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Why It’s So Expensive for Canadian Musicians to Cross the Border

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

BorderNoisey, the music division of Vice Media, has published this interesting article on the financial barriers that make it difficult for Canadian acts to tour the U.S.:

With Canadian artists occupying the top four spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 for the first time ever, it may seem like the Canadian invasion of the American music market is well underway. But while artists like Drake and The Weeknd have managed to break out of Canada and take over the American pop charts, the passage across the border isn’t as smooth as they make it seem. The US music market is the biggest in the world, and with 75% of Canadians living within 100 miles of the border, that market is tantalizingly close for most Canadian musicians in an industry where opportunities are hard to come by. For most Canadians, visiting the US is a matter of routine. For American touring musicians, entering Canada follows more or less that same routine. But for many Canadian musicians, the border presents a significant logistical and financial barrier that can stunt their careers before they’ve really gotten started. This barrier has even led some to question the impactfulness of the investments made by the national and provincial governments to develop the Canadian music industry.

For artists at the beginning of their careers, establishing a presence in the States is a vital early step. Adam “Bix” Berger, who manages Canadian bands PUP and Alvvays, says it’s “crucial to play outside of Canada as early on as possible if your goal is to get anywhere,” and that finding a way to get a band to New York is one of his first priorities when he starts working with them. Unfortunately, at this point in an artist’s development, when they are trying to attract labels and booking agents, they’re unlikely to be finding big pay days on the road, and getting into the US legally isn’t cheap. To play even a single paid date in the US, even a $100 DIY show in a basement, work visas are required. And for artists who do not fit into the category of “an artist of International Renown,” the only available visas is the P-2.

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