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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Critics say feds hurt musicians with policies

Fund eliminated, new fees for venues

Posted: 03/31/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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The same weekend Winnipeg hosted Canada's Juno Awards, federal opposition critics came to the city to draw attention to what they see as Ottawa's missteps in the music industry.

Cuts to one program geared to help musicians market their work in the post-CD world and new fees for small bars and restaurants that book non-Canadian bands are two measures that show Ottawa doesn't understand the music industry, the critics say.

NDP heritage critic Pierre Nantel and rock musician and writer Andrew Cash, now a Toronto NDP MP, were at a news conference Sunday outside the Burton Cummings Theatre.

'This (levy), to me, shows a real lack of understanding on how this industry works'

-- Toronto NDP MP Andrew Cash

Nantel said federal budget cuts wiped out a small but vital fund under the $25-million Canada Music Fund program. Its loss makes it harder for artists to come up with new Internet streaming strategies to market their music, he said. Nantel said he believes the cut amounts to $1.25 million.

An estimated 80 per cent of music consumption now comes from the Internet, but Canadian musicians still need a leg up getting their work on apps and other Internet applications, Nantel said. "We still have a sales problem," he said.

Meanwhile, a levy to limit the entry of temporary foreign workers into the country is having an unintended impact on musicians on tour.

Small venues must now pay fees to Ottawa to have bands on tour from abroad perform in restaurants and bars, Cash said.

"I used to play here (in Winnipeg) a lot when I was a musician and one reason I became a politician is to talk about how artists make a living in Canada. This (levy), to me, shows a real lack of understanding on how this industry works," Cash said.

The levy doesn't apply to entertainment centres such as the MTS Centre but by cutting into the business opportunities -- and profits -- of small bars and restaurants, it has an indirect impact on their ability to provide opportunities for rising Canadian artists, Cash said.

Both MPs said the cuts and new fees show the Conservatives don't appreciate the importance of Canada's $80-billion music industry.

Canadian rocker Tom Wilson, who was outside the Burton Cummings Theatre Sunday, said the federal measures have a definite impact on the music industry.

"All I've got to say is when we start to cut attention to the needs of writers and performers in this country, we're cutting into our greatest assets and one of the country's greatest exports. The people who show us the way to the future are the artists on this planet," Wilson said.

Wilson, a Hamilton performer, is a veteran of the Canadian music scene. He's best known for his work with the groups Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. His current project is Lee Harvey Osmond, in collaboration with members of the Cowboy Junkies and Skydiggers.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 31, 2014 A4

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