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#LetTheMusicMove campaign expands to oppose US visa changes

Proposed increases in filing fees would make American touring unviable for many UK artists

By Joe Goggins

Shot of festival crowd
(Photo: Moses/Wikimedia Commons)

The #LetTheMusicMove campaign has been expanded to oppose proposed changes to US visa rules that would make touring there more expensive than ever.

Originally launched in June 2021 to appeal for a reduction in post-Brexit costs and a reduction in red tape for UK artists hoping to tour Europe, the campaign – established by the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) – is now being revived after news broke of potential new rules that would make touring in America unviable for many UK musicians.

Last month (January 4), the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed increase in filing fees for certain types of visas – including O and P artists visas used by musicians. These visas, which already cost thousands of pounds, would increase in expense by up to 250% – a move that would devastate many emerging and mid-level artists’ plans to play stateside, especially at a time when they are dealing with the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live music industry as well as a cost of living crisis. The campaign is urging the UK government to lobby the DHS to drop the changes.

“These proposed increases to visa costs would be catastrophic for British artists, and make it unaffordable for many to tour the US,” said Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the MMF. “By reactivating and expanding our #LetTheMusicMove campaign, we hope to convince the Department of Homeland Security to rethink their culturally destructive proposals.”

“#LetTheMusicMove provided artists with a unified campaign in which they could voice their concerns about the challenges of touring after Brexit,” added David Martin, CEO of the FAC. “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, 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.” 

The original #LetTheMusicMove campaign was backed by over 1000 artists, including Wolf Alice, Biffy Clyro, Sleaford Mods, IDLES and Radiohead. Speaking about the reignited fight, Simone Butler, bassist with Primal Scream, 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.”

Meanwhile, music journalist John Robb, who is also frontman with punk mainstays The Membranes, moved to point out the imbalance in access between the UK and the US. Whilst the UK still allows cheaper visas for American acts, the American market has been effectively slammed shut for British acts,” he said. “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,” Robb went on. “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.”