New fee for musicians visiting Canada could hurt small concert venues
On July 31, Canada passed a law saying "employers" would have to pay a $275 fee for each member of foreign bands that play in their venue. Before, this fee fell to the taxpayers. Foreign musicians that want to play in any Canadian bar, club, or restaurant have to apply for a work permit, which costs $150, but now with this $275 fee, foreign bands may stop coming to Canada to play. The cost could quickly add up since the $275 fee is per musician. There is much controversy surrounding this new law. Some Canadians say it's beneficial because it allows Canadian artists the first chance at jobs; while, others feel the opposite. Many club owners and others feel that this fee will kill the music scene in Canada. Groups that play at the Air Canada Centre or the Rogers Centre are exempt from this fee because these are considered concert venues.
I was shocked to read this article. I had never thought music-making could cause such a stir and be governed by such fees and restrictions. I think one of the greatest things about music is its dynamism. To me, this means allowing free access to music and sharing it with various peoples. In the article, one opposer of the new law says this new move is "trying to shut the door on culture, which makes us unique and sets us apart from every other country." I think he's right. Many young people these days flock to small venues to hear new and/or upcoming artists from all over the globe! This fee does make it more difficult for bands who want to tour Canada to showcase their musical talents.
On the other hand, I see the intention behind imposing these new fees. Canadian artists, as stated in the article, struggled to get jobs and were often beat out by their foreign counterparts. I can't imagine what it would be like to struggle to book a gig in your own country. This part of the discussion reminds me of the Blue Chicago readings. In the latter part of the book, we learn about reverse discrimination. Black artists were the ones always being booked in venues because of their "authenticity" even though white artists may have been just as good at blues music-making. It appears as though a similar thing was happening in Canada. Small venues sought out foreign bands to fill their calendars rather than local Canadian bands. Canadian artists struggled to book shows because "culture" was seen as only coming from foreign artists. This fee may provide Canadian artists with the first change at jobs; however, I'm uncertain this fee will really change the ratio of foreign bookings to local ones. Rather, the Canadian community may need to accept that "culture" comes in many different fashions, foreign or local.