Help Stop New Government Fees Threatening Music Industry

Stopping bands at canadian border

We need to act.

On August 7th the Canadian Federal Government announced changes to their temporary foreign workers program that will essentially kibosh small to mid-size American bands coming to Canada. The changes were made to the entire foreign workers program for a variety of reasons, however artists that plan on playing any coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, etc. have no exemptions.

For those of you who are not familiar with the process:

Previously whenever foreign bands come into Canada they need to receive a temporary foreign workers permit, this is done by getting a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). The permits cost $150 each to a maximum of $450 for a band and are payable at the border. The LMO itself cost nothing and was in place to ensure you weren’t stealing jobs from Canadians.

With the changes the employer (Promoter, venue, tour operator, etc.) will need to pay a $275 fee (per band member) just to apply for the LMO and then the band will still pay the $150 fee per person for the permit (they have also announced this will go up) with no cap.

What That Means For The Arts:

To give you a real life example: Previously I brought Luke Dowler and his band (4 piece) up into Canada 1 or 2 times a year. Whenever the band crossed the border we paid $450 and had to make that up on tour, it was a big cost for us but Luke has lots of Canadian fans so we booked the right dates and made it work.  With these changes we would not be looking at $450, we would need to raise at least $1700 before even entering the country. The reality is this is not a fee we can afford. We will NOT be able to tour Canada with these changes.

Now I can assure you that Luke Dowler (like MANY other acts who tour Canada) has not stolen one Canadian job. In fact he has provided opportunity for countless bands to open for him and be exposed to new audiences, he has held workshops for Candian musicians to better learn their craft, he also brought patrons to coffee shops, restaurants, bars, fundraisers and other venues across Western Canada.

Bringing in small to mid-size American bands does not hurt the Canadian economy or music scene, it boosts it!
Bringing in these bands inspires our youth to play, creates more opportunity for our local acts, continues the sharing of ideas.

What You Can Do:

EDIT: I have spoken again with several government officials and MP’s offices an have updated the action steps, please read, they are more current than the ones below: Just wrote an updated blog post with some updates after more talking with several MPs and government folks:

I spent the morning on the phone with government officials and they have instructed me on the best ways to reverse this terrible move. Please help make this change. Here they are:

1. Call the “Office For Client Satisfaction”: 1-866-506-6806 explain to them that we need “Exemptions for the arts in regards to the recent changes to the LMO and Temporary Foreign Workers Permits”
2. Go to: and submit a complain under the program “Labour Market Opinion”
3. Call your local MP
4. Share this with your friends. Both government officials I talked to said the more calls they get, the more seriously they will take this issue…Let’s blow up their phone lines.
5.  Go Sign! There are two petitions floating around currently.

  •     First an Online petition. This is good for generating press, over 100,000 people have already signed and it has put a big spotlight on this issue. However, the government can/will not officially recognize or respond to it.
  •     Second an official parliamentary petition. This will be taken to the House of Parliament in Canada. They are legally required to officially respond. You need to download, print and collect real signatures. Then mail it to the address on the link.


This would be a huge blow to many Canadian venues, bands and fans as well as to our friends in America. Let’s fix it before we have to start canceling tours.

For more reading & education I suggest:
An interview with my friend Spencer Brown who books for the Palomino in Calgary:
Or for a more general overview (not music specific):

There are 40 comments. Add Yours.

wendythirteen —



Phone: 403-225-3480
Fax: 403-225-3504

Ottawa Office:
Phone: 613-992-2235
Fax: 613-992-1920

E-mail Address:


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Big James —

Hey guys, curious where those dollar amounts came from? I haven’t found any definitive price increases…just the news that there will be an increase.

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    The $150 is just rumored to have a price increase coming for the permit. The $275 to apply for an LMO is already in effect. I posted a couple government links at the bottom you can look at and confirmed on the phone that there is no exemption for the arts with Service Canada this morning

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Curious – I was on the CFM site and it has some different info. Is it just not updated or is it different (i.e pricing-wise) when the musicians are in the union? It looks like they’re involving the AFM/CFM in the border both ways where as it used to be more North to South. It doesn’t say anything about a $275 fee per person or an LMO. Be nice to clear this question upn thx

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    Hey John!

