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Words of Fang: So You Want to Go Abroad?

August 24, 2016
By

Lords of the Trident 2016

Hails metalheads! My name is Fang VonWrathenstein, vocalist for the band Lords of the Trident (http://www.LordsOfTheTrident.com). Every month or so, I’ll be handing out my sage advice to other bands on how to take their band from the garage to the next level. I’m no industry insider, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Have an idea for a topic, or fervently disagree with something I write? Email me at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com.

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As your band grows, and you stretch your tours farther away from home, you will eventually be faced with the challenge of an international tour. This can be an incredibly daunting task, but exciting and potentially fruitful as well! After all, anyone can tour their home country. It gives you quite a bit of street cred to successfully pull off something international.

01

(Disneyland not always included)

Maybe you live next to a border and are itching to cross it? Maybe your band’s in Europe, and “going international” is a one-hour bus ride? In either case, there are some important (and sometimes overlooked) points you’ll want to keep in mind.

As I’m assuming you’ve already done a few longer tours, there are some obvious points that we’ll skip over – for example, transportation, lodging, booking, etc. If you haven’t yet toured your home country and learned what works for you and your band on the road, for the love of Dio – do that first. You’ll be able to learn important lessons semi-close to home, in a language you speak, and without the threat of deportation.

  1. Do you need a visa?

02

Eh, just show this at the border, I’m sure it’ll work.

Some countries (US & Japan in specific) require a lengthy Visa application process in order to cross over the border. Why? Although you’re “just a band”, technically you’re a business that’s going to be acting in a commercial capacity in a foreign land. That requires taxes, oversight, and a lot of paperwork.

Many countries are a bit more lenient for bands and musical performers crossing their borders to play, especially if your stay is under a certain amount of time. For example, performers going to Canada do not need a visa if their stay is under two weeks. When in doubt – don’t assume everything will be worked out at the border! Do your research ahead of time – it’ll save you from having to cancel your whole tour because they wouldn’t let you in the country!

On a side note – I know many readers of WeLoveMetal.com are Canadian, so as an American band, let me do the Canadian thing and apologize right off the bat for our absolutely horrendous visa process. Getting into Canada as a US band was not very difficult at all, but I’ve heard horror stories from Canadian bands that tried to tour the US. One even confessed to sneaking in their instruments and renting amps just to avoid the fees and headaches of the US visa process. I know, we suck, and we’re sorry.

  1. Is your priceless rainforest-mahogany-teak-mixture bass even ALLOWED in the country?

03

The TONE sounds like thousands of dollar bills being lit on fire, man

Some countries have very strict laws about the import of goods made from endangered materials. You may argue – “I’m not importing it, I’m using it to play music!” However, there’s no way for a border guard to know that you won’t turn around and sell it to the first person you meet. If you have any gear made out of weird material – like your white-rhino-horn-encrusted keyboard – check with the border before you attempt to bring it over. There’s nothing worse than having to leave your incredibly expensive instrument in the hands of random border officials for weeks.

  1. Get your passport now. Like, today.

04

“Everything here looks in order, Mr. Hugh Jass.”

Most passports last a long time, and are relatively easy to get. Passports in the US last for ten years, and might take an hour or so of your time to amass the materials needed to apply. However, depending on the time of year, you could wait up to a few months before your valid passport arrives in the mail. If you’re planning on touring internationally in the next year or so, do yourself a favor and get your passport now. Also, make sure all of your band members (even your drummer) finish and submit their passport applications well in advance.

  1. Don’t be an idiot

05

This is a general point for everyday life, but having the following in your possession at the border will not work out in your favor:

  • Guns
  • Drugs (yes, weed counts)
  • More than 24 beers or more than one full bottle of liquor
  • A DWI on your record
  • An incarceration/felony on your record

The guns and drugs thing is pretty obvious – the DWI might not be. If you’re planning on driving a vehicle during your tour (and let’s face it, most of us are), many countries are not eager to let you over the border in a vehicle with DWI on your record. In extreme cases, you may be barred from even entering the country. Check border crossing laws on this point, but in general – don’t be a moron.

