UK Managers & Artists Oppose
‘Catastrophic’ U.S. Visa Proposal

German marching techno band Meute toured the U.S. last year. Visa costs alone, excluding the carnet for equipment, came to $15,000. It’s easy to see how any increase would make life even tougher for up-and-coming acts trying to make a name in the U.S. Photo by Steffi Retti

The UK’s Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition reignited their #LetTheMusicMove campaign to oppose changes to U.S. visa applications that would result in “potentially crippling costs for UK artists looking to tour North America,” according to a statement from both organizations. #LetTheMusicMove was originally established in June 2021 to campaign for reductions in post-Brexit costs and red tape for UK artists and musicians when touring in Europe.

However, a recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (see page 4) led both MMF and FAC to extend this focus and raise concerns around what they describe as “proposed stratospheric increases to filing fees attached to specific visa applications, including O and P artists visas. Under these proposals, the cost of artists visas – which already run into thousands of pounds – would increase by more than 250%.”
The UK and Europe is dealing with huge price increases that have led to a cost-of-living crisis, placing many economies on the verge of a recession. The countries’ live sectors are still recovering from the impacts of COVID policies. Adding another obstacle to the free movement of people and equipment “would make performing in the world’s biggest music market unaffordable for many emerging and mid-level artists,” according to the MMF and FAC statement.

Both organizations are calling on artists, musicians, performers and their representatives to sign up to the campaign on; complete a short questionnaire on the proposed changes and their potential impacts, the results of which will be presented to the UK government to compel it to lobby the DHS; and encourage their U.S. representative to submit feedback to the official process.

MMF chief executive Annabella Coldrick, said, “These proposed increases to visa costs would be catastrophic for British artists, and make it unaffordable for many to tour the US. By reactivating and expanding our #LetTheMusicMove campaign we hope to convince the Department of Homeland Security to rethink their culturally destructive proposals.”
David Martin, CEO of the FAC, added, “#LetTheMusicMove provided artists with a unified campaign in which they could voice their concerns about the challenges of touring after Brexit. However, these new proposals around U.S. touring visas are equally concerning and, should they be agreed, will only exacerbate the seismic challenges facing the UK’s artists today.”

Speaking on the current campaign, Primal Scream’s Simone Butler said, “It’s completely unprecedented and unjustified to suddenly increase the cost of a US working visa by 250%. This will make touring in the USA prohibitively expensive and in many cases impossible for many bands, artists and DJs to play out there. On the back of the costs and restrictions of Brexit, this would be another massive setback for the live music industry, affecting peoples’ careers and income.

John Robb of The Membranes, and a journalist as well, said, “The draconian rise in costs of getting visas to the USA is not only a restraint of trade but also another damning blow to British music and culture. For decades the alliance between the USA and the UK has been pivotal in music culture and the opportunity for musicians from both sides of the Atlantic to tour each other’s territories has been key to the core of modern music culture. Whilst the UK still allows cheaper visas for American acts, the American market has been effectively slammed shut for British acts. This is both unfair and bullying tactics from our so-called partners in the ‘special relationship’.”

In the meantime, added Robb, “musicians will also struggle in a home market that is full of American acts who can tour here cheaply. This price hike will be another nail in the coffin for the UK’s position as one of the world leaders in music and culture. Along with the lack of rehearsal space in cities, the struggling venue circuit and Brexit and the challenges of touring Europe it will all add up to leave the UK isolated culturally, socially, musically and financially. The USA remains the world’s biggest market for pop culture, and every band needs to have the opportunity to tour there.”

Why The Artist Visa Hike Is A ‘Lose-Lose’ Proposition