Small B.C. Music Venues Singing the Blues

Cory Weeds | BCBusiness
Cory Weeds owns Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver and is critical of the new fee on foreign musicians.

New government fees for foreign workers catch the local music industry in the crossfire

New government fees meant to protect Canadian workers are drawing fire from the music industry.
In late August, a column in the Calgary Herald drew national attention to dramatic increases in the fees required for foreign musicians to play in bars and restaurants in Canada.
In addition to other changes, a non-refundable $275 fee is now required to apply for an LMO (Labour Market Opinion)—a document that confirms there is no Canadian worker available to do the job. This fee applies across all industries. Touring international musicians have been caught in the web.
Cory Weeds is a jazz saxophonist, record label owner and owner of the 80-seat Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver. He’s fired up about the issue.
“No! I haven’t actively recruited a Canadian to play saxophone in my club on these two nights because I’m bringing in a special guest. It’s called culture. But I buy plane tickets on Canadian airlines, I put them up in Canadian hotels, I rent instruments at Long and McQuade. I pay publicists and venue staff. You can’t look at arts and culture like other industries. I am creating and fostering jobs.”
Only bars and restaurants whose primary business is selling food and alcohol are subject to the fees. The Cellar paid them at the old, lower rates for 10 years but for the last three years, the room has received an exemption because it’s been designated music-primary, like a theatre or concert hall. Weeds is aware the rules could change again at any time.
A petition decrying the changes now has more than 130,000 signatures and the Canadian Independent Music Association has issued a statement insisting that the new fees will do nothing to protect Canadian musicians.
Aaron Chapman is a member of Vancouver band The Town Pants. He also performs concert production duties for a number of local promoters. Aaron thinks Canadian musicians would benefit more from a lively overall scene than from the new fees.

“There has to be some kind of levy, but if we were able to simplify, I think it would mean more shows and more nights. The trickle-down effect is that more business would be created. If they’re trying to create more jobs, they’re going about it exactly the wrong way.”