Tales from the Jugular

Metal Bands...Wish You Were Here: Getting Travel Visas

By: Chris Galea
Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Bands--Wish You Were Here

Here’s an interesting question: What do Scottish pop band Dogs Die In Hot Cars, USA legal authorities and Heavy Metal have in common?

Confused? Well the answer is ’a lot’! Even more confused? I’ll elaborate……..recently I came across a thought-provoking article in the English newspaper “The Times” (March 7th) entitled “US fears stamp on emerging rock bands”.

In a nutshell, the author (Adam Sherwin) revealed the hardships that British bands are facing when applying for visas enabling them to tour the US. He cites Dogs Die In Hot Cars as an example. He writes that the money demanded by USA authorities for these visas (4-figure amounts for each musician, each time entering the States) are leaving an increasing number of bands no choice but to erase USA dates from their touring schedule.

What do you, the metalherad reader give a damn about pop bands! Same with me, only I don’t foresee bands such as RHAPSODY, HAGGARD, RAGE or THERION performing with their orchestras and choirs. Now that would be a goddamn pity!! And what to say of big bands that carry their spectacular stage-props around (names that come to mind are HAMMERFALL, JUDAS PRIEST, RAMMSTEIN, IRON MAIDEN)?

The article also quotes one Sophie Agapios - affiliated with pop label Sweaky Records: “It is almost impossible to get a US touring visa. You have to substantiate that your act is already a massive seller like Coldplay to prove that you are not just three friends working on some groove in a garage. Unfortunately, most acts start out of a garage and want to generate interest by touring in the US.”

Also here I can draw clear parallels as to what is currently going on within the metal scene. I have been reading several comments online such as in Fora and Band-sites where USA metal fans and journalists are justifiably pissed off that certain bands are cancelling several live dates in their area. And obviously, not all of them are British. European legal experts have even argued that the above dilemma constitutes illegal fair trade practices breaching competition laws - the reasoning being USA bands are relatively unhindered in touring European states while European bands are facing extraordinary difficulty in tapping the North American market.

In my opinion it seems ridiculous that while the world is becoming more like the proverbial ‘global village’, there are some who think they can possibly go against this world reality, restricting movement and indirectly segregating music scenes.

Certain factors mentioned above are beyond the control of most metalheads. However, should tour promoters/labels have a better indication of the magnitude of demand and towards which band/metal-genre it is focused, then their transcontinental ventures become less of a risk. What I am suggesting here is that fans utilize official band-sites and webzines as well as other forms of media to express their desire to see their idols perform live in their town. Regional sales are also a favourite gauge for an artist’s popularity so purchasing a C.D. in its original format also helps, I guess.

What doesn’t help, and here I’m sure all readers would agree, is to remain indifferent.

- Chris Galea

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