Tag Archives: musician tips

Canadian Entry

Stress-Free Canadian Entry

My band, based in Houston, Texas, is booked to perform at a number of Canadian venues in early October. It’s our first time and we have been told that there are certain requirements for getting into the country, and we’re not sure what to expect. Can you help?

Some of us remember the “good old days” when all you needed to cross the border into Canada was a driver’s license and a birth certificate. Since 2009 this is no longer possible. Now, if you are traveling by air you need a US passport (or a NEXUS card) to enter Canada and you will need the same to get back into the US. If you are driving or coming by boat, you will need a US passport, passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license (available in Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington).

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the US, your Green Card will allow you to cross the border both ways, regardless of your mode of transportation. Canada requires a visa for holders of passports from certain countries. Check the Canada Government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp, if you are unsure about your band members. Getting a visa online can take well over a month. Start the process early. Check to see if any members of your group require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) as well: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp.

Savvy border crossers traveling by car know that it is faster to cross at certain border crossings. Times can also vary depending upon the traffic flow and volume, time of day, and time of year. Check wait times in advance at: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/bwt-taf/menu-eng.html.

In order to avoid any complications while crossing borders with musical instruments, there are two options available: the ATA Carnet (http://www.atacarnet.com) or an inventory list. The list should include item descriptions; serial numbers; costs, dates, and places of purchase; and current resale values. Be sure to take this list into the border office of your home country and have it stamped by a border official. The border official will examine the instruments to verify the list, so it is best if the instruments are clearly marked with owner/group name (if applicable) and perhaps numbered to correspond with the list. You should also declare any CDs or
merch you are bringing into the country.

Having the required documents does not guarantee admission into Canada. All visitors to Canada have to also undergo an interview with a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer upon arrival to determine admissibility into the country. Be sure to have your passport or other documentation, including vehicle ownership and performance contracts, ready for inspection. Remove any sunglasses, and look the agent in the eye when answering. This is not the time for jokes or unseemly behavior. You want to impress upon the border officer that you are law-abiding and respectful of authority.

For most foreign artists, entry into Canada is relatively easy. A work permit is not required in most cases. Crossing the border can be as simple as answering a few questions about the purpose of your trip, where you are going, and what you will be doing there. To avoid delay, be prepared with simple straightforward answers to the questions the officer might ask, and voilà—welcome to Canada.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com. While I cannot answer every question I receive in this column, I will feature as many as I can and I promise to answer each and every e-mail I receive.

neck pain

Finding Relief from Neck Pain

Editor’s note: Always check with a physician if you are experiencing pain, as well as before beginning a new physical activity.

Chronic neck pain stems largely from poor posture and daily exertion. Taking simple measures to realign one’s body can decrease the odds of having to live with chronic pain. 

Our bodies are designed to work in concert with gravity. Poor posture causes a slew of problems such as inflammation, nerve compression, and limited range of motion. In some cases, it leads to acute conditions such as degenerative disc disease. If the neck is habitually thrust forward, in front of the shoulders, the pull and weight of the head places undue stress on the vertebrae of the lower neck. Our heads can weigh 10-15 pounds, which is a lot of strain. The muscles of the upper back must compensate to balance the weight. Simple stretches and exercises performed on a regular basis can offer long-term relief.

The Alexander Technique

A popular component of voice and music instruction is the Alexander Technique, which focuses on the head and spine. This correlation determines the quality of overall coordination. The exercises within this curriculum are well established and offer positive physical benefits. The approach centers on not overworking the neck muscles and the head being properly positioned and balanced, at the top of the spine. For more information, go to the American Society for the Alexander Technique at http://www.amsatonline.org/alexander-technique.

Take Care Moving Instruments

Never carry a heavy instrument with one hand or on one shoulder. For better distribution of weight, straps should be long enough to go across the chest. Use a bag or case with wheels whenever possible to transport heavier stringed instruments. Bend from the knees and keep the weight close to the body when picking up heavy equipment.

