July 18, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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Due to increased visa fees, performing in the US threatens to become unaffordable for Dutch artists.

Due to increased visa fees, performing in the US threatens to become unaffordable for Dutch artists.

Dutch band Personal Trainer heads to showcase festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.Statue of Morton Delobal

For many Dutch artists this is an artistic dream: to play in America. But due to the sharp increase in visa fees, it becomes unaffordable to perform there and almost impossible for bands to start.

Last month, the US announced that the cost of visas for performers would increase by 260 percent. If this measure is implemented, which is expected within a few weeks, the artist will soon pay not 430 euros, but 1,550 euros for the visa. This document is required if you earn money by performing in the country.

About the author

Robert van Gijsel has been a music teacher since 2012 D Volkskrant, with a special interest in electronic music and dance and hard music genres. He also writes about the music industry in general.

The price hike comes on top of the already sharply increased costs of transportation and lodging in the United States. Cultural establishments fear a clear path to British and European pop music in America. They are calling with open letters and petitions not to implement the planned rate hike.

Visa problems have been around for years, but rising prices now threaten to be the death knell for ambitious Dutch artists, fears Marcel Albers of Dutch Music Export, which is committed to distributing Dutch music abroad. ‘Applying for an artist visa is already a hell of a job. As the months go by, you will often need legal help if you really want to arrange everything properly. That costs money too.’

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Annelot de Graff of Amber Arcades.  Image by ANP / Alamy Limited

Annelot de Graff of Amber Arcades.Image by ANP / Alamy Limited

Timelessness plays an important role in pop music. Albers: ‘A band or DJ is sometimes told at very short notice that they can play a show in America, for example playing a supporting act. It works differently than theater or ballet performances. They are planned months or years in advance.’

Visa bureaucracy is a thorn in the side of the pop industry. “We have been fighting this for years. Especially since it’s incredibly unfair: American artists don’t need visas or permits to perform here. They fly away and start playing, without cost or hassle. It is very bitter. Especially now those visas have become unaffordable.’

When the US announced the tariff hike last month, it caused a stir in Europe and the UK. A petition was started in England and artists complained about the measure, which appeared to have been introduced purely to boost the state’s coffers. “It’s a blow to artists and the American people,” said singer Rina Sawama, who called on the British government to protest. Last week, the European Commission was urged to take action by nearly two hundred European cultural institutions.

No increase in ticket prices

According to Marcel Albers, the price hike affects many Dutch artists. “It’s a misunderstanding to think that only one Dutch band is important in America. It’s about dozens of acts a year: many Dutch artists get half of their streaming figures from America.’ This month, for example, acts like Amber Arcades and Personal Trainer travel to showcase festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and in June the Dutch bands will again play an indie festival in New York.

If visas become unaffordable, that cultural traffic will be greatly reduced. Albers: ‘All costs have increased recently, from very expensive plane tickets to hotels. A band already had to invest heavily in an American performance, but may soon have to go even deeper into debt for that ultimate dream.

There is no solution to financial problems. ‘Increasing ticket prices in the US is not an option: the public will not suddenly pay $40 for a relatively unknown act from the Netherlands.’ Workarounds for artist visas are possible, but risky, says Albers. If you play for free at a showcase festival, you can in principle travel on a cheap tourist visa. But it sometimes goes wrong, for example, a customs officer judges that you are promoting yourself through visual material and thus ultimately making money. You won’t feel comfortable queuing up during testing because a tire recall is a regular occurrence.’