Also – prepare to be searched. I’m talking every nook and cranny, every hidey hole, everywhere. They may even go so far as to ask you to completely empty all your instrument cases, backpacks, colons, etc. Or (like us), you may go through the crossing without border patrol even asking you to open up your van. In either case, plan for at least a few hours at the border in your travel itinerary. You wouldn’t want to miss load-in because you were getting pat-down.

  1. Get signed contracts (even if you’re not making money)

“Uhh…what’s this here about ‘first born son’?”

Having a signed performance contract for every night of your tour is required for some border crossings, even if you’re not making any guaranteed amount. And even if it’s not required – let’s face it, it looks a lot more professional, and could speed up your time at the border. If you don’t have a standard performance contract on hand, just draft up a short contract outlining date(s), location(s), and compensation amount. Have the owner of the venue sign the contract and scan it back to you. I’d also recommend picking up the digital version of Nolo’s Music Law, which comes with fill-in-the-blank contracts.

  1. Put together a binder and make a digital copy

Get all your information together in an easy-to-read format, place it in a hard-cover binder with your contact info, and keep that with you at all times. You may want to purchase a binder pouch to hold your passports as well, especially if one of your members has a penchant for losing things. When you arrive at the border, you can simply hand the binder to the guard, and it should give him/her all the information he/she should need. Not only does this speed things along, but it makes you look more professional.

When you’re finished with your binder – make a digital copy and put it in a place that you can potentially access on the road. A band dropbox account is a good place to store this. You may also want to take a picture of your (and your bandmates’) passport information pages, just in case (Dio forbid) you end up losing your passports. Don’t put those anywhere publicly accessible, for obvious reasons.

  1. Taxes and money

07

Depending on how much merchandise you’re bringing over the border, you may have to pay import taxes on these items. Usually, the tax is on the base amount of the item, not what you sell the item for. For example, you may sell a CD for $10, but each CD cost you $1 to make. That $1 is the base price that’s being taxed.

You may have to be selective about how much merch you bring over the border. If you’re like me, and like to bring everything, I’d recommend finding out the tax amount and running the numbers. Do you really need 7 XLs for a 3-day stint? Maybe yes, maybe no…but when you have the information at hand, you can do a quick cost/benefit analysis to help you decide (or convince the rest of the guys).

The money you make is going to be in a different format, and worth different amounts vs. your home currency. It’s not unheard of to change your merchandise prices once you cross the border to reflect the local currency – in fact, I’d highly recommend it. In addition, make sure you check with your bank about international credit card use and any fees that go along with said use. If you accept credit cards at your merch booth, make sure you’ve set up an account that will allow you to do so in the country you’re touring. Popular card readers PayPal and Square both require an address-verified account originating from the country you’re in to accept credit cards in said country. If you have a friend in the country you’re touring, and they don’t mind setting up a temporary PayPal account for you in their name, this may fix the limitation. When in doubt, switch to cash only.

When you enter or leave the country, try to exchange your currency at the border (or close to it). Most currency exchanges at major banks will only accept paper money, and will do so with large fees. If you’re in a country that uses a lot of coinage (Canada & Japan come to mind), make sure to exchange your money as you leave!

With these tips, and a little bit of luck, you’ll be on your way to a successful international tour! Good luck, and try not to get deported!

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Are you a band that owes your success to my pearls of wisdom? Do you wish there was some way you could pay me back? Well there is! Buy the Lords of the Trident’s albums off AmazonMP3, iTunes, or BandCamp, watch our music videos on YouTube, and visit us online – http://www.LordsOfTheTrident.com. Want to email me directly? Tell me how good/horrible my advice has been thus far? Email me at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com. If you give me an idea for an article, I’ll send you a FREE album as a reward!



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