    Thanks for the comment. These changes are relatively new, hence the blog post right now. LMO applications have always been free up until the beginning of August when the government reacted against that scandal of RBC firing Canadians just to bring in temp foreign workers. This is not specifically directed at the music industry though it effects us drastically.

    The biggest change is that now LMO applications cost $275 per performer. Depending on the tour there are a few exemptions but the trick is in the venues. If you are coming up here to play EXCLUSIVELY in churches, festivals or stadiums you don’t need a work permit, and therefore don’t need an LMO and avoid the fees (though the lack of a cap on work permits is still difficult). However if you have one coffee house on your way up to the festival (to pay the gas) you need an LMO and therefore are subject to all fees described. The problem is that leaves giant bands (who play all stadiums) that could afford to pay without additional fees, and small to mid-size bands who share the stage with a local at the pub down the street with a bill neither the promoter or the band can afford.

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ian gregson —

I have to disagree with the premise of the article. Too long Canadians have relied on American and to some degree British band to piggy back on in order to get some level of recognition even in Canada. I know this will deter many Americans coming in to Canada to play GOOD we don’t need them; it’s time to get off that crutch and stand on our own two feet. I am happy to see it is now as difficult for the Americans to play here as it is for us to play down south – a level playing field finally

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    I can see where you are coming from Ian. I am a big fan of CANCON requirements for TV & Radio and initiatives like that.

    The problem is that these changes are not being worked on with musicians, venues, promoters or anyone else who understand the economics of the situation; I feel fairly confident that the lack of exemption for the arts (unlike agriculture) is primarily an oversight in their move to make sweeping changes across all foreign worker permits.

    These changes will not help the Canadian music scene. I manage acts on both side of the border and this is good for neither. Obviously for my American band, it means we can’t tour in Canada. Just can’t. For my Canadian band it means no show sharing with Americans (which is sad), but it also means less profitable venues around the country. Less profitable venues mean less money for bands that are touring. There is not a problem in Canada of venues being flooded by American bands. I know many venues, booking agents and promoters, and it just isn’t an issue. It’s still WAY more expensive to tour here than in America. Either way there was the $450 fee, the gas is twice as much, the cities are further apart, the food is twice as much and the hotels are twice as much. Bands don’t come to Canada as some sort of a cash grab mecca, they come because they have fans up here who would like to see them.

    If the goal was really to get more exposure for Canadian acts, there would be much better ways to go about it. How about 33% of every bill must be Canadian, that would be cool! This is just an oversight that hurts all of us.

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      Rick Dee —

      Sorry, but I agree with Ian. There is little enough work for us daily working Canadian musicians as it is. We don’t need US acts taking what little gigs are available. I am not anti-US by any means; I have lot’s of US friends in the music industry but I also have far more Canadian friends who need more gigs.

      And forgive me for pointing this out but; you clearly have personal monetary stake in this if you manage US bands and bring them into Canada in addition to Canadian Bands.

      Are the fees high? yes. Will it keep some small american bands from coming into Canada, probably. Will it negatively impact the Canadian music scene, hardly. Will it mean more gigs for Canadian musicians? of course.

      I don’t see the downside other than to your personal income.

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        Marc —

        I do agree with Ian and Rick Dee. Canadian artists are strugling and need help. A lot of canadian artists played in bars and clubs early in their career with the likes of Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Nickleback, Drake, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall, Michael Buble, and I could go on and on. These canadian artists needed the exposure and, bar/club owners gave them a chance to perform in their venues instead of importing foreign artists. You would be surprised how much canadian talent we have locally. If that extra cost imposed by Kenney on foreign artists can dissuade club/ bar owners from importing musical talent and hire local canadian artists then, I’m all for it. Like I said if the canadian artists, that I mentioned above, would not have been hired by local bar/club owners then, they wouldn’t have become famous. This extra fee is hurting the canadian artists and/or canadian economy.

