Canadian government deals heavy blow to small clubs
Though it managed to stay almost completely off the musical radar, month-old laws in Canada are making it almost impossible for small clubs to bring in acts from outside of the country. New fees for work visas went into effect on July 31, and many club owners are now facing the reality that the costs of bringing a band across the border could be twice or three times their total take from the evening.
The new laws require the clubs to pay a $275 application fee for EACH musician in the band, as well as the same price for management and road crew that may come along with the group in question. This is a massive shift from the old laws, which cost only $150 per band member, but had a maximum cost of $450. The new laws completely lift the maximum cost caveat. There is also a rather suspect clause that basically says that the government can refuse the work permit for any reason, and if they do, the money the venue put up is not refundable.
Obviously, anyone who has ever worked with a band or been in one knows that these costs are aside from any advertising, equipment rental, or the expenses for in-house staff, and it is estimated that for an average four-member band, venues will have to shell out about $1,700 just to cover the costs of the group. When you consider that smaller venues have lower prices and smaller capacity, the formula gets very ugly very fast.
It is true that the laws in question were not created for or aimed at smaller clubs, as their overall intent was to impact the wider spectrum of temporary foreign workers, and the Canadian government has stated that it helps to take such costs off of taxpayers.
Government representatives also made the point that the new costs do NOT apply to foreign acts playing festival dates or bands doing a multi-city tour, but there is a catch with the former instance, as bands playing festivals are not permitted to play smaller shows on the same work permit. In other words, when a band comes to play that festival set, they cannot do a “surprise show” or special show of any sort without the venue having to incur these rather steep charges.
Supporters of the change state that it was a move to encourage Canadians to hire local workers as opposed to out-sourcing, and while few will argue against that concept, due to the completely unique nature of any band, clearly the rule does not fit, and these new laws will likely end up doing massive damage to smaller clubs and the overall music scene within the country.
Image: Sarah Ellen Hughes