Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Visas, work permits, airlines - it's getting harder to travel for jazz musicians

The cost of work permits has already impacted on jazz. It now costs £190, whether it be for a 100 piece orchestra on a 20 date tour or for one musician to come in once. I recall musicians like Marc Copland coming in regularly to play with Stan Sulzmann because he was on tour in Europe. No longer.
Yesterday I learnt that to come over with a visa is 310 euros - even if you have already been living in Europe for 15 years. This was the case for Cynthia Liao, violist with the Radio String Quartet, which played the Vortex yesterday. She's from Taipei and has lived in Vienna for 15 years. This means no problem for her travelling round those EU countries covered by the Schengen agreement. But not only did she have to pay 310 euros to come here (which is around 15 euros an hour for the time she spent here), she had to spend hours trying to fill in the online application and have an interview at the Embassy. Thanks to the help of Siggi Loch and her record label ACT, we could absorb it. But it is absolutely crazy. Until last month it was just £85.
Allied to this, I found out that basses can only be taken on planes if they weigh less than 32 kg. So, now it's more and more essential for venues to have access to local good quality instruments. But it also can affect the quality of recordings if musicians have to use instruments to which they aren't accustomed, or aren't of the quality. For about 5 years, we had a wonderful time when it was easy to fly around Europe as a musician. No longer.
Meanwhile, small operations like the Vortex or Babel just get their options more and more limited.
By the way, check out the Radio String Quartet if you have a chance. Their take on Mahavishnu Orchestra is amazing, all the more so if you think that none of them were born at the time the original music came out.


Steve said...

It's rough, but not even close to the hassle of trying to get a visa to play in the US... you're looking at a coupla thousand dollars for the legal work to sort out a visa for a tour... not really feasible for most musicians... :o(

Babel blog said...

So, what have these big countries got against creative people? The situation for overseas performers for both UK and USA is shameful.

Steve said...

it is indeed, and so damaging to the creative life of smaller communities, where a revival in interest in live music would be greatly supported by the inclusion of more touring foreign acts playing in smaller venues, side by side with local musicians, creating a great sense of 'special event' at gigs that are otherwise populated by talented-but-local musicians.