We have written a lot about the ridiculous visa situation in the USA that costs touring bands up to £5000 to get permits to play there – permits that nearly always arrive late and mean tours have to be cancelled or rearranged at the last minute. Meanwhile American bands pay £30 to come to the UK. It’s badly run and the vastly inflated costs have killed touring the USA for most bands.
Last autumn my band the Membranes had to pay nearly £5000 to get visas to tour the USA – the visas were delivered several days late meaning we had to cancel gigs and lost money on rebooked flight tickets. We are not alone with this as many other bands and DJs have pointed out.
We are working on a campaign to try and improve this situation (facebook page for it is here) and there is a mountain of bureaucracy in the way but every now and then there is glimmer of hope on the horizon.
This week it came from Canada which has just scrapped its own visa restrictions.
Canada has scrapped its controversial and unworkeable Labor Market Opinion fees for foreign artists playing at small clubs, bars and other unrecognized music venues in Canada. The established fee was $275 per band member, which, when compounded with the work permit fee of $150 for an individual musician or $450 for a band, meant that a musical act would pay a minimum of $325 to perform, and bands with six or more members would pay upwards of $2,000.
Given the size of the venues that are affected by these fees and the costs of travel, lodging and food costs to the fees, these fees made touring in Canada financially risky at best and ultimately impossible for many independent artists. Unsurprisingly, the fees faced opposition from touring musicians and Canadian citizens alike who launched a change.org petition to amend the regulations to exempt bars and small clubs that garnered over 140,000 signatures.
Yesterday’s decision not only eliminated the LMO fee, it also did away with the work permit fee for touring acts. Lifting these fees provides much greater incentive for foreign acts to tour in Canada. It will be interesting to see if increased touring grows the live music market creates more opportunities for small Canadian acts to perform, ultimately leading to a bolstered Canadian music scene.
America – are you listening?