It’s already hard enough for bands and musicians to cross the border into Canada to play (just ask Warbeast), but a new law that went into effect on July 31st might make it harder for venues to book non-Canadian acts – four times harder, in fact. We should probably back up a bit. According to the Calgary Herald, the new regulations require that any venue with a primary business other than music, but which books bands or performers, must pay an application fee of $275/musician and those traveling with the band when it applies for an LMO (Labour Market Opinion) to allow them to perform in their establishment. That’s in addition to an extra $150 for each approved musician and crew member’s work permit. Before the 31st, it only cost $150/band member, maxing out at $450.
That won’t have too much of an effect on touring musicians that play larger venues, but for any bands that play at bars, restaurants or coffee shops, it could get extremely expensive very quickly, and could have a chilling effect on the concert industry in Canada. Spencer Brown, who books Calgary’s The Palomino, was caught by surprise by the regulations.
“If I have a one four-member American band at the Palomino, 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,” Brown says, explaining there have been tweaks to the LMO in the past, but nothing this drastic or, in his eyes, damaging. 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.”
The government officials overseeing the new regulations denied that smaller clubs were being targeted. They claim there are exemptions, like “musicians in a band performing several tour dates in Canada” and “musicians and buskers coming to Canada to perform in festivals.” But even then, they state that those artists must not perform in bars and restaurants.
“They are targeting the little guy, they’re targeting small venues, they’re targeting small business,” Brown says. “So, me, as the promoter at The Palomino, which will hold 200 people at the best of times, is paying out $425 per band member whereas a guy from a huge promotions company putting on a 20,000-seater for Elton John in the stadium is tax free… Me bringing in (American act) Redd Kross (Aug. 31) is not going to devastate Calgary’s garage rock scene. It’s not going to put anyone out of work. It’s going to inspire people to pick up a guitar and put out an album. The same thing when we bring in Orange Goblin from the U.K. in October, it’s not going to destroy the city’s stoner metal scene.
A Canadian booker interviewed for the article says she’s already seen one tour canceled as a result of the new laws. The long-term result of this is that there may be a lot fewer international acts playing Canada, and bands playing smaller venues in the country might find themselves crossing Canadian dates off their schedule.