On a map, Toronto looks like a great city for a band to be based in -- Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philly, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Boston are all within a day's drive. Unfortunately though, thousands of dollars in fees and a quagmire of paperwork stand between Canadian bands and U.S. audiences.
Canadian groups headed to America have two choices: Stump up $2000-$5000 in border fees and union dues and wait weeks for a permit, or go without and risk a two to five year personal ban from the U.S. Whether it's a one night show played for beer and beds or a full arena tour makes little difference to the costs and paperwork involved.
Meanwhile if an American band wants to come north, all they've got to do is rock up to the border with a gig contract, an e-mailed invite from a promoter, and a list of gear and merch. Canada had introduced a $250 per person charge on American musicians and crew members in 2014, but that was soon rescinded (along with a need for Labour Market Opinion documents) after an outcry from the music industry in both countries.
The costs and bureaucracy of U.S. work permits create such a barrier that some Canadian musicians put their careers on the line trying to go without them. Megan Miller went down to Massachusetts to volunteer at a girls rock camp in 2012 and ended up forming a band with her fellow instructors. She stayed in the U.S., living on the cheap in a shared room as the girls built And The Kids up from nothing into their future. At that point, they hadn't had the acclaim needed to secure a work permit for Miller.
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