Music On An International Level:
Touring as a band, a necessary thing to be successful is intimidating. Dreams of Rock n’ Roll excesses and private planes are not the reality for most. Tour buses the size of a four-bedroom apartment is replaced with people crammed in a 1997 Ford van, playing a local dive bar bumming cigarettes off the locals isn’t as memorable as selling out shows at Madison Square Garden, and money, well, there isn’t any. It’s a task that takes commitment, not everyone can do it – but if you’re willing to take it on, what is there to learn? In this introductory blog I will be looking at what Canadian artists need to learn about touring in the United States, and on an international level, what are the best music cities – comparing the answers of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and Pos of the acclaimed Hip-Hop trio De La Soul.
Kurt Dahl, the self-proclaimed Lawyer Drummer, has stated that touring the in the US as a Canadian musician has become more difficult after the tragedy on 9/11 and even worst now with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Rules and regulations are not something that can be discussed with law officials, and it’s up to you to ensure everything has been looked at to perform or even visit our southern neighbours. A common misconception many artists have is if they are playing or free in the United States they do not need proper documentation – this is false. While different shows, festivals, or otherwise require a specific set of criteria, it is best to reach out to the Canadian Federation of Musicians. An example of this was seen by Calgary musician and local favourite, Chad VanGaalen who was detained for hours due to a work visa being expired for less than 48 hours – despite the fact he is on Seattle label, SubPop.
Obtaining a visa comes with its challenges and ambiguity. A P2 Visa is the most common for independent artists or athletes who wish to enter the US. There is an agreement between the American Department of Musicians and the Department of Homeland Security which helps streamline this process; however, a P2 is NOT a temporary green card. If your show is rescheduled, or you’re running behind on the already predetermined time that was submitted on the application; you’re out the luck. The dates and contracts are finalized, to increase the time spent in the country, another P2 must be applied for and approved.
A P2 can be used by an artist for no more for a year if there are less than 30 days in-between events. Fee’s for this visa is USD 460, plus CAD 100 and CAD 20 per member in the group – that’s a lot of album streams and t-shirts to sell.
Now that a basic understanding of touring in the United States has been established, where should you go? The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has compiled a list of the top 9 musical cities in the world. Their criteria when forming this is quoted as, “focuses on cities with a distinguished musical history endemic to local, national and world culture which has music in the DNA. The qualifying cities also make music an important sector of the economy in terms of concerts, technology and tourism,” While no American cities made the cut, they’ve made some interesting observations on the correlation between a music-friendly town and public government policy to preserve their culture through music and art. Bogota, Colombia earned the title of the UNESCO’s most musical city by having 60 music festivals every year and over 500 live music venues that are a melting pot of eclectic genres.
Pos, or Kelvin Mercer from De La Soul, used a different set of criteria by weighing cultural significance, soulfulness, and greatest live scenes into the equation. At number one, Detroit, USA – the home of Motown and an important element in the world of hip-hop.
“The city has a unique character, and I think the music comes from the struggle, what people coming up in that Motown era had available to them and what was going on at that point. Whether it’s how you grew up going to church and how you learned to free your soul by singing to God, that was all part of it.
Dahl, K. (2017). Touring the USA: What Canadian Musicians Need to Know. Retrieved from http://lawyerdrummer.com/2017/03/touring-the-usa-canadian-musicians/
Green, G. The world’s Top 5 music cities, picked by De La Soul. Retrieved from https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/top-5-music-cities-de-la-soul/
Yaccato, B. UNESCO’s Top 9 Musical Cities In The World. Retrieved from https://www.escapehere.com/inspiration/unescos-top-9-musical-cities-in-the-world/5/