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What do the new tariffs placed on touring musicians by Canada\'s Government mean for the DJ community?

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What do the new tariffs placed on touring musicians by Canada's Government mean for the DJ community?

The online music community awoke this week to news that the Canadian government had passed through an amendment to existing regulations incurring additional charges to foreign workers, temporarily visiting the country. This will have a devastating impact on the electronic music community, by adding additional tariffs to the already inflated costs of securing the services of international DJs and acts.

“Small venues will never be able to hire the foreign talent that the Canadian public deserves and demands to hear,” claims Canadian DJ and label owner, Mike Shannon. According to The Calgary Herald, the amendment, which was passed late last month, ‘will double, triple or even quadruple the cost of bringing in international artists to perform in bars, restaurants or coffee shops.’

The Herald reports that;

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

The implementations have caused a huge-online backlash. There is currently an online petition founded by music industry veteran Carlyle Doherty, demanding the laws be receded, fearing that that the implementations will have a huge, negative impact on the country’s music scene. The petition, which targets Jason Kenney, the Canadian Minister of Employment, claims that ‘the government is taking a clear stance of desired control over a culture that blossoms with freedom and deserves support rather than increased financial responsibility.’

"I really hope we
can change

Kenney when asked about the new implementations on his Twitter account, responded with the following;

‘There is no fee that discriminates against musicians. All LMOs required for temporary foreign workers have cost recover fee. Until now, the $275 cost of processing LMOs [Labour Market Opinion’ a pre-approval permit allowing you to employ those from other countries] was paid for by taxpayers. Now, businesses applying will pay the cost, not taxpayers.’

The law however has some exceptions, which would moderate the impact on the DJ booking sector, as the National Post points out after interviewing the Employment and Social Development Canada and Citizenship agency.

‘They’re also quick to point out there are exemptions, which, for music venues, includes “musicians in a band performing several tour dates in Canada” and “musicians and buskers coming to Canada to perform in festivals,” with the one major caveat being that they “must not perform in bars and restaurants.”’

This, the National Post points out, puts smaller bookers and promoters in a far worse position as they are less likely to have the bigger budgets to compensate for this, as oppose to festivals and larger venues.

"This the problem to me,
who decides what
is exempt...?"

Nathan Zahn is the Director of MEME, Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition in Winnipeg and has bringing international artists to Winnpeg for over 15 years now. This year the festival played host to Noah Pred, Deepchild, Funk d’Void, as well as others. “The new LMO fees make it even more difficult to do these shows,” Zahn answered when asked his opinions about the new tariffs. “There is a real value in being able to book international acts and have our local artists open up or play alongside them. This creates awareness about our local scene in other countries often leading to gig opportunities for our local artists.”

“My main concern is that there is still a strange distinction between ‘festivals,’ ‘performing art venues’ and ‘bars & clubs.’ How does this program distinguish between types of events and venues where some are exempt from the LMO fee and some aren't?” Although the venues he uses for the festival appear to be exempt from the new tariffs, the regular shows he books throughout the rest of the year appear at hand, not to be. “When I host smaller events during the year in other venues sometimes they are not exempt just because they are a ‘regular’ bar or club.  This is the problem to me, who decides what is exempt?  This seems arbitrary at best.”

"The visa responsibility
means the costs for the
promoter has

When contacted, Miro Weisner who runs the US based DJ booking agency, Surefire Productions, had this to say: "Bottom line is that this hike makes it near impossible for a lot of people supporting new, or niche or underground music to be able to afford to present shows. Most of our acts range between $1000 and $3000 landed in fees (travel inclusive.)  The visa responsibility means the costs for the promoter has tripled and it will drastically affect the take home of the musicians."

"It's just another way
that the Steven Harper
Right wing Government
is ruining the

Mike Shannon who now lives in Berlin, Germany, feels the new implementations are indicative of Canada’s conservative Government. “It's just another way that the Steven Harper Right wing Government is ruining the country. What a horrible place that Canada is becoming, I really hope we can change things and get things back to the way they used to be.”

Those within the DJ community, whether in Canada or not, will be well aware of the high costs and risks involved with booking underground talent, especially if especially when it involves long distance flights. Any additional barriers to such activities will have a profoundly adverse effect on the scene, although a better degree of transparency is required by Harper’s government to highlight why such tariff increases have been imposed.

     - This article was edited at 10.10 on September 4th to amend comments made by Surefire Productions.