The #LetTheMusicMove campaign has expanded to oppose proposed changes to US visa rules that would impact touring musicians.
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Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was planning to raise touring visa fees for foreign acts by more than 250 per cent.
The DHS has said in its proposal that applications for a P visa, which is for acts arriving in the states to perform temporarily, would increase from the current rate of $460 (£375.23) to $1,615 (£1,317).
The longer-term O work visa, meanwhile, would jump from $460 (£375.23) to $1,655 (£1,349).
Some artists have since spoken out against the plans, saying that it would be “a huge hardship to pay such high visa fees”. However, the DHS claimed that the increases are required due to high demand and insufficient staff at the Citizenship and Immigration department.
Today (February 9), the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have boosted their #LetTheMusicMove campaign to oppose the potential changes.
The organisations said that the move could result in “crippling costs for UK artists looking to tour North America”.
“In the midst of the ongoing cost of living crisis and with the live sector still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, it would make performing in the world’s biggest music market unaffordable for many emerging and mid-level artists,” they explained.
The DHS and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services have opened a comment period that will remain live until March 6. It allows US citizens to send public feedback that will then be reviewed and further adjustments considered.
In an attempt to halt the plans, the MMF and FAC are urging performers and their business representatives to commit to three simple actions:
- Sign up to the #LetTheMusicMove campaign
- Complete a short questionnaire on the proposed changes and their potential impacts. The results will be presented to the UK Government as we urge them to lobby the DHS
- Complete the US consultation and contact your US booking agent or live representative and also encourage them to submit feedback to the official process
Numerous musicians have already raised objections to the DHS’ plans, including Primal Scream bassist Simone Marie Butler.
“It’s completely unprecedented and unjustified to suddenly increase the cost of a US working visa by 250 per cent,” she explained.
“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.”
Soloist Howard Jones commented: “A 250 per cent increase in US visa fees will have a devastating effect on emerging artists wishing to tour the US, the world’s biggest entertainment market.
“This, added to increased costs of transport and wages, while ticket prices remain static, will mean artists who are struggling just to break even will be forced to abandon their biggest chance of building a fan base.”
The Membranes‘ John Robb, who is also a music journalist, added that the “draconian” increase in US visa costs would give “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,” Robb said.
Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive of Music Managers Forum, 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 Featured Artists Coalition, 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 US touring visas are equally concerning and, should they be agreed, will only exacerbate the seismic challenges facing the UK’s artists today.”
The MMF and FAC have today reignited our #LetTheMusicMove campaign in order to oppose newly-proposed changes to US visa applications that would result in potentially crippling costs for UK artists looking to tour the USA. https://t.co/Xvj1gII0ii pic.twitter.com/CXPaO1q022
— Music Managers Forum (@MMFUK) February 9, 2023
The #LetTheMusicMove initiative was originally launched in 2021 to campaign for reductions in post-Brexit costs and red tape for UK artists and musicians when touring in Europe.
More than 200 acts expressed their support at the time including Radiohead, Wolf Alice, IDLES and Annie Lennox.
Elsewhere in its proposal, the DHS said that longer timeframes for premium processing should be considered. The service, priced at $2,500 (£2,039), currently takes 15 calendar days but a suggestion has been made for it to be reduced to 15 business days.
In 2020, DHS proposed increasing fees by 50 per cent and other measures but those changes never went into effect. The last time artist visa fees rose was in 2016.