Rising touring costs wreak havoc on the Canadian music scene
Touring in Canada is about to get a whole lot harder for international musicians.
For each venue that a band plays at on tour in Canada, each member will have to pay 150 dollars. That is each member, at each venue. Unless the band is wildly successful, they won’t make money by coming to Canada.
Not only does this affect the musicians, but it will also affect venues. Firstly, many musicians won’t be able to come to Canada in the first place, which will decrease profits from the venues. Venues will now have to pay a charge for musicians to come to their establishments.
The venue will have to pay $275 for each member of the touring act. That means musicians, sound crew, roadies, and everybody else on the tour.
The changes come under revisions to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which came into effect on Jul. 31, 2013.
The government reasons that employers should make greater effort to hire Canadians before they hire temporary foreign workers. Hence, the paralyzing fees applied to both venues and musicians.
It is, in essence, a market killing policy. It punishes venues for bringing in world-class talent, and it punishes musicians for trying to bring their talent to Canada. In simpler terms, these changes discourage economic activity.
Also, they consign Canada to a cultural backwater. Sure, Paul McCartney will be able to bring his act to Regina, but smaller bands will not.
Carol Cairns is the Executive Director of Windhover Artists & Events Inc., and the owner of The Artful Dodger Café and Music Emporium, and she worries about her business.
“We strive to present a diverse range of high quality entertainment at the local, national and international level. The new fees imposed will prohibit us from presenting international talent. We all lose with that one.”
Cairns also criticizes the notion of hiring Canadians primarily, and then temporary foreign workers.
“When we have international artists on our stage, we place a local performer in the opening slot.” She continued on saying that “this builds opportunity for the local artists, as the connections they make with these visiting artists often lead to opportunities for playing in another country all part of building the global music community.”
Cairns also points out that these venues, like the Artful Dodger, and the others being targeted by this legislation, book predominantly Canadian acts, and bring in international talent when they can. Touring, with travel expenses, food, equipment, and other unexpected touring costs, already make the life of a musician prohibitively expensive.
“I’m concerned for small vendors who are presenting indie bands. They aren’t making tons of money, so if you add an expense, it will become harder for them. It’s important to make sure small vendors are able to keep their head above water,” Canadian singer, songwriter and performer David Myles told the Carillon.
129,061 supporters have signed a petition on change.org and need about 20,000 more. They have been sending these, along with tweets and letters, to Jason Kenney, the Minister of Employment, Social Development & Multiculturalism.
To see why people are so outraged by this, let’s take a recent tour as an example. Ghost, a Swedish band, toured Canada and the United States in April and May of 2013 to support their latest album. In total, Ghost played seven shows in Canada on this tour, right before the changes took effect.
The band has 5 musicians, and I remember counting 3 personnel to assist with sounds, lights and gear.
This would mean that to play in Calgary at the show I saw, Ghost, on top of regular touring expenses, would have to pay $1200 just to play in town. The Republik, to host the band, would pay $2200. If a group, not discouraged by these fees, came anyway, then chances are that they would be playing to no one: the costs would be passed on to concert goers via ticket prices.
The new total costs for this show would now be $3400. Say Ghos came again in October, for the whole tour, Ghost and venues would pay $238,000 more to do the same seven shows again.
Indeed, the new rules are a double shakedown of artists and promoters, but in the end, Canadian consumers lose out.