As a country that’s characterised as ‘small population, big landmass’, it eventually becomes the priority of every Aussie touring band to get that ever-crucial international exposure and in turn, overseas touring.
While Australia has always been hospitable in hosting international bands – in fact, a good chunk of the local industry revolves around promoters bringing out big name internationals for money-spinning tours – in the case of Canada – not so much.
Canada has introduced strict new laws that have increased fees for international bands who wish to tour across the country, up to as much as $425 per band member at each venue they play, as part of legislation enforced by the Ministry of Employment, Social Development & Multiculturalism, as the Calgary Herald reports.
Where previously, touring artists paid a one-off fee of $150 to enter the country to perform, the new regulations – which became effective as of Wednesday 31st July – now sees any venue whose primary income is not from music (re: bars and clubs that serve alcohol who “happen” to book bands) charging a $275 application fee per band member and for their crew (eg. managers, publicists, roadies and so on), and an additional $150 for a work permit for each member. Worse still these application fees are non-refundable fee, meaning another payment upon re-submission.
To illustrate the ridiculous costs of touring, if one of Canada’s own musical successes – the Grammy-winning Arcade Fire – were to hypothetically tour their own country as foreigners, the eight-member strong lineup would be staring down the barrel of $3,400 per show, and that’s before even considering finances for their road crew and live team. If Arcade Fire were to hypothetically tour their own country as foreigners, the eight-member strong lineup would be staring down the barrel of 3,400 dollars per show
The impact and implications on international touring artists has already been felt by an Australian band, as TheMusic points out. Sydney metalcore five-piece Northlane, who toured Canada at the tail-end of 2012, and actually recorded part of their breakout sophomore album Singularity in the country while on the road, has urged their fans to fight the excessive new Canadian touring fees.
Under the new laws, the Soundwave Festival alumni and forthcoming Big Day Out 2014 act would be forced to fork over $2,125 per Canadian gig, just for its five band members alone before accounting for costs for their crew.
“Canadians, sign this petition if you want us to be able to play for you again, and most other international bands too for that matter,” write the band on their Facebook page, which has over 99,000 ‘likes’, referring to a page set up through online petition platform Change.org opposing the new laws, which has already reached over 26,000 signatures from people seeking the removal of the hefty new fees.
It’s not just non-Canadians that are outraged by the Ministry of Employment, Social Development & Multiculturalism’s new legislation. “If I have a four-member American band, I’m looking at $1,700 Canadian just to get them on the bill, and that’s on top of paying out a sound tech, paying for posters, gear rental, paying the other bands, staffing,” Spencer Brown, booker for Calgary live music venue The Palomino stresses to the Calgary Herald.
“Concert promotion at this level is, in itself, a high-risk occupation. So this has just put it through the roof. There’s no way to start already $1,700 in the hole and break even. It’s impossible,” he adds.
Brown represents the mid-level concert industry’s concerns that the new fees, which were introduced with “no consultation [and] no warning,” are “anti-arts and culture.” Bullying smaller bars, pubs, and clubs into booking local acts and Canadian artists as an extreme form of nationalism. A statement from Citizenship and Immigration Canada argues that the new rules will “ensure that owners and managers of those types of establishments look to hire Canadians fire before hiring temporary foreign workers.”
There are exemptions to the increased $425 per musician and crew member fee, namely for “musicians and buskers coming to Canada to perform in festivals,” reads the Citizenship and Immigration Canada statement, but emphasises “they must not perform in bars and restaurants;” which translates to ‘no sideshows, no ifs or buts’.
To read the petition against the new Canadian laws head here.