Outrage over steep touring tax for international musicians playing in Canada

Dec 19 2017, 4:15 pm

The federal government has put up a major barrier for international musicians and artists through changes to the federally mandated Temporary Foreign Workers program. The new fees to bring in international artists have exponentially increased and will likely make it too expensive for many up and coming international acts and their touring staff to play in Canada.

The fees were quietly hiked by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government on July 31, which will require each small entertainment and live music venue to pay a non-refundable $275 application fee for each “foreign” musician, crew member and entourage touring with the band (tour manager, guitar tech, sound person, wardrobe, etc.). In addition to the new $275 fee, an additional $150 work permit fee must also be paid for these musicians and crew members.

Altogether, these new fees mean each small venue must now pay $425 in federal fees per international artist and crew member. If their application is rejected, their money will not be returned and they will be required to pay the fees again should they choose to reapply.

Under the previous system, the fee was just $150 for each band member to a maximum of $450 for the entire band. It was also a one-time fee for entering and working in Canada, where they could play at any venue. These one-time fees under the old system could also be split between the venues where the artists are playing.

The steep new fees particularly hurt small live entertainment venues like restaurants, bars and clubs, where bringing in a six-person band with a four-member crew could cost each small venue an excess of $4,000 in federally mandated fees per show. This is in addition to the performance fees that musicians and artists regularly charge for their time. These are not costs that most small businesses can afford.

Simply put, this means it will be cost prohibitive for small live entertainment venues to bring in such international acts, particularly indie and jazz musicians from the United States. Small venue owners and their event planners and promoters can increase cover charges and ticket prices exponentially to account for the steep new “touring tax”, but it is unlikely patrons will be willing to pay for such high costs given that profits margins as is are already thin.

Small live entertainment venues could see a significant decline in attendance numbers and revenue if they are continuously forced to turn away talented international performers merely because of the prohibitive costs.

Against mounting criticism and public opposition, federal employment, social development and multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney has defended the new fees, arguing it saves the federal government money. He claims the changes shift the cost of administering the applications from the taxpayer to the employer and ticket holder.

Kenney also argues that it will give Canadian artists and bands better more opportunities to perform at venues. As well, an exception exists for touring international musicians that are performing several tour dates (such as Jay Z and Justin Timberlake’s “Legends of Summer” at BC Place Stadium) or musicians performing at festivals (such as Squamish Festival).

Up and coming Canadian artists often appreciate the opportunities to perform with international artists as a means of giving them more exposure. As well, international musicians often boost the Canadian economy with the many additional events they create at venues. Their presence also provides inspiration for Canadian youth to pursue music and creates more opportunities for local arts and the sharing of culture and ideas.

However, in a matter of months, the impact of the fees will be telling and could soon prove to create the opposite intended effect when musicians stop crossing into Canada to perform restaurants, bars and clubs.

Forget “No-Fun-City.” Can you say “No-Fun-Country”?


Sign the petition to repeal the $425 touring tax

To date, nearly 110,000 people have signed the petition for the federal government to repeal the $425 fee per international artist and crew member at each venue performed.

Click here to sign the petition.

Be sure to also share this article and petition with your friends and to also contact your local Member of Parliament.

The petition reads:

…Today we take a stand for the development of culture and performance arts. The implications of allowing such additional fees will hinder the potential for talented international artists whom simply aim to perform for their fans and expand their recognition. This new regulation will impact fans of all music from electronic to punk to jazz.

Canada’s introduction of such a fee should not be taken lightly, nor excused. The development of our culture on a global scale and the opportunity to invite talents from beyond our borders is something to be cherished and appreciated, not taxed in such a way that will only discourage Canadian talent buyers from welcoming international talent.

With this inflation of upfront fees associated to bringing an international artist to Canada, the government is taking a clear stance of desired control over a culture that blossoms with freedom and deserve support rather than increased financial responsibility.

Sign your name to this petition and share it with those whom you feel will also stand behind challenging such a greedy and unmerited demand that will strangle local small businesses and those attempting to welcome international talent to Canada, growing our cultural diversity and global notoriety.

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Featured image: Iwona Kellie

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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