The Musicians’ Union (MU) together with other music industry bodies has signed a joint letter from UK Music to Kemi Badenoch MP (Secretary of State for Business and Trade), setting out our serious concerns for the future of US touring should the proposed increases in the US become law.
The USA is the world’s largest music market and, after the EU, is the second largest market for touring musicians. It is already hugely expensive for UK artists to obtain work visas for the US.
The current petition fee for ‘O’ and ‘P’ visas is $460, this is alongside the filing fee, the Union approval fee and the costly legal fees required when making an application. The proposed increase will see the petition fees rising to $1655 for an ‘O’ visa and $1615 for a ‘P’.
Furthermore, if this proposal passes, petitions will be limited to 25 people, meaning large ensembles and orchestras will have to file multiple petitions – adding massive increases to touring budgets which will significantly threaten future tours. These increases also include a $600 levy to support the US asylum program.
The Union highlights that there is still time to lodge concerns as the US Government has extended the deadline for formal comments to 13 March 2023. The MU encourages musicians and all those who work in touring to get involved and make their disquiet known via the US Federal Register.
MU Member Martin Moscrop, from the band A Certain Ratio, said:
“The USA has always been very important to ‘A Certain Ratio.’ We recorded our second album there and we have a new album coming out in the States and are currently getting some good radio coverage. We have toured the USA many times before, but it has now become almost impossible because of the very expensive visa costs.
“If the visa costs go up anymore, it will be impossible for all but the biggest artists signed to major labels to tour. American artists do not have the same problem coming to the UK, so this seems very unfair.”
MU Member Stina Tweeddale, said:
‘As an artist who really values my American fanbase, this increase will have a very sobering impact on the future of touring in the USA for outsiders. Already we are being shut out of various markets due to restrictions in Europe. As a UK based artist who has spent years building up fantastic relationships in the States, it makes the US tours even more important.
“I really hope we can minimize the struggle for all artists who depend on other territories for success. To tour in the USA has been one of the highlights of my career, and I really hope to continue to do so for many years to come.”
Dave Webster, MU Head of International, said:
“This is a very worrying move by the US authorities and one which will put pay to UK musicians being able to afford to tour the US. It will damage what has always been a strong cultural exchange between the two countries.
“American arts organisations who engage UK artists will not be able to afford these increases, thus damaging the cultural life of the US too. It’s unfair to expect musicians to be able to afford these increases and to help fund US immigration policy.
“There is an international lobby against this proposal as it affects musicians from across the globe. The world’s musicians need the US to rethink these punitive and damaging proposals.”
The MU has surveyed its members and of those who contributed, 80% were planning US tours in the future. 96% reported these increases will impact the feasibility of being able to tour in the US and, worryingly, 76% said they would no longer be able to afford to tour.