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New fed rules impose steep fees for hosting shows

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http://o.canada.com/2013/08/28/new-fees-touring-musicians/

Booking some touring musicians is now more than twice as expensive for small venues.

New federal rules impose steep fees for hosting shows, but only for the little guys.

Many bar owners, booking agents and promoters are bemoaning changes to federal regulations governing foreign workers entering Canada that will see them hit with heavier financial burdens.

The new rules, which quietly came into effect July 31, will double, triple or even quadruple the cost of bringing in international artists to perform in venues such as pubs, restaurants and night clubs whose main business is not entertainment.

And Vancouver venues like The Portside Pub in Gastown are stepping back to figure out how it will affect them.

The regulations require that any venue with a primary business other than music but that also books bands or performers must now pay an application fee of $275 per musician and those travelling with the band — such as tour managers, sound persons and guitar techs — when it applies for a Labour Market Opinion, or LMO, which allows those outside workers to perform and work in their establishment. That’s in addition to an extra $150 for each approved musician and crew member’s work permit.

Before the changes, the fee was simply $150 per band member, maxing out at $450, and that was a one-time fee for them to simply enter the country, which allowed venue owners across Canada to share the nominal cost or book them separately at no extra charge.

News of the change is just beginning to circulate through Vancouver’s music scene, where bookers and promoters are trying to figure out how much it will affect them.

Club owner and event promoter Blueprint Events has been paying the application fee to bring in six DJ acts since the beginning of August. Company principal Alvaro Prol estimated it could cost the company $70,000 to $100,000 over a year to continue booking events with the popular acts that he needs to.

“It might even cost us a resource, somebody might lose their job here,†Prol said.

Blueprint owns five Vancouver clubs — Shine in Gastown, The Caprice, Venue and LED Bar on Granville and Celebrities on Davie Street. Only one, Venue, has an exemption from the fee as a business that is primarily entertainment.

The company books 250 to 300 events per year — many at venues outside of their own — and Prol said he will wind up paying the application fee for the talent associated with about 80 per cent of them.

Prol said the $275 application fee is “a huge tariff to pay when you’re already paying $150 for a work permit.†Since it is paid per person, it can add up quickly.

“Sometimes, as a promoter, you’re trying to make a 15-per-cent profit and (with the fee), on a $2,500 act, you’ve added over 10 per cent,†he said. “The smaller the club, the more difficult.â€

For bigger venues, Prol added that the shows don’t involve a single DJ, they can come with an entourage of eight to 10 with managers, lighting technicians and other experts. He worries that absorbing the cost of the application fee means Blueprint won’t be able to pay as much to attract acts, which will make his clubs less competitive.

Prol hasn’t taken steps to lobby for a change yet, but he’s hoping the government can be convinced to find another way to operate the program that doesn’t cost at much. One thing he doesn’t understand is why the cost is $275 per person.

“The economy is not good in any sense, the last thing we need to do is make it any tighter,†he added.

At Gastown’s Portside Pub, band booker Ash MacLeod said the venue will have to reconsider its plans for the fall to bring in a few American bands to supplement their entertainment program, which is mostly local music.

June was the last time he brought in a U.S. act — King Dude from Seattle — and it wasn’t difficult to absorb the fees as “the cost of doing business.â€

“For shows like this, our margins are already pretty thin, and looking at some of the statistics (with the application fee), it’s absolutely prohibitive,†MacLeod said. “The margin is gone.â€

MacLeod added that Portside won’t have difficulty replacing American acts that it might like to book with Canadian bands, but being able to book whoever they want helps make them more diverse.

And MacLeod sensed some irony in that while smaller, non-music venues are stuck paying the application fee, big ones such as Rogers Arena that would better be able to absorb such fees in ticket prices over thousands of seats, are exempt.

“It seems a little backward,†MacLeod said.

The fee prompted music fan Carlyle Doherty to start an online petition on Change.org calling on Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenny to cancel the fee, which had attracted 16,940 signatures by late Wednesday afternoon.

In Calgary, Spencer Brown, the longtime booker for downtown venue The Palomino was surprised by the changes, saying there was “no consultation, no warning, nothing of the sort,†and only learned of them when an agency he works with “called him in a panic†at the beginning of the month in regards to an upcoming show.

He calls the new regulations, which Kenney announced on Aug. 7, “anti arts and culture†and “anti small business.â€

“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 said.

For their part, the government agencies overseeing the new initiatives — Employment and Social Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada — deny that small clubs or even music in general is being targeted.

In emailed responses to the Postmedia News, officials note that the rules — which they say were created with advance consultation from a “wide range of stakeholders across the country†— “apply to all aspects of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, except primary agriculture.†That includes the new fee, which “ensures the administrative costs of the program are paid by employers†— who can’t recover the fee from the workers — “and no longer subsidized by taxpayers.â€

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I'm not sure if these petitions do any good at all, but they certainly can't hurt:

http://www.change.org/petitions/canadian-government-to-charge-international-touring-artists-425-per-band-member-per-performance-in-canada-previously-a-1-time-150-fee?utm_campaign=new_signature&utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt#share

From yesterday morning until this morning the # of signatures has exploded from 5000 to over 50,000.

You know what to do.

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I'm not sure if these petitions do any good at all, but they certainly can't hurt:

http://www.change.org/petitions/canadian-government-to-charge-international-touring-artists-425-per-band-member-per-performance-in-canada-previously-a-1-time-150-fee?utm_campaign=new_signature&utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt#share

From yesterday morning until this morning the # of signatures has exploded from 5000 to over 50,000.

You know what to do.

I'm not sure how effective these are either, but one thing I know is the Harper gov't records all the emails and names of folks who sign these and uses them to send partisan notices out - as I learned after signing one a couple years ago addressed to Vic Toews and received 4 emails from his offices promoting the economic action plan and touting the conservatives tough on crime crap.

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OTTAWA - Ottawa has effectively eliminated a fee charged to international musicians that critics complained was deterring acts from abroad from playing in Canadian bars, pubs and restaurants.

The removal of a work permit requirement for foreign musical acts, part of the government's overhaul of the controversial temporary foreign worker program, went largely unnoticed amid a spate of other measures announced last week.

Last summer, in their zeal to start cracking down on temporary foreign workers in the face of mounting criticism, the Conservatives added a $275 processing fee on top of a $150 work permit for each member of a musical act from outside the country who were hired to play small Canadian venues.

The government said at the time the fees were aimed at helping to cover the costs of determining whether a Canadian should be hired instead of a temporary foreign worker in the music sector.

Larger venues and concert halls were exempt from the new fee, leading to criticism that the measure unfairly penalized small businesses.

NDP MP Andrew Cash, a longtime musician who was harshly critical of the move, had faint praise for the Tories on Wednesday.

"They corrected something incredibly dumb that they shouldn't have implemented in the first place," he said.

"The music sector wasn't abusing the temporary foreign worker program, and there was no consultation in advance of the government's decision," he said. "There was no one asking for it, in fact."

The Canadian music industry has praised the Tories this week for doing away with what had been dubbed the "tour tax."

Alexis Pavlich, spokesman for Citizen and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said the government decided to scrap the regulation as a matter of fairness.

"While the previous regulation was meant to protect opportunities for Canadian performers, it often had the opposite effect," she said in an email late Wednesday.

The easing of the rules "will ensure that Canadian performing artists have the opportunity to expand their audience by performing with well-known international acts."

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Absolutely. It isn't often that you see something undone so quickly. Even when it is apparent that the initial logic was flawed. Many thanks to the stars that aligned for this reversal to take place!!!

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