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LetTheMusicMove campaign relaunches to put spotlight on proposed increases in US visa costs for artists

By | Published on Thursday 9 February 2023

The UK’s Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition have reignited their #LetTheMusicMove campaign – originally focused on tackling the challenges Brexit created for artists touring Europe – to raise awareness of proposals in the US to significantly increase the costs for performers seeking visas to perform in the country.

The two trade groups say: “#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 US Department Of Homeland Security has led us to extend this focus in order to raise concerns around proposed stratospheric increases to filing fees attached to specific visa applications – including O and P artists visas”.

They explain further: “The US visa office has proposed a huge increase to P&O visa fees – the short and long term work visas for creative professionals. The proposed increase to the current … fee is from $460 to $1,655 (260%) for a regularly processed ‘O’ visa and $460 to $1615 (251%) for a regularly processed ‘P’ visa. The increase in fees will apply to all foreign performers/creative workers seeking to enter the US, not just British”.

“Under these proposals, the cost of artists visas would increase by more than 250%”, they add. “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”.

The DHS and US Citizenship And Immigration Services are currently inviting American citizens to feedback on the proposed changes to visa fees, while the UK embassy in Washington is asking for data on the potential impacts of such an increase for British performers.

With that in mind, MMF and FAC are calling on artists, musicians, performers and their business representatives to do three things. First, sign up to the #LetTheMusicMove campaign. And then complete a short questionnaire on the proposed changes and their potential impacts, the results of which will be presented to the UK government, which will be urged to lobby the DHS on this issue.

In addition to that, MMF and FAC urge artists to “complete the US consultation and contact your US booking agent or live representative and also encourage them to submit feedback to the official process”.

Commenting on the new phase of the #LetTheMusicMove campaign, MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick says: “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”.

Meanwhile, FAC CEO David Martin adds: “#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”.

“For that reason”, he goes on, “we are asking British artists to commit to three simple actions: to sign up to the campaign, to send us their views, and to submit feedback to the official consultation process. By working strategically, there is still a chance of stopping these damaging changes”.

You can access the aforementioned questionnaire here.

MMF and FAC have also published comments from a number of British artists about the potential impact of the DHS’s proposals, which are as follows…

Simone Butler, Primal Scream: “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”.

Howard Jones: “A 250% 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 fanbase”.

John Robb, The Membranes: “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’. The impact on emerging UK artists will be huge – locked out of the world’s biggest market and also locked out of a key cultural exchange”.

“In the meantime, 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. The new visa costs effectively rule this out, which is a disaster for the new generation of British musicians and any working musician. The free flow of music and ideas has bonded the fabric of our nations for decades and it will be a tragedy to see this effectively ended”.