Feedback on new Canadian regulations for international touring bands: Is it as bad as we all feared?

Introduction By

Article compiled by EvilG and Celtic Bob

UPDATE June 27, 2014: The CDN Govt are canning this silly program! More here.

You may of heard of a petition called “Canadian Government: Don’t ruin live music with $425.00 charge per international artist per performance in Canada“. This means that any international band coming to Canada will have to pay these new fees depending on the type of venue they are performing in. We felt that we had to do our part to let people know about this and to hopefully clear up some of the confusion and fear mongering.

In compiling feedback, we contacted a number of promoters, booking companies, labels, and musicians. Some chose not to reply (if you would like to have your comments included contact us!), such as the petition’s founder, but the responses we did get are eye opening and show that it’s not a completely one sided issue. There are valid points being made on both sides of the argument.

As for the regulations, let’s take a quick minute to sum up what the new regulations mean.

Regulations Prior to July 31, 2013

  New Rules

  • $150 per band member

  • Maximum at $450

  • One time fee for artists to enter Canada

  • Allowed venue owners to share the cost

  • $275 per musician AND those traveling with the band

  • Fee applies for EVERY show at bars, restaurants, or any other
    venue not solely for live music performance

  • Concert halls/theatres and venues are exempt

So for a touring band of FIVE, with a small crew of say 3 people with them, that’s 8 people to account for. That’s a whopping $2200 lumped onto the cost depending on the venue of course! Promoters have to pay the bands, advertise, and depending on shows pay for many other things. So throwing this new higher fee into the mix will mean that when an international band is playing, the extra fees will most likely mean higher ticket fees. It may also result in fewer smaller bands touring into Canada.

On the flip side, it may mean more Canadian bands will get more work. It also means that the fees that Canadian musicians have faced for years for entering the USA will now apply to US bands coming into Canada, which some argue evens things out.

Below is the feedback we’ve obtained from several in the industry. Read it over and make up your own mind on what you think.

Change Petition page as of Sept 7th 2013
Change Petition page as of Sept 7th 2013


Noel Peters, Inertia Entertainment (Canada)

“It does not mean any international touring band coming to Canada will have to pay this fee. This has been overblown and blown way out of proportion. It is part of the Canadian Economic Action Plan 2013, Taking action to ensure that Canadians are given first chance at available jobs. This ruling on the foreign workers act not only affects musicians, others like live in caregivers, oil sands workers, agricultural workers are subject to this fee. Any industry where a temporary worker is brought in from a foreign land (these are the primary targets for this fee, not an indie band from Idaho).

This impacts businesses whose primary revenue stream is not Music. Bars and restaurants Not concert halls/theatres and venues.

The majority of artists who cross the border to perform in Canada are crossing to perform in dedicated music clubs and therefore this ruling does not apply to them.

And, for American artists, if they are members of the AFoM, this fee does not apply, due to agreements previously negotiated under the cultural exchange program.”


Brian Vollmer, Helix (Canada)

“All Brian Vollmer asks of you that are against these new fees is that you show the same indignation against the U.S. government for the same sledgehammer approach they’ve been using for years against Canadian musicians travelling to the States.   Tit for tat.   Level playing field, ya know?   The Harper government tried for years to take the diplomatic approach to solve the problem and the U.S. turned a deaf ear.  All you Harper haters out there should direct your venom first at the U.S. government. They started this pissing match.”


Jon Asher – Music Publicist | Asher Media (Canada)

“I can’t believe this country rather push to destroy the music culture then have it blossom with international touring talent, which helps promote local music talents and its scene to come together. As a publicist, this hurts a few of the international bands I work with whom tour and push their music in various markets. I feel stabbed in the back!”


Mat Sinner, Primal Fear, Sinner, etc. (Germany)

“We had some of the best shows on our last US/Canada tour in Canada. We plan another tour to support our new album and it would be a huge disappointment if we can’t include some nice shows in Canada. With our regular fees it would be an insane charge even though we have a Canadian drummer. Very sad!”

Ralf Scheepers, Primal Fear (Germany)

“WTF!!!?? They will achieve absolutely the opposite with this! This WILL RUIN live music!!! We have problems enough to tour the states and Canada because of the working visa we have to buy for a lot of bucks anyway!!! If Germany or Europe in common would do this, all American or Canadian bands couldn’t afford to come overseas anymore! Welcome to the end of live concerts of foreign bands in Canada! This sucks!!! Does this mean that only Canadian bands are able to perform live shows in canada from now on? How much more xenophobic can it be?

Cheers, Ralf”


Andy Dowling, Lord (Australia)

“In a nutshell, we have always been aware of Canada’s rich and diverse live music scene and have had plans to make our way over to the great north and perform.

Our problem is that we are an independent band and regardless of our country of origin, we work very hard to be able to have the chance to play our music internationally, and at our own cost. The same challenges that our Canadian peers in bands look abroad for opportunities.

The new fees that have been put in place for international musicians will mean that there will be almost nil chance that we will have the opportunity to Canada. To put it simply, “it ain’t happening!”.

