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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Oh No, Canada: New Fees Make It Difficult for International Acts to Play Bars and Restaurants in Canada

On July 31, the Canadian government approved a new set of fees that may make it prohibitively expensive for international bands to play bars and restaurants in their country. Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment Social Development & Multiculturalism, announced the change on Aug. 7, but it’s taken a few weeks and a widely shared article by the Calgary Herald for talent buyers to get wind of the changes and to appreciate their effect on the music industry.

Now that the word is out, outraged music fans have been signing a petition against the fees by the thousands, claiming that “this will inevitably cripple small music venues and small business talent buyers.”

So what exactly are the costs and to whom do they apply? Well, if you’re U2 coming in to play a bunch of stadiums, you’re in luck. No fee for you. But if you’re an upstart act rolling in from the US looking to play coffee shops and bars—those venues may no longer be able to afford you.

Here’s how the cost breaks down. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), foreign performing artists can work in Canada without a permit only if they are not playing a bar or a restaurant. If you are playing a bar or restaurant, you need a permit, and that will cost $150 per band member.

Additionally, the bar/restaurant hosting your band must obtain a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) to support the work permit application. This is basically an assessment by the Canadian government on whether “the foreign worker” is “likely to have a positive or negative impact on the labor market in Canada.” The fee to process an LMO is a non-refundable $275 per musician and crewmember traveling with the band. As Spencer Brown, booker for Calgary Club The Palomino calculated in Calgary Herald, it would cost $1,700 (Canadian dollars) just to get a four-person American band on the bill at his bar. That’s quite the overhead cost for a small club with tight profit margins.

This new fee schedule applies across the board for all temporary foreign workers in Canada, with an exception made only for primary agriculture. There are also some exemptions for buskers and DJs — the little guy seems to be catching a tough break there. While many bars and restaurants may make their money off food and drink rather than ticket sales, it’s the exciting live music acts that get customers in the door. FMC hopes Kenney and Co. will reconsider the new regulations and extend the exceptions to non-traditional music venues as well.

Do you perform in Canada? Tell us what you think of these changes in the comments.