Artistes, producers, musicians, road managers and other entertainment professionals are today keeping their ears locked to news coming out of the US, after it was announced on Monday that President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending work visas.
Although the order doesn’t seem to affect entertainers at the moment, with Trump making it clear that he is focused on securing ‘American jobs’, work permits for local industry personnel hang in the balance.
In an interview with THE STAR, public relations guru and artiste manager Tara Playfair-Scott said she was not surprised at the announcement.
She said that over the past year or two, artistes seeking US work permits have been having a difficult time getting their paperwork processed.
“This has been coming and I assume he has been working his way towards this since there was an extreme slowdown in the processing of work permits for artistes and for persons who fall into the skilled categories,” she said.
“If you speak to entertainers who have applied for work permits in the last year to two, they can tell you outright that there has been a marked difference. Even in paying expedited fees, your process is not expedited. It takes months to get a response for approval or even to say that they need more information,” Playfair-Scott said.
Shelly-Ann Curran, who manages Grammy-nominated artiste Devin Di Dakta, and handles bookings for several others including new dancehall sensations Iwaata and Intence, also expressed concerns over the visa suspensions.
“I’m not really seeing our artistes visas on the list but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been shutting us out, and will continue trying to do so,” Curran said.
One of the hardest things
She told THE STAR that acquiring an artiste visa is one of the hardest things to do in this industry. “Some people wait a year or two years only to be granted three months so just like the rest of the entertainment industry.”
Curran went on to say that as uncertainty looms over the US market for local entertainers, now is the perfect time for industry professionals to start extending their reach into other territories.
“Reggae and dancehall music stretches past every border and this is the perfect time for our artistes to begin to look and tap into other markets like Latin America, the wider Caribbean and Africa. The world is a big place,” she said.
“Now is the time to spend going through your fan base and reaching out to new audiences. We will have to work extra hard but luckily the music has already done a lot of the work for us. The world loves reggae and dancehall music and we can use that to keep us going.”
Playfair-Scott agreed. “I think the virus has shown a lot of people in a lot of areas not just entertainment that ‘Hey you, it’s tough to put all your eggs in one basket’, because at any given moment that basket can be snatched and your eggs fall to the ground. You have to try and diversify as much as possible,” she encouraged.