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The Chemical Brothers: ‘Touring in US not viable’

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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UK live music at “record high” £1.1bn value

The live music sector contributed £1.1 billion (US$1.42bn/€1.28bn) to the British economy in 2018 – a 10% year-on-year increase – according to UK Music’s inaugural Music by Numbers report.

Music by Numbers 2019 – which builds on and replaces the umbrella body’s forerunner Measuring Music and Wish You Were Here reports – reveals the UK music industry continued to grow across every sector last year, with live once again leading the charge.

UK Music, which includes the UK Live Music Group, measures the health of Britain’s music business each year by collating data on its contribution in goods and services – known as gross value added (GVA) – to the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), including export revenue.

The findings of this year’s report include:

GVA from recorded music also rose, by 5% to £535m – remaining at around half the contribution of the live sector – while total record label revenues grew for the third consecutive year (3% in 2018).

“The figures in this report are testament to the outstanding creativity of our world-leading artists”

Employment in live, meanwhile, increased 7% to 30,529.

“Our report reveals firm evidence that the British music industry is in great shape and continuing to lead the world,” comments UK Music CEO Michael Dugher. “The figures are hugely encouraging and show that, as well as enriching the lives of millions of people, music makes an incredible contribution to the UK’s economy.

“Live music is now at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both the UK and abroad to our arenas and smaller venues alike.

“Music exports are another amazing success story, with the best of British creative talent being showcased across the globe. However, this is not a time for complacency. We face many challenges to ensure we keep our music industry vibrant, diverse and punching above its weight. 

“Live music is now at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both the UK and abroad”

“We need to do more to protect grassroots venues by helping them combat soaring business rates. We need to nurture the talent pipeline, including by reversing the decline of music in education, so that children from every background have access to music. 

“We need to make sure that creators get fair rewards for their content and are not ripped off by big tech. And we urgently need to ensure that the impact of Brexit doesn’t put in jeopardy the free movement of talent, just at the time when we should be looking outwards and backing the best of British talent right across the world.”

The UK live music industry first broke £1bn GVA in 2016, though the 2018 figure is around £100m higher, indicating continued growth.

Writing in the Music by Numbers 2019’s foreword, culture secretary Nicky Morgan pays tribute to emerging British acts including Sam Fender, Dave (pictured) and Little Simz, and says “the figures in this report are testament to the outstanding creativity of our world-leading artists”.

 


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