The European Parliament voted Thursday for new measures providing job support for singers, musicians and songwriters across Europe.

At its plenary session in Brussels, the Parliament voted to introduce a special electronic social security card for artists, who are seen as more mobile and more vulnerable to bureaucracy.

The Parliament backed a report drafted by French Liberal and orchestra conductor Claire Gibault, who said that many artists in Europe face huge obstacles when trying to perform in other countries, or trying to transfer their social rights.

"Even for the most talented of them, careers in live entertainment, remain like a random and chaotic succession of crossings in the desert; low salaries, undeclared working hours, bad working conditions, therefore creating disillusionment," she said.

"A lot of artists do not get pensions or unemployment benefit. Various European directives exist, but they are not well known by the artists, and states can be ultra-protectionist and not do not transfer the rights earned by artists," Gibault said. "The electronic European Social Security card aims to retrace the entire professional life of artists, their rights to health insurance, pension and unemployment benefit."

The report grants governments the right to take part of the income generated by the commercial exploitation of copyright-free work -- those in the public domain -- to improve the social situation of European artists or artistic creation in the EU.

The report noted that some EU countries denied artists legal status. There is an additional issue of artists being unaware of their rights, and the Parliament urged the Commission -- the EU's executive authority -- to draw up a practical handbook for European artists, where they can find information about sickness insurance, unemployment benefits and similar issues.

The Parliament also called for visas and work permits to be granted more easily for non-EU performers, and asked the Commission to introduce temporary visas for visiting artists.

The EU cultural sector employs 4.2 million people, of which two-thirds are paid by publicly-owned establishments, while 30% are in the private sector. This is a precarious area for workers: 18% are in temporary employment (compared to 12% of the total workforce), 25% work part-time (compared to 17% of the total workforce) and 9% have several jobs in order to live (compared to 3% of the total workforce).

International co-productions of live performances or audiovisual productions have been increasing the mobility of many artists, and thus raising calls for a clearer legal status for the European artists.

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