We are not a major label band, we are a band like many others that are hungry to get the opportunity to give our music the exposure to a new audience, like we have already done in Europe, Asia, New Zealand and of course our homeland here in Australia. At this level we are not in it for money. Hell, we have none! The opportunity and exposure is all we crave.

While we and our international peers will suffer, there will be a greater loss to the Canadian music fans and more importantly the local Canadian musicians. This change in law will have a chain reaction and have a dramatic affect on the local music scene and culture.

We can only wish the Canadian music scene the very best and hope that they will be able to have great influence on the decisions and directions of their nations outlooks on arts and entertainment, both locally and internationally.”


Daryl Gray, Helix (Canada)

“I feel that this is a ridiculous fee to charge. It targets the small venue or promoter who obviously will pass the cost on to the public. The larger festival type events are not subject to it.

On the other hand Canadian acts trying to tour in the USA have been subject to similar fees and excruciatingly long waits for visas for years now and the Canadian government and the AFM (American Federation of Musicians) have been apathetic to our plight.

My hope is that enough US artists complain to their representatives who in turn look to our government for a change who can then negotiate a level playing field for all musicians in both of our countries.

Daryl Gray – Bassist Helix and Holly Woods & Toronto”


Brent Doerner, former Helix guitarist (Canada)

“It’s about time! The U.S. has been taxing Canadian musicians for decades. Helix usually had to pay 1,000.00 + immigration lawyers fees – every time we entered the U.S., where as U.S. bands could freely enter Canada, and return to the U.S. with Canadian $.

The Internal Revenue Service also takes 30% tax as well – now that’s fucking outrageous. I will not sign this petition. As it seems, we are all finally on a level playing field. I also feel this move will give Canadian bands more opportunities to get more gigs here in Canada. The Musician Union has been trying to make this happen for years (I think).

With all respect…”


Betty Dworatschek, Metal Queen Management (Canada)

“New fees for international artists were brought in under the radar affecting the up and coming artists and small venues. This will be detrimental to the small venues that book international artists with a charge of $425 per band member. Small venues will have a hard time paying these fees and making their money back. I am stumped as to why major acts and venues were not targeted and are exempt from these new fees. They don’t need the break! Opportunities for up and coming artists are being withdrawn with the new fees. Can you imagine if the USA did this to our Canadian touring artists? Let’s see some fairness and I encourage everyone to sign this petition.”

Maria Ferrero, Adrenaline PR (USA)

“The correct fish to fry?   While  the  Canadian  government thinks  they are slick trying  to  monetize more cash flow  from  performers on  taxing them  an  astronomical  (for most  artists)rate-  .  Remember , Canucks,  that the artists  are  getting paid so much  LESS these days for their  musical works- due  to all of  the  obscenely illegal downloading and  because  the authorities  are not the pursuing people  who are stealing music via  free downloading  music  off of  the internet-  I recommend  that you, Canada, United States and  the  whole world actually,  take another look at fining  people who  are stealing  music in that manner, rather  than  penalizing  the  artists and  deterring them  from being able to  or  wanting  to  go into  Canada  to  perform  live  for  fans”.


Glenn “Archie” Gamble, former Helix drummer (Canada)

“Please check out the interview I did with CTV about this very issue:”

Some quotes that I made include:

“There is a clause in this that apparently makes exemption for American Federation of Musicians members-meaning US union members are exempt from paying the fee.”

Regarding bands who have to pay the fee Archie says: “….add another couple of thousand dollars to that, PER SHOW, the promoters and club owners are eventually take a pass.”

There is also the point that it stops local bands from getting more exposure by opening for the international acts. Archie said “hundreds of other people that we would have never had the chance to play to, saw our band. Some of them bought t-shirts, some bought CD’s, and some of them will come back to see us again when we play.”


Rainer, NAIL, ex-Helix (Canada)

“Canadian artists have always been subjected to these kinds of fees/tariffs. In obtaining a P2 work visa which is a NECESSITY by law, one could pay the (under $200) administrative fee and cross your fingers and wait 4 months to get the paperwork approved. OR you could pay a fee in excess of $1000 and “fast track” the process, which basically amounts to bribery. Endless red tape apart from the treatment imposed by the IRS on Canadian groups this makes gigging south of the border a total pain in the ass, and is one of the reasons groups like Kittie no longer tour stateside. Why shouldn’t US artists pay? Well, they probably shouldn’t , BUT NEITHER should Canadian artists! Will it affect the entertainment industry…YES.

In my opinion, the following should be implemented.

#1: we already have MANY trade agreements with the US through NAFTA and other charters, the music industry needs to establish exceptions in both directions for touring artists.

HOWEVER…the ONLY artists granted these exceptions should be artists with international label support. Ie: Roadrunner Records (just to randomly select a name) distributes and promotes their artists throughout North America, consequently the business of promoting an Original Canadian Recording act Stateside should be exempt of any “fees” other than taxes paid internationally on the income of the artist. Likewise, US acts on the label should be exempt from the proposed $425 fee.

