This doesn’t help bars and restaurants who have just incurred an increase in fees attached to immigrating international touring artists to perform at their establishments, but if you’re an independently operating party [read: person not affiliated with bar or restaurant in question] with an interest in promoting a show for an international touring artist, here are 10 steps to do it without being subject to immigration fees.
Step 1. Make an offer sheet. A band or booking agent has asked you if you’re into doing a show on a certain range of dates. You are stoked. So you need to make an offer sheet. Do it in Word, or Photoshop or by hand for all it matters. But if you’re gonna do it by hand then you’re gonna either have to scan it into a computer to e-mail it or post-mail it, so you’re better off to just figure out Word. Include on the offer:
- Date of performance
- Payment offer (guarantee or door %)
- Your personal information
Make it look nice, if you’d like. Make a logo.
Step 2: Wait to hear back. Generally bands and booking agents looking for a show are pretty quick with the e-mails once an offer is on the table so you won’t be waiting long. I would give it three (3) business days max before I e-mailed back to ask what the status on this is. You might have to go back and forth with negotiations a bit, but sooner you get the green light, the better step 3 will be.
Step 3: Secure a hold on a motherfucking venue. It’s insane how bad DIY show promoters can be at this. If you don’t wanna suck at the thing you’