Wind Rose, an Italian black-metal band that sings about Tolkien lore, isn't exactly poised to become the next U2. But it did have a music video that racked up 2.5 million YouTube views, so when the like-minded Russian band Arkona invited the group to open last year’s Pagan Rebellion club tour in the Midwest, Wind Rose was thrilled to try to jump to the next level.
Then it ran into a force even more powerful than Sauron himself: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The process of acquiring touring visas, which lets foreign music groups work in America for a year, costs roughly $3,000 to $5,000 and has always been a "pain in the ass," says veteran agent Tom Windish. But since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, agents, managers and attorneys say the process has become more complicated and costly. In response to Wind Rose’s application, for example, USCIS made so many “requests for evidence” -- objective metrics of success, such as awards, chart activity and sales -- that the group finally decided to give up and stayed home.
“They have no history of touring here, and they have no significant press because they have no album distributed in the U.S.,” says band co-manager Stephan Mellul. “It’s mind-boggling.”