Any recording act may be considered a “unique entity” and as such should not be subjected to scrutiny associated with “putting other musicians out of work”, such as might be the case with “cover bands”, performing music other than original compositions.

#2 “cover bands or Tribute bands should NOT be exempt as they ARE infringing upon the ability of local musicians to get work playing the same songs in the same venues.

It is highly unlikely that the proposed tariff would affect any high level touring group performing several dates in Canada. Would it deter, say, TOOL , from performing 3 or 4 dates in Canada if they had to shell out an additional $1500 or so to come across and earn 6 figures? Not a chance.

By the same token, it WOULD impact a struggling up-and-coming recording act that might otherwise get some exposure as a support act, but now might not be able to afford the $$$.

To reiterate: If you are a legitimate “recording act” with label support, you should NOT have to be subjected to this nonsense…whether you are coming from the US, or a Canadian act travelling stateside. IF the US does NOT change their attitude to adjust to Canadian artists traveling south, then we SHOULD punish them the same way they have been putting it to us for so many years.

Other than that…if you are a “cover band” playing the same bar tunes that our local bands can play on any given weekend, you SHOULD be paying for taking gigs away from the locals if your intention is to hop across the border and play a bar gig for a couple of hundred bucks.”


Gene Scarpelli,  (Canada)

“Thanks for including me, as a musician I feel this hurts all of us, Canadians and Americans alike, seeing as how the music scene at least here in Toronto is already pretty much dead and gone , this will not help to breath life back into a dying scene, there is already to few places for us to play , and already to many struggling , I don’t speak for everyone but those I do know DO NOT want to resort to playing in cover bands or cover tunes , which nowadays is all that seems to be out there, I have and always will be a player who lives to play original material , what would my quote be my city Toronto at least has already killed the live music scene when clubs like the Gas Works and Rock and Roll heaven’s closed their doors, and now they are further killing original acts like myself and others with charging acts a fee to come across the border to play, which means bigger names who still enjoy playing in a packed club will no longer find it worth their time to come out and play , which hurts unknown Canadian artist and original bands, I don’t know about you, but I miss seeing people who actually perform and actually play an instrument , my city is a city with a wealth of undiscovered talent and many talented and respected players , I feel that we should all come together to put real music back on radio’s back in clubs back period, I don’t know if that is much of a quote lol, so my final thought is BRING BACK REAL MUSIC places for players to play , DO NOT CHARGE a fee , for clubs already can’t pay player’s , a fee will only hurt all of us , I have been a player for almost 25 years and I am the most famous non famous person on earth , a fee will keep me this way forever !! lol, I do know that this works both ways as well , with Canadians facing the same type of things in America with playing , I think we need to encourage a more open door policy so that we can all do what we love.”


Canadian Independent Music Association


Statement from CIMA On Changes to LMO Process for Temporary Foreign Workers

“Earlier this week, recent changes related to the process of obtaining Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) for Temporary Foreign Workers coming to Canada came to light through an article in the Calgary Herald. From a music industry perspective, international acts wishing to perform in a Canadian venue will be impacted as follows:

–    Each band member and crew member traveling with the artist must now pay a $275 fee to apply for an LMO (previously, this application was free).

–    Should the application be declined, the $275 fee is non-refundable

It has also been reported that the $150 permit to play in Canada will be assessed on a per member, per performance basis, whereas previously it was a one-time fee to enter the country and was maxed out at $450 per band.

In addition, it is important to note that this fee ONLY applies to artists performing in bars or restaurants.  This does not apply to festival performances or concert halls. To put these fees into context, a four person international act coming to Canada will now cost $1,700 per show in application fees and permits.  Prior to these changes, the cost for entering the country was $450 in total.

CIMA is working diligently on behalf of its members and the industry, explaining to the federal government why these new fees are wrong, and how they will affect the broader Canadian music industry. We believe that the impact of the new fees are an unintended consequence of the Government’s changes to the rules governing its Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

CIMA is also questioning the Government’s rationale on why they singled our bars and restaurants, small businesses which are breeding grounds for home-grown talent. Our position is this fee should be waived for all international artists and their professional entourage, regardless of where they will be performing (ie festival or bars).

At this stage, we feel it is important for the government to know that their new rules will not ‘protect’ Canadian artists or save jobs here at home. Rather, CIMA is emphasising that the rules will have a detrimental and cascading effect through the entire industry, and at the end of the day may result in the loss of jobs and the loss of business opportunities both in Canada and internationally.

In response to these changes, CIMA has submitted a letter to The Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, The Hon. Chris Alexander Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  To read the letter in full, click here (.pdf).

In order for our words to have the greatest impact when talking with Government, CIMA needs to collect more information, opinions, and feedback on this issue from the industry.  Should you wish to provide thoughts on how these fees may impact you, please contact CIMA’s President Stuart Johnston at

We also encourage you to write to your local Member of Parliament to explain how the fees will impact your business and the industry.  To find out who your local MP is, click here.”