I’m an Australian. I currently live in a Sydney suburb called Campbelltown, but before I moved down here, I lived in arguably the dodgiest suburb in Sydney – Blacktown. It’s the home of McDonalds, used car dealerships and high teen pregnancy rates, but there’s also a breeding ground for some of the best metal bands in the world. There’s one band in particular called Northlane that I’m sure many of you reading this have heard of at some point. They’ve absolutely exploded in popularity in the last two years and rightly so. They did a couple of international tours to New Zealand a few years ago, but due to cultural and geographic similarities between Australia and New Zealand, that really doesn’t count. Their first tours to somewhere more than a three-hour flight away were both to Canada, in support of Canadian natives Structures.
Now, in case you weren’t aware, the Canadian government recently passed a bill that requires musicians to add $275 per person (band members, crew, publicists, drivers, etc.) to the established $150 international worker’s tax. I strongly recommend that you click this link to read it, but if you don’t want to, I’ll boil down the details for you.
Essentially, this tax means that each venue that hires a non-Canadian band will have to pay $425 PER PERSON for that band to play at their venue. So let’s make this a ten-date tour for Northlane. Five members, if they use the venue’s sound and lighting technician, drive themselves and run their own merch table. That’s $425 per member, so 425 x 5 = 2,125. Let’s further extrapolate that into the entire ten-date tour and we wind up with a grand total of $21,250. Before they even play a goddamn note.
Hold up, I hear some of you saying. These are venues and musicians we’re talking about. They sleep on beds of money covered in diamond-encrusted sheets! Even the less ignorant among you are going, “Well, it can’t be too bad.” Man, have I got news for you. This is a fascinating breakdown of the financial burden that a mid-level band has to endure, written by Shane Blay of Oh, Sleeper back in 2010. I recommend you read it in full, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Again, if you really can’t be stuffed…you know what, I don’t care. Read it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Now you’re finished, let me just set the scene here. If a business’s profits are exceeded by its expenditure, that’s called a net loss. The business has two options: either cease to produce whatever it is that’s financially crippling them, or continue to produce it and increase their charges. This means an increase in venue hiring costs and inflated ticket prices, which are already high for an international artist. I guarantee that venues will pass these costs onto the bands and the attendees. Increased ticket prices will negatively affect you, the attendee, but let’s look at how the artist gets kicked in the ass by all of this.
Okay, so if we refer back to the Oh, Sleeper article I linked above, after merchandise printing costs, merch sales percentages for the venue, manager rates, booking agents, food, petrol (gas, for the Americans), a mid-level band like Oh, Sleeper could expect a disposable income of $13.12 per member every day. That’s five dollars less than my hourly rate at my day job. Blay also makes it quite clear that the $13.12 does not include tolls, hotels, phone bills, tire replacement, registration etc.
So assuming that, on average, a band makes $13.12 per day, multiply that by 365 days in a year and you get 13.12 x 365 = $4,788.80 total disposable income for an entire year.
See the problem here?
Even combining all the total disposable incomes for the five band members and their roadie, they wind up with the princely sum of $28,732.80. Taking it back to the new Canadian policy, if they played a 12-date tour in Canada, they would have to pay $25,500. They’d blow almost an entire year’s worth of combined income, assuming they got that every day of the year, without fail, had a best-case scenario for fuel consumption between shows and never had to pay tolls or fix or register their van in any way.
What I’m trying to say here is that if a band based in North America, who have a decent amount of success and are considered a mid-level band, would find the cost prohibitive, what the hell are all the smaller North American bands going to do? What about Australian, European, African and Asian artists? Hell, what about Warped Tour? Mayhem Festival? All those bands who go, “Hell, why not?” and hop across the border for a quick sideshow? What about the comedians who come across for the Montreal Comedy Festival? You can bet your left nut that this will almost certainly have a loophole that can be exploited to include them, too.
In the case of Warped Tour, I did the maths. Approximately 100 bands played Warped this year. The average band had five members and two crew members. Some were much higher and others were much lower, but that’s what an average is. So, 7 x 425 = 2,975. Multiply that by 100 and you find out that, with this new tax, one Warped show in Canada would cost $297,000.
That’s almost three hundred thousand dollars just to hire a venue for one festival date in Canada.
And don’t for a minute think this will only affect smaller bands. Think about someone like blink-182 or Pink. Their tours easily consist of over 100 individual pilots, drivers, security, sound and lighting technicians, caterers, mangers, publicists, photographers and many more. Assuming they only bring 100 people with them (and I guarantee you there’s more), the venue (and, by extension, them and us) are $42,500 out of pocket just so they can hire the venue. Can you imagine any artist agreeing to spend $42,500 before any other expenses? Nope. Me neither.
It’s this simple: if you’re a Canadian native and you like being able to see international bands without having to actually visit another country, you’d do well to sign this petition or write a crabby letter to your local member. Otherwise, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll never get another band like Northlane or Oh, Sleeper touring there because of the pants-shittingly exorbitant amount of money it will cost.
Now, I started this by saying I’m Australian. I led with it because this policy also matters to me. Not just because of all the Canadian music fans who will lose out because of this stupid, money-grabbing policy. I care because this is what those vile, odious and moist parasites who call themselves ‘lawyers’ happily refer to as a precedent. If there’s one thing that governments like, it’s taking money away from the people they govern for, and I would be amazed if not a single other country hasn’t already looked at this and gone “…huh. Not a bad idea. Jenkins, I need a bureaucrat, post-haste!”
Don’t think for a second that we can afford to be complacent. I love the Australian music scene. I think bands like Northlane, Parkway Drive, Make Them Suffer, The Amity Affliction, Safe Hands and countless others are beyond world class. However, it’s like going to another country for a holiday. You want to sample the local cuisine, but you sure as runny shit don’t want it for a steady diet. You need to supplement it with outside influences, which is why we need international bands touring on a regular basis. It not only gives us something different to enjoy, it encourages our local artists to push themselves even further than they already have to.
In short, international touring is good for everyone, and this new tax threatens both Canada’s and the world’s live music scene. Music pirating has already killed off one revenue stream, but live shows were always the one thing that they (read: we) couldn’t take away from artists. Unfortunately, that too is now in jeopardy. If you want to make a change, click this link and sign the petition to show your support. Better yet, write a crabby letter to the Canadian government, because if there’s one thing that makes politicians squirm, it’s the thought of being voted out of power.