The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA), which represents Canadian indie music labels, today released a new cultural industries report that illustrates the opportunities and challenges that exist for Canadian musicians seeking to play shows and do business in the United States. The report calls on fairness and reciprocity when it comes to U.S. immigration and tax policies as they relate to Canadian artists.
Over the Border and Into the Clubs: Canada’s Independent Music Industry and the US Market quantifies the risks, costs, and difficulties that impact Canadian artists who seek to promote their music in the United States. The report explores how Canadian independent musicians face considerable barriers to performing, touring, and promoting themselves south of the border. These include: problems with obtaining visas and completing other paperwork; high withholding taxes that limit capital for funding tours; and behind-the-border issues (such as the regulation and infrastructure of the music sector) that increase lost opportunity costs.
“International expansion is key to the growth and development of a large number of successful Canadian independent music companies,” says CIMA President Stuart Johnston. “The challenges of accessing markets such as the United States, however, can be many. Getting across the border is not always efficient, in no small part because of the costs, complications and unclear procedures associated with the existing visa system. There can also be a significant impact on our artists’ and their business representatives’ cash flow resulting from the United States’ inflated withholding tax policies.”
Chris Wynters, executive director of Alberta Music, adds, “This is a major challenge for Albertan artists and their teams. The process is expensive, convoluted and inconsistent. In many cases, U.S. tours get cancelled due to the process taking too long, even when artists have given more than enough time for the process to take place.”
With support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), CIMA commissioned the Centre for Trade Policy and Law (CTPL) at Carleton University to conduct an economic and policy analysis of the value of the U.S. market for Canadian musicians, as well as the volume of Canadian artists who perform annually in U.S. venues. The report provides industry members with specific policy recommendations to improve both labour mobility and tax penalties for Canadian musicians and their domestic business representatives.
Over the Border makes a case for why American policies ought to be changed to encourage: a) equal treatment for Canadian musicians travelling to the United States, b) reciprocity with respect to taxes, and c) the promotion of independent music as part of a federal government trade strategy.
Key findings from Over the Border:
– Red tape at the border keeps Canadian music out of the United States
– The Canadian market is small and Canadian companies believe it is important to access American audiences
– Canadians want to expand and invest south of the border but face obstacles, despite existing trade agreements
– Over 60% of Canadian firms said the time and money they spend on border-related processes is burdensome
– Work permits can be hard to obtain, and excessive taxation of revenue can create major cash flow difficulties
– This is especially prejudicial for small companies, who make up a majority of the Canadian music industry
– Music is a global export, meaning that greater labour mobility is conducive to a healthier, vibrant music industry
The release of this report follows the recent news that three American congressmen have introduced bipartisan legislation designed to streamline the P-2 visa process for Canadian artists entering the U.S. to perform. The Bringing Entertainment Artists to the States (BEATS) Act was introduced in Congress on March 21st by Representatives Dave Trott (R-Michigan), Chris Collins (D-NY), and Peter Welch (D-Vermont). The BEATS Act is meant to “modernize the P-2 visa process for entertainment artists and speed up the admission process for applicants who want to perform in the United States. This reform will make it easier for Canadian artists to bring their talents to American consumers while not compromising U.S. security or border protection procedures in any way.”