International touring fees hurt Canadian music scene

Smaller bands and venues hit hard by new regulations

Seamus Hamilton-Pattison

Touring is a risky venture for any independent or smaller band or artist. The financial rigmarole required to book venues across a country, take time away from one’s day job, and then fill a van with gas to make the whole venture possible can be quite daunting for any band financing their art out of their own pockets.

Touring internationally presents yet another monetary hurdle to clear. For an international band to enter and tour Canada, any venue with a secondary purpose alongside music (i.e. bars, restaurants, etc.), was previously obligated to pay a one-time $150 application fee per band member for the band they were booking to enter the country. Once upon a time, this was not a huge issue as all venues booking the band were allowed to either share the cost or let the first venue pay it and book subsequent Canadian dates without this extra cost factored in.

However, a large, unprecedented hike in these fees is beginning to make booking shows in Canada much more arduous for international artists, and is certain to hit small venues and their owners in a major way.

On July 31, this application fee was drastically increased to include a $275 fee charged per musician and anyone travelling with the band, (instrument techs, band manager, etc.) that must be paid not once, but now by any single venue that wishes to book a band from outside of Canada. This $275 fee is in addition to the aforementioned $150 fee, which results in small venues being forced to pay out $425 for each musician/tour personnel whenever they wish to book a show featuring a band from somewhere that could be as close as the United States.

Countless small venues across Canada could be hit with over $1,000 in fees (assuming the majority of the bands booked are more than a two-piece outfit) right off the bat without even factoring in the inevitable costs of promotion, hiring sound technicians, staffing the event, and paying other bands on the bill.

As these new fees have clearly made breaking even after a show a daunting task, small venues will be naturally less inclined to book touring bands from the U.S. and abroad for fear of running the whole night at a loss. Consequently, the venue will suffer a loss of revenue if they can’t put on that show, and the band in question will likely throw the brakes on their foray into Canada simply due to an inability to get booked.

Finally and most perplexing, this policy does not even apply to every venue. Only venues that run a separate business alongside music and live events are subject to this drastic hike. For example, a small bar such as Winnipeg’s own Cavern would be subject to this policy, but a large venue dedicated solely to live performances such as the MTS Centre would not. In short, if a small venue chooses to or must provide additional services in order to be financially viable, we just added hundreds of dollars to their overhead simply because they wanted to bring some talent in from across the border.

Growing up in a country that has always retained immense pride in our wonderfully diverse, thriving arts scenes from city to city, it’s confusing and frustrating to see such an ill-conceived, exclusionary policy thrust upon the whole of Canada.

Please take this to heart and sign the petition entitled “Canadian Government: Don’t ruin live music with $425.00 charge per international artist per performance in Canada” located on, in hopes that our government will realize the ire this policy has rightfully stirred in artists, venues, and just regular folk who want their city’s music scene to keep growing and thriving.

1 Comment on "International touring fees hurt Canadian music scene"

  1. Hi Seamus!
    actually, the fee is a one time payment that can be paid upon entering canada, or at an office near the first venue (although there’s a 48 hour processing fee). The only difference is that the canadian tax payer is no longer subsidizing the fee. So we may seem less friendly and stoked about culture by throwing the fee back at the international artists but the silver lining might be that touring canada would become a slightly greater investment, encouraging international bands to travel through more towns that normally wouldn’t be worth the stop (winnipeg?). However, I doubt that it will make much of a difference because it hardly outweighs the long and expensive drives.
    just wanted to clarify before we scare everyone away!
    you can find a whole bunch of info about the fees on both the cfm and afm websites.

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