to overseas taxation and social security for UK musicians. It's important that you're aware of issues such as the potential imposition of a withholding tax before you perform abroad.

Public Performance Levies

As in the UK, when you perform your songs you should be paid a royalty through the local equivalent of PRS for Music. This money normally comes to PRS for Music and to you, as a PRS for Music member.

To assist you in getting your money as soon as possible, PRS for Music has suggested that if they receive the following details, they will pursue the recovery of monies, rather than waiting for the local society to account to them:

  • Writers and PRS for Music membership numbers.
  • Detailed tour itinerary.
  • Details of the promoter(s).
  • Setlist.
  • Copies of any final show settlements (upon completion).

Motoring

If you are travelling by van, it is sensible to join the AA/RAC/Green Flag and take advantage of their free advice on motoring abroad.

Electricity

If you are taking along amplifiers or other electrical equipment, ensure that you have information concerning plugs and power supply for the countries you’ll be visiting.

Legal assistance

Members should be aware that requests for legal assistance in relation to foreign claims must be considered against the MU’s criteria for legal assistance. Such claims are often not cost effective to pursue (as is required by Criterion 3) and the reality is that if no upfront payment is obtained, members may remain completely unpaid for their services.

Tour management

If a band is at the level where it is able to take on freelance musicians and foreign tours, there will usually be a tour manager whose job it is to make all the travel arrangements.

A competent tour manager can take a large portion of logistical stress off the musicians’ shoulders when they are touring overseas.

Related downloads

MU Fair Engagement Guide for Performing and Touring with Featured Artists 2019 (PDF 3.52 MB file opens in new window)