Gentle Neck Stretches

Free Up the Muscles. Let your neck muscles relax, and let your head rotate slightly forward, and go up. Slowly, and very slightly lower the tip of your nose while the crown of your head moves up. Let your sitting bones release down into the chair, in opposition to your head moving up, neither slumping nor straining. Reduce the neck tension again. Let your head rotate forward, and go up.

With practice you can release neck muscles and reduce neck tension. In time, you will realize when and how you are creating tension in your neck.

Seated Neck Release. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, or in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, extend your right arm next to your right knee or along the right side of the chair. Place your left hand lightly on the top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the left. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch. For a deeper stretch, hold onto your right knee or the seat of the chair. This stabilizes the torso and allows you to isolate the stretch on the side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, slowly lift your head and repeat on the other side.

Seated Clasping Neck Stretch. For a deep stretch for the back of your neck and your upper back, sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Clasp your hands and bring both palms to the back of your head. Sitting tall, ground your hips firmly into your seat. From there, begin to gently press your hands down toward your thighs, tucking your chin into your chest. As you press down, use the heels of your palms to softly pull your head away from your shoulders to intensify the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds, slowly lift your head and release your hands.

Behind-the-Back Neck Stretch. This standing stretch provides a deep stretch in the sides of your neck. Stand with your feet slightly apart, about hip distance, arms by your sides. Reach both hands behind your buttock and hold onto your left wrist with your right hand. Use your right hand to gently straighten your left arm and pull it away slightly. To increase the stretch in your neck, slowly lower your right ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

For more neck stretches to reduce tension, go to http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/workouts/simple-routines/neck-pain-exercises.php.

United States Taxation for Foreign Artists

by Robert Baird, President Baird Artists Management (BAM!)

The issue of United States Taxation for foreign artists came up in a recent letter:

I have a band that is looking to play a corporate event in the US at the end of June. My accountant just informed me of the Central Withholding Agreement that could keep as much as 30% of our income—the final total being left at their discretion. My accountant tells me that it is likely just a matter of incorporating the business, which can be done fairly quickly. Can you help?

Dealing with taxation in any country is complex. The regulations regarding taxation for a foreign artist are customarily contained in a tax treaty between the two countries, and will apply differently to individuals than to businesses. However, it is not simply a matter of incorporating an individual or a performing group as a business because the IRS considers who the “beneficial owner” of the income is and, if any individual is named in the corporation, then the income is considered personal, not corporate.

In the US, the requirement is that anyone paying a foreign artist has to withhold 30% in taxes on US income. Anyone who withholds tax, be it a promoter, a venue, a presenter, a manager, or an agent, is designated by the IRS as a “withholding agent.” If the foreign artist fails to file a tax return and pay the required taxes, then the “withholding agent” is liable for any unpaid tax.

There are exceptions to this general principle:

A tax treaty may exempt a business from paying tax in a foreign country if it is recognized as a business by the IRS and has no “fixed establishment” in the US.

A tax treaty may allow a certain level of income for independent personal services to be earned tax-free, if the individual has no “fixed base” in the US and spends no more than a certain number of days in the country. For example, the Canada-US Tax Treaty allows an individual artist to earn $15,000 annually without taxation. However, earning more than $15,000 annually would make the individual taxable for the whole amount.

An individual (not a business) can enter into a Central Withholding Agreement (CWA) with the IRS whereby the IRS will estimate the actual tax liability of the artist and withhold less than the required 30%.

In years past, it was often enough to provide a US employer with a W-8BEN or a Form 8233 to avoid the required 30% tax withholding. Now, this is no longer regarded as sufficient. An employer cannot rely on these forms to avoid enforcement of the IRS requirement.

If it transpires that a foreign artist has been “over-taxed,” then a refund can be obtained by filing a tax return. Even if your income is exempt from US income tax, it’s a good idea to file annually. Individuals should file a Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ. Businesses should file a Form 1120-F.

At some point in the future it may become necessary to have your tax filings current before you are granted a work visa for the US. It’s a good idea to comply with all requirements for foreign taxation.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com. While I cannot answer every question I receive in this column, I will feature as many as I can and I promise to answer every e-mail I receive.