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Interview: Brian Zabinski of Tamizdat - Going Global Music Summit 2018

Interview: Brian Zabinski of Tamizdat - Going Global Music Summit 2018

Interview by Kiki Van Newtown / Thursday 23rd August, 2018 2:08PM

IMNZ's two-day Going Global Music Summit kicks off on Friday 31st August at Auckland's Roundhead Studios, featuring presentations from a raft of top-tier international industry professionals including Unknown Mortal Orchestra helmsman Ruban Nielson, and music lawyer and author of Music: The Business Ann Harrison. You can check out the timetable of panel speakers and just-announced twenty nine new delegates here on the Going Global website, along with info on the Going Global Presents artist showcase event. Kiki Van Newtown of Wellington witch rockers Hex spoke with featured speaker Brian Zabinski, who has worked with US-based organisation Tamizdat as a volunteer artist mobility specialist since 2012. Read their in depth and illuminating conversation below...

Tamizdat is a non-profit formed in 1998 by musicians, and provides services to over four thousand clients from the international arts community each year. Tamizdat provides non-legal visa advice and assistance as well as outreach and education with the goal of facilitating international cultural exchange.

Why do artists need Tamizdat?

One of Tamizdat’s main functions is as a U.S. petitioner. Artist’s don’t need Tamizdat, but they do need someone to help them get into the U.S. and Tamizdat does that. They function as this crucial element in the visa process as a U.S. petitioner. They also help artists through outreach and education.

Another thing that Tamizdat does is data collection, analysing that data and looking for trends of problematic things that happen through the [visa] process.

So just to clarify for New Zealanders, a petitioner is someone who is going to vouch for you to come to the States?

Yeah, sometimes people call it a sponsor. A lot of times an artist’s label or management could be the U.S. petitioner, but if you don’t have one Tamizdat can function as that for you. So it makes it easier, especially for up and coming artists who may not have a foot in the door.

Tamizdat produced a white paper on ‘Artist Mobility to the United States’ which identifies the issues with the immigration and visa process. Is there an overarching goal for Tamizdat in terms of artist mobility to the States?

Tamizdat’s mission is pro-artist. The ultimate goal of the white paper is to eventually get that in the hands of policy makers. We can’t really change the laws, but we can change the guidance of the way that an officer will review something when it’s submitted to the government, or change the way the Embassy operates in their day to day. A short term view of it is to try and get commonsense procedures to be commonplace.

Do you feel like it’s a bit of a money making venture? I saw in the white paper that paying the premium processing fee is basically a given now.

Yeah, that specifically - the regular processing versus the premium processing - seems like a bit of a cash grab. If you pay the cheaper rate there is no fixed response time. How does that make sense? The only real way to try and avoid the expediting fees is just time. We’re advising our clients at Covey Law to get their ducks in a row at least three months in advance.

What are the consequences of not getting an appropriate visa for coming to the States?

Artists do it all the time, and they get away with it all the time, and the ones who get caught - I hear horror stories about it all the time. If you get caught, you’ll be deported. You’ll have that on your record and it will be much harder for you to get in next time.

The other thing is that you come, you do your tour and you do it illegally because you didn’t get the appropriate work visa, and you get a ton of press and notoriety. You go home and you or your band are really on the up and up. And then you want to go and do it legally the next time around. Well we can’t use that press of when you were touring in the U.S. as evidence of your renown because the U.S. government is just going to look at it as illegal activity. Even if you’ve got articles in Rolling Stone or New York Times - we can’t use that in a subsequent petition because it’s just us telling them that you broke the law.

So people need to be thinking about this at the start of their international touring careers?

Yeah, definitely. We have a lot of clients that will come to us because they blow up and they’ve been around for six months or so and they want to come tour the U.S. and we will tell them it’s not worth it. It won’t help your career to come and do it illegally. It’ll hurt your career more than help to try and circumvent the U.S. immigration laws.

What bands and music are you into at the moment?

I like everything - that’s such a cop out! But doing this work we see emerging electronic genres from South Africa and Polish jazz bands and Canadian indie rock. I don’t really draw any lines in the sand anywhere except for like… I don’t really like ska that much. [laughing]

It’s such a shat-on genre! People are always like ‘I’m into everything. But not ska’.

It’s just like, reggae was fine how it was! Why’d you have to speed it up?! [laughing]

But bands specifically. I really like that new Parquet Courts album that came out. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip just came out with a solo LP this year that I really like. This album Bark Your Head Off, Dog by Hop Along. Reggie Watts and John Tejada’s collaboration called Wajatta, I was digging on that.

For more information on Tamizdat's work head along here. The two-day Going Global Music Summit kicks off on Friday 31st August at Auckland's Roundhead Studios. For more info, the schedule of presentations and speaker bios head along here.

This year's Going Global Presents showcase will feature alayna, Albi & The Wolves, Arthur Ahbez, Holly Arrowsmith, Jaggers X Lines, Jed Parsons, Nakita, nomad, ONONO, SHAYNA, Soaked Oats, The Beths, Unchained XL - performing at Auckland's Whammy Bar, The Wine Cellar and Whammy Backroom on Saturday 1st September. For tickets and more info head along here.


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Sat 1st Sep
The Wine Cellar and Whammy Bar, Auckland

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