Clubs Irked Over Canadian Fees

A new fee for temporary foreign workers (including musicians) in Canada is creating discord in the concert business.

Agents and promoters who bring international artists and acts into the country to perform will now pay hundreds of dollars in fees for each foreign musician and crew member, thanks to regulations that took effect July 31.

The fees could deliver a big blow to club-level concert business up north.

Previously, the Canadian government sought $150 per band member and capped out at $450 per foreign band. New fees amount to $275 per performer in addition to an existing $150 for each approved foreign work permit. Spencer Brown, who books talent for Calgary’s Palomino Smokehouse, told the Calgary Herald the regulations are “targeting the little guy, they’re targeting small venues, they’re targeting small business.”

“If I have 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,” he said. “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.”

Canadian officials have defended the increase, claiming the fees ensure that “the cost to process employer [Labour Market Opinion] applications is no longer paid for by Canadian taxpayers.”

“There is no fee that discriminates against musicians,” Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney wrote on Twitter. “All LMOs required for temporary foreign workers have cost recover fee.”

But there are some exceptions to the rules that appear to specifically target small acts appearing in one-off club gigs.

Government officials told the Herald “musicians in a band performing several tour dates in Canada” and “musicians and buskers coming to Canada to perform in festivals” will be exempt from the fee, as long as they don’t perform in bars and restaurants.

Larger music-specific venues will also be exempt, the paper said, leaving smaller venues seeing red.

“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,” Brown added.

The new rule has spurred a petition on from Carlyle Doherty, the founder of Canadian music industry website

“I’ve worked in the music industry in Canada for several years and am outraged that the government has taken steps which will hurt musicians, venues, fans, and others in the industry,” he wrote in his petition. “This new fee is required to be paid by talent buyers in Canada when aiming to host an international touring artist, and it will inevitably cripple small music venues and small business talent buyers.”

The document had secured more than 108,400 signatures at press time. Singer Sebastian Bach and rock band Kittie have made public their support for the petition.