Music Industry

Published on March 22nd, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Are You a Musician Who Wants to Tour in the US? Better Read This First

It used to be that Canadians were waived across the border into the US with little more than a smile and a wave. Not anymore. As ‘Murica tightens its borders, getting past the border agents is getting more and more difficult–especially if you’re in a band.

If you’re a Canadian musician hoping to tour the US, better read this from Noisey.

Jesse Matthewson knows a lot about border crossings. He and his brother, Shane Matthewson, run MKM Management Services, a business management company aimed at providing artists, musicians, and small businesses with accounting, tax, marketing, supply chain management, and grant writing—what he calls “basic business management shit” for bands like Gorguts, Cancer Bats, and Despised Icon. As a founding member of JUNO Award-winning Canadian noise rock-slash-metallic-hardcore trio KEN Mode, he and his bandmates have made multiple trips from their native Winnipeg to a variety of countries—including, on many occasions, to the United States, whose border Matthewson readily characterizes as the worst they’ve ever encountered.

“Out of all the places we’ve visited, [the US border] treats you like a criminal just because of the fact you want to come there. Generally speaking, no other country does that, where they assume you are a criminal. [US border agents] assume you’re a scumbag even before they talk to you,” he told me over the phone last week, a few days after Donald Trump’s second attempt at a travel ban was blocked by a Hawaiian federal judge. The U.S.-Canada border is notoriously difficult for touring bands to transverse, a bureaucratic nightmare often compounded by murky laws, the strict rules refusing admission to those with DUIs into the country, and uninformed border agents, as well as a the ever-present specters of racism and xenophobia—which appear to have gotten worse post-Trump, according to Matthewson’s observations.

“As it was announced in November that Trump won, I heard of brown people from bands in Toronto being turned away [from the border]. Which is like, fuck, what is going on here?” Matthewson sputtered. “Maybe that’s just more telling about the type of people that work as border guards, which isn’t ultimately surprising.”

This is sobering stuff. Keep going.

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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