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          I don’t think I would be surprised to see how much Canadian talent we have locally, if you look at my personal playlist you will se it flooded with names like Joel Plaskett, Jeremy Fisher, Tegan & Sara, Stars, Tasman Jude, Said the Whale, Arcade Fire, Daniel & the Bear Skull, Hey Ocean, Bedouin Soundclash, Mother Mother, Wand, Nuuka, Sarah Harmer, Chanda Cooper, Joal Kamps, This Conviction, City & Colour, Feist, The Steadies and many many more.

          Of course I think Canadian venues should primarily book Canadian acts, but they already do. Every venue owner I know is an avid supporter of local talent, every one of them would love to see the local guys blow up, that’s why we are all in this low-margin game.

          However, do you know when I first saw Nickleback? I saw them opening for Everclear.


        Hey Rick,

        Sorry for the slow reply, been a crazy couple weeks. I am personally invested in this issue for sure. That being said, I work with 1 American act and many many Canadian acts, if this in any way helped the Canadian acts it would be worth considering. Unfortunately it doesn’t.

        If there was a different law that ACTUALLY helped Canadian acts get bigger I would all for it. For instance, if the law was that all bills must be at least 33% Canadian, I would love it. That sort of thinking helps Canadian bands, fees on international bands just hurt Canadian venues and fans, which in turn hurts Canadian artists.

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        Another quick note. Ask your Canadian musician friends if they have ever been unable to track down a gig because the venues are flooded with international acts…in all my years of booking, I haven’t seen it. At all.

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Daniel Jordan

I called Minister Kenny. He was “out of the country and would not return my call”. His aid informed me that the proper avenue was to present a petition to my MP and make a case for the business viability of American Musicians in Canada. He said “The vast majority of Canadians dont like the idea of foreign workers being subsidized.” I dont know… Mr. Bird… you ever been subsidized by the Canadian Gov’t?

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    Hey Daniel I talked to the same guy this morning.

    Basically we need to do everything we can as quickly as we can! We need as many complaints as possible to the “Office For Client Satisfaction” for Service Canada. Which I oulined in the blog, e-mails and calls.

    Also he said I need to get a non-senior MP involved and get a proper paper petition going ASAP. I am hoping to meet with my MP (Chris Warkentin) today and will blog an update then.

    Thanks for your support, keep spreading the word, and let’s make sure we show that have a lot of political will behind this!

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grindcat —

Just got this reply email from the SC complaint I submitted under the LMO policy…

Thank you for contacting the Office for Client Satisfaction (OCS).  The OCS was established as part of Service Canada’s commitment to service excellence, and to improve Canadian’s confidence and trust in the Government.  It is a neutral organization that receives, reviews and acts on feedback regarding the quality of service clients have received from Service Canada.


Unfortunately, based on your email we have determined that your comments do not relate to a Service Canada program. The Temporary Foreign Workers program is the responsibility of Employment and Social Development Canada. We therefore invite you to submit your comments to Minister Jason Kenney by mail or email at:


Attn: Hon. Jason Kenney, PC, MP
325 East Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Or at


Once again, thank you for contacting the OCS.

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Chris Smith —

please add a direct link to a petition. This is a bit round about and very difficult to find how to lodge a complain. Give an email address and direct link and I will get all Australian muscians to post

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Josh Garvin —

Here is the letter I wrote to the complaints section listed above, under policy. Copy and paste it. I would like to see exemptions for the arts in regards to the recent changes to the LMO and Temporary Foreign Workers Permits. It is an unsustainable change, directly affecting the following jobs: Promoters, Tour Booking agents, Bar tenders, security, bussers, box office, poster distributers, Flyer distributers, management, performers. the list I provided is actually just a shortened list. I can go on and on about how this is affecting us. DO NOT DESTROY OUR ECONOMY!

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Alex —

Just to be clear, is this law already in effect? If not, does anyone know when it is scheduled to do so?I am in a band that is scheduled to play one show in Vancouver at the end of a tour of the west coast of the US happening this October. If the law has already gone into effect, chances are we’ll have to cancel that date. Thanks.

