BREAKING NEWS: Proof that the sky isn’t falling on touring musicians in Canada

“As of 11:22 PM August 28, 2013, the Change.org petition has 32,883 supporters. I bet not one of them read the government press release.” Angela R Campbell, OhJustEatIt.ca

The reason I started this blog in the first place was because I realized there were a lot of really great Canadian musicians gigging in Toronto…FOR FREE. It was great for me, a single mother who couldn’t afford concerts. I didn’t like going to bars at first, but once I realized the music was good and the bars are actually really decent in this city, I rather enjoyed getting out. I made a game of it. It was like music roulette…would tonight’s band or bands be good or bad?

I started to treat it like research. I’ve always enjoyed sociology and musicians are a true subculture. They actually amaze me. They work really hard, no one appreciates them, no one pays them and they say they do it for the love of music.

Today this observation of this subculture took a new turn. There was an article written by Mike Bell in the Calgary Herald called “New fees for international touring musicians threaten smaller clubs and live venues across Canada

Mike Bell based the whole article on what he was told by Spencer Brown, “the longtime booker” at the Palomino bar in Calgary. Musicians across the country started to share the article and freak! What, no more American bands to open for? How will we cope without them? Instantly an online petition went up on Change.org with the headline
Canadian Government to Charge International Touring Artists $425 per Band Member per Performance in Canada, Previously A 1 Time $150 Fee”.

Okay. I know this stuff is emotional. People react first and think later.

What the government had to say for themselves

I don’t like to take my facts solely on the word of a “booker”, so I requested a statement from the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada. This is what I got from the kind Alexandra Fortier, spokesperson:

Hey Angela,

Here is a link to our News Release from the 7th of August announcing further improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program:
http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?nid=762059

For your question, the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) rules have not changed – it has long been the case that booking agents, promoters, and venue owners are required to obtain an LMO to hire international artists to perform in bars and restaurants in Canada.

The LMO fee simply covers the cost of processing LMO applications. Previously, Canadians taxpayers were footing the entire cost of processing these applications. Since June, employers that require an LMO cover the cost of processing.

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and other primary agricultural occupations are not required to pay the LMO fee as there are proven acute labour shortages in this industry and the unfilled jobs are truly temporary.

Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) are designed to ensure that employers look to hire Canadians first before hiring temporary foreign workers.

When international artists are being booked by a promoter or booking agent to play at several bar and/or restaurant venues across Canada, they are only required to pay the LMO fee once.

Thanks,

Alexandra

Believe it or not, your favourite foreign touring bands are actually temporary foreign workers. They are actually competing against Canadian bands for paying jobs. Do you realize if a Canadian band could make enough money playing gigs in Canada, they could actually make enough to pay their taxes? Isn’t that something to aim for?

Some points to note about this:

a) “Previously, there was no cost for employers to apply for an LMO.
Employers are required to pay a $275 fee for each temporary foreign worker position they request through an LMO. This ensures that the administrative costs of the program are paid by employers and are no longer subsidized by taxpayers. The amount of the fee has been determined so as to minimize the cost to taxpayers while ensuring that the fee does not exceed the cost of providing the service. It is Government of Canada policy that employers not recover the fee from temporary foreign workers.”

Musicians are tax payers, are they not? Do Canadian musicians want to pay for venues to bring in acts that take their gigs away?

b) “Employers will now need to make greater efforts to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply to hire temporary foreign workers. New advertising requirements essentially double the length and reach of employers’ advertising efforts which will increase Canadians’ awareness of available jobs.”

And this is a problem for Canadian bands because…?

I was sad to hear from some musicians that they were concerned about who they would OPEN for if American bands wouldn’t be gigging in Canada. I wonder if they’ve ever thought about being the headline act? Dream big guys. You can do it.

On the other hand, some musicians just really love the international community and are concerned that venues won’t be inviting their buddies back to play with them. I can understand this sentiment.

I’ll leave you with some comments I found on Facebook on the issue. I hope next time, everyone will do their homework before melting down on a national level.

You musicians are a weird bunch. Thanks for the entertainment. I love you guys!

“We love America, their bands, their people and their venues. We love bands from many other countries, as well. We want THEM to come HERE more often, so we can drink, play shows and have an awesome time making new friends.

This prohibitive policy has quietly come into play, making it harder for all international musicians to play in Canada. Please help preserve the free cultural exchange we’ve had and cherished for so long, and email Jason Kenney @ jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca to let him know how misguided this is.” PUP, Toronto Punk band (posted a link to Calgary Herald)

 

“We’ve never been a political band of any kind, but this has some merit. I urge you to take a look if you care about the Canadian music scene (as a whole). #xox” Final Thought, Toronto Pop/Rock band (posted a link to Change.org)

 

“Attention all bands/music fans/promoters/venues/booking agents etc, we all need your help to sign this petition. At the moment it’s hard as it is for international touring artists to get by and this will significantly make it harder. Please help show your support to the music community:” Polarity, Toronto Rock/Progressive/Alternative band (posted a link to Change.org)

As of 11:22 PM August 28, 2013, the Change.org petition has 32,883 supporters. I bet not one of them read the government press release.