Canadian Federation of Musicians as Participant in a Report Released by CIMA on Accessing US Market

“Over the Border and into the Clubs” – Red Tape at the Border Keeps Canadian Music out of the United States

(Monday, April 18, 2016 – Toronto): The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) has released a report that illustrates the opportunities and challenges that exist for Canadian musicians seeking to play shows and do business in the United States. The report calls for fairness and reciprocity when it comes to US immigration and tax policies as they relate to Canadian artists.

Over the Border and into the Clubs: Canada’s Music Industry and the US Market quantifies the risks, costs and difficulties that impact Canadian artists who seek to promote their music in the United States.

  • The Canadian market is small and Canadian companies believe it is important to access American audiences
  • Canadians want to expand and invest south of the border but face obstacles, despite existing trade agreements
  • Over 60% of Canadian firms said the time and money they spend on border-related processes is burdensome
  • Work permits can be hard to obtain, and excessive taxation of revenue can create major cash flow difficulties
  • This is especially difficult for small companies, who make up a majority of the Canadian music industry
  • Music is a global export, meaning that greater labour mobility is conducive to a healthier, vibrant music industry

A copy of the report can be downloaded here: Over the Border and into the Clubs – Canada’s Music Industry and the US Market.

“Wait times that don’t mirror the pace of realistic bookings, giant expediting fees and hefty penalties are proving prohibitive to performing in the United States,” says Miranda Mulholland of the Great Lake Swimmers, Harrow Fair, Belle Starr and Roaring Girl Records. “Canadian musicians are thereby losing the opportunity to showcase Canadian talent abroad and expand in new markets. There is much economic evidence that cross border music tourism helps everyone. Canada has recognized this and has created welcoming regulations for US musicians traveling north. It is time this gesture was reciprocated.”

Over the Border makes a compelling case for why American policies ought to be changed to encourage: a) equal treatment for Canadian musicians travelling to the United States, b) reciprocity with respect to taxes, and c) the promotion of independent music as part of a federal government trade strategy.

“International expansion is key to the growth of Canadian independent music companies,” says CIMA President Stuart Johnston. “Getting across the border is not always efficient, because of the costs, complications and unclear procedures associated with the existing visa system. The United States’ inflated withholding tax also creates cash flow problems for independent music companies.”

With support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), CIMA commissioned theCentre for Trade Policy and Law (CTPL) at Carleton University to conduct an economic and policy analysis of the value of the US market for Canadian musicians, as well as the volume of Canadian artists who perform annually in US venues. The report provides industry members with specific policy recommendations to improve both labour mobility and tax penalties for Canadian musicians and their domestic business representatives.

Comments from the Canadian Music Industry:

“Canada’s wealth of professional musicians, in all genres of the music industry, offer both economic and cultural benefits to our United States neighbours.  The Canadian Federation of Musicians worked with CIMA representatives as a participant in the study leading to this report, and we greatly value the vast research efforts CIMA put into the compilation of this comprehensive report.  The report and corresponding efforts are complementary to initiatives recently taken by the AFM [CFM’s parent organization] in partnership with many other United States based cultural unions and arts organizations, in a collaborative success gaining bipartisan support for the introduction into US Senate of the ARTS and BEATS Acts, which are aimed at streamlining the process for musicians to perform in the US.“

Liana White, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Musicians


“I welcome the leadership that CIMA is taking in tackling the US border issue for Canadian touring musicians.  For years my company and the artists that we manage have faced tremendous expense and logistical challenges in getting across the border to work in the United States.  Having recently eased the restrictions for American artists to come and tour in Canada, it is time for our American cousins to reciprocate.”

Ian McKinnon, President, GroundSwell Music
Representing Artists: Carleton Stone, Hillsburn, Rawlins Cross, The Mike Bochoff Band, The Stanfields, The Town Heroes


“Border issues are a huge barrier for Canadian artists trying to develop international careers.  The current process costs thousands of dollars, and takes months.  Meanwhile, American artists can cross into Canada to play shows with no visa required at all.  This is important work that CIMA and others are undertaking to create a more equitable situation for our artists.”

Shauna de Cartier, Founder and President, Six Shooter Records
Representing Artists: Amelia Curran, The Beauties, C & C Surf Factory , Christine Fellows, Danny Michel, The Deep Dark Woods, Del Barber, The Good Lovelies, Harlan Pepper, Hawksley Workamn , Henry Wagons, Jenn Grant, Joe Nolan, Luke Doucet, Nick Buzz, Mary Gauthier, Melissa McClelland, NQ Arbuckle, Sam Outlaw, Shakey Graves, The Strumbellas, Tanya Tagaq, Trampled By Turtles, The Wet Secrets, Whitehorse, Whitney Rose

For full comments:


Media Contact:
Jonathan MacKenzie, CIMA
Tel. (416) 485-3152 ext. 223


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