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The Chemical Brothers: ‘Touring in US not viable’

Little Simz, Santigold, Metronomy, Easy Life and Roger Daltrey have also raised concerns about the cost of touring, with some axing entire tours

By Lisa Henderson on 18 Sep 2023

Fuji Rock 2019, Fri 26 July headliners the Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers are the latest act to dismiss touring in the US, as the country’s authorities consider raising touring visa fees for foreign acts by more than 250%.

In an interview with Billboard, the English electronic music duo revealed that they aren’t planning any US shows in support of their new album due to ballooning costs.

“The costs have gone up so much. It’s just not really viable at the moment,” said the duo’s Ed Simons. “I’m apologetic to the people who do want to see us that it is increasingly difficult for us to get to America because we have had the times of our lives playing there.”

The pair also commented on the state of touring post-pandemic and how they attempted to lower the costs of their live touring production to make touring the US more affordable.

“[The production] originally came from the fact that we didn’t want to inflict [audiences with] just the two of us awkwardly standing with the synthesisers,” Simons said.

“So we wanted a big back job, but it’s just grown and grown, and now we’ve got these 40-foot clowns voicing the words.”

The increasing costs of touring the US are not helped by a planned increase in the cost of paperwork to get there.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was planning to raise touring visa fees for foreign acts by more than 250%.

The current petition fee would rocket from $460 to $1,655 (a 260% increase) for a regularly processed ‘O’ work visa and soar to $1,615 (251%) for a regularly processed ‘P’ visa – putting 50% of all UK tours of the US under threat according to data from trade body LIVE.

However, DHS and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have now reportedly agreed to delay the implementation of the rise until at least March 2024 and are considering a lower increase.

Regardless, the costs of touring have still prevented several big-name artists from being able to play shows in the US in recent months.

“The costs have gone up so much. It’s just not really viable at the moment”

Last year, English rapper Little Simz cancelled a run of 10 North American tour dates due to the “huge deficit” it would leave her in financially. Santigold also cancelled a tour of the territory, citing “skyrocket[ing]” price of “gas, tour buses, hotels, and flight[s]”.

English electronic group Metronomy, who also pulled the plug on their North America tour, said “Touring America is one of the most expensive and exhausting things a band can do”.

Earlier this year, Easy Life axed their North American tour dates due to “some insane costs,” adding that “the world seems to cost 10x as much as it used to right now”.

The Who frontman Roger Daltrey has also reckoned it unlikely that his band would be able to tour America again.

“We cannot get insured and most of the big bands doing arena shows, by the time they do their first show and rehearsals and get the staging and crew together, all the buses and hotels, you’re upwards $600,000 to a million in the hole,” he said back in April.

“To earn that back, if you’re doing a 12-show run, you don’t start to earn it back until the seventh or eighth show. That’s just how the business works. The trouble now is if you get COVID after the first show, you’ve [lost] that money.”

Placebo, meanwhile, postponed their entire North American tour, last September, just two days before it was due to begin, citing “visa and logistical issues”.

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) stepped up their #LetTheMusicMove campaign earlier this year in order to oppose changes to US visa applications.

#LetTheMusicMove was originally established in June 2021 to campaign for reductions in post-Brexit costs and red tape for UK artists and musicians when touring in Europe, but extended its focus following the announcement by the DHS.


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