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    Hey Alex, unfortunately it is in effect. They conveniently announced it after the fact.

    There are a lot of us fighting and hoping to have it resolved by then but… Hard to say for sure.

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Marc gAGNE —

Before I sign the petition I would like to know if by not charging to mid-size American bands we will hurt the struggling canadian artist (that tries to make ends meet). Maybe the gov’t wants to make sure that bars & clubs hire local canadian talent to play in their establishment before bringing in small to mid-size American bands. Maybe, there should be a law that would force bars and clubs to hire canadian artists to perform in their establishment at the same time small to mid-size American bands perform (sort of like having canadian artists to open for small to mid-size American bands). Just a thought.

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    Hey Marc!

    Great thoughts, I manage a small Canadian band and have a ton of hard working Canadian friends fighting their way through the music industry. That has been one of the government’s arguments, that they are trying to help Canadian artists. BUt this is far more harmful to Candian artists than helpful. Here are 3 reasons:

    1. Opening slots, as you pointed out the opportunity to open for a larger touring band is a GREAT way to gain exposure to new and bigger audiences. Sometimes it also can lead to great show trades in key markets that you have never been to before.
    2. Budgets, The reality is these changes actually make it more difficult for smaller bars and clubs that love bringing in talent to do so. Either they have to not bring in these bands that really help their yearly revenue stream (allowing them to still pay smaller draw bands) or they increase costs so much they can no longer afford to pay openers.
    3. Cultural Exchange, the reality is not a problem (in any market I am aware of) that Canadian bands can’t get a gig because the stage is always full of foreign bands. It’s just not an issue. What is an issue is continueing to grow your network and grow it even outside of our borders. The BEST way to do that, is to gig with other bands, become friends, play in each others cities, provinces, countries. The slows that from happening.

    Let me be clear; It is always expensive to tour Canada, many many American bands are simply willing to do it anyways. With these new costs, they can’t. Which will save many of them money.

    Who it REALLY hurts, is Canadians. Canadian bands, Canadian venues and Canadian fans.

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      Marc —

      Thanks for your in-depth insight on the current situation, which I wasn’t fully aware. You sure enlightened me on the subject.

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      Rick Dee —

      Sorry but again,

      #1 If the International band is big enough, and charging enough, to bring in a Canadian opening act (which, lets face it, they don’t usually pay anyway), the fees are inconsequential.

      #2 Are you saying that there’s not enough good Canadian talent to fill these venues? Of course there is. There is no loss to the venues.

      #3 IS a valid argument but not enough to offset #1 & #2

      Who it really hurts is Canadian promoters of US bands and smaller US bands.

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        #1. Not true. Often the bands that really want local openers ae the ones who

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        #1. Not true. One of the most likely acts to bring on a local opener are bands that have a draw but would like some help to fill the room. In fact often these are door split deals with each band taking 50%, both wanting the other to help bring people out.

        #2. Not at all. I am saying that sometimes bringing in a high draw international act on Friday can help generate enough money to pay the local acts who need a place to play and develop on Saturday.

        #3. This happens a lot in scenario #1.

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Vi An Diep

I think we have to pay all full-time professional artists a fair, humane and livable wage, period. We MUST encourage our governments to help venues etc, to invest in the performing arts, to give tax breaks or subsidize for live acts. Musicians are worth it, like plumbers are too! We must be paid for our services, our fees to perform and work should be reduced, venues etc should learn how to invest in the ability to afford live acts period. No pay = no play. With the internet age, musicians should be able to thrive and do very well without touring as often as long as they continue to produce and give back so much to their communities. Fame is not the name of the game. Fair, humane, livable wage is what we really, REALLY NEED to discuss further here everyone.

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Alexandre Fecteau —

There is a lot of loop hole in that law and it’s east to get away with that. The only thing that sucks is that instead of taking a position against the same ( and even more restrictive) law for canadians touring in the US, using it as a lever, the canadian governement is using it as a job/economy related law. I only have a question: if my band is the only one who can give my show, who’s job is treatened?

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