Sorting Out This New Fee on Foreign Musicians Touring through Canada

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There is plenty of wailing — justified, in my opinion — but a new government fee that slaps a new fee on foreign musicians who want to tour through Canada.  Coverage has been global — and none of it puts Canada in a very good light.

But there’s also a lot of confusion.  What’s this all about?  Let’s try and break it down.

1.  Any Canadian business–ANY business–has always had to pay a $150 processing fee when international workers are hired.  This is called a Labour Market Opinion (LMO).  This fee has been in place for years for all foreign workers.  One $150 charge covers each member of the band and each member of the crew.  It’s a one-time charge.

2.  A new fee of $275 is now been enacted.  This fee has to be paid for every single gig the foreign artist and crew plans to play in Canada.  This is in addition to the old fee of $150.  That would make things cost-prohibitive for many artists.

3.  In the past, a four-piece band could come into Canada to play, say, five gigs, for a cost of $450 (that was the maximum cap).  Under the new rules, that same five gig tour will cost $1,550.

4. HOWEVER, there are plenty of exemptions.  Bands coming into play music festivals, large venues like arenas and clubs dedicated solely to music will not have to pay.

5. If a single Canadian promoter brings in a foreign band to play a series of shows, chances are they’d end up playing at least a couple of dedicated music clubs. No charge for that. But if they play a club where the LMO rule is in effect, they–i.e. the promoter–would have to pay the fee just once.

6. In the case of American bands, there’s another loophole.  If the musicians are members of the American Federation of Musicians, they’re also exempt from the fee because of previously negotiated agreements under cultural exchange programs.

Confused?  I don’t blame you.

Bottom line is that this new fee won’t be as big a deal as it seems on the surface.  BUT:

–The confusion could keep foreign artists out, even when they won’t be affected by the new fee structure.

–It still send the wrong message.  Canada doesn’t seem very open for business when it comes to music, does it?  To me, it screams “FOREIGNERS! KEEP OUT!” I thought we were a multi-cultural society that welcomed new forms of expression from other people.

–The government says this new fee does is ensure that Canadian artists (i.e. LMO exempt performances) get booked over foreign ones.  This, they say, will “save jobs.”  In other words, it’s protectionist bullshit.  Does the government think that our artists can’t compete?  Or that Canadian music fans won’t willingly support Canadian artists?

–The government also says that this fee has always been necessary, but up until now has been paid for out of taxpayer revenue.  They’re merely passing on the costs to the music consumer and away from the ordinary taxpayer.

–The government’s response is that this is a “fair and generous” arrangement when compared to what Canadian artists have to do before entering other countries.

Help me with this one.  What am I missing? Are my calculations wrong? Have I misinterpreted something?

And if you feel strongly that we’re getting hosed by this, sign the petition to repeal the fee.

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