John Robb, music journalist and frontman of Goldblade and punk rock legends the Membranes, has teamed up with Labour MP Kerry McCarthy to lobby the Government for fair access to the USA for British musicians.
The pair are meeting with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey next week to enlist the support of the Government in calling for a change to the US visa system, which has constrained the ability of UK musicians to travel and work in the USA.
John Robb said, “The special relationship between the UK and the USA has been the backbone of international post-war pop culture. The shared influences, pool of creativity and flow of ideas have been crucial to what is one of the biggest industries in the world.
“That flow is currently being hampered by the expensive and unworkable US visa situation for British bands. It’s a situation that is getting worse.”
The campaign is backed by organisations such as the Musicians’ Union, the Association of Independent Music and the Association of British Orchestras. It has also had extensive input from UK Music, UKTI and the Traffic Control Group, as well as individual record labels, management companies and musicians.
Kerry McCarthy said, “Since I first raised this issue in Parliament in March, I was surprised by the responses from right across the UK music industry. They confirmed that this is a real difficulty for musicians and that it is becoming more and more critical.
“We hope the Government will speak up on behalf of British musicians to encourage USCIS (the US Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the US Embassy to address this issue.”
John Robb added: “In the past few years the American visa situation has tightened up and become far more expensive till we have a situation where getting a British group into America can cost up to £2700, and that's not counting travel and accommodation expenses for bands outside London who have to travel for the 8 o’clock in the morning London American embassy interview.
"The forms that have to be filled in are very difficult to understand and lots of the money has to be spent on an American agency processing the forms. There have been endless examples of British bands, some very high profile, having to reschedule or cancel tours in the last year. And if a visa application fails, they don't get any of the money back."
“American bands find it far cheaper and easier to travel and work in UK. What we need is a fairer and friendlier system that will break down the barriers, and let us do what we want to do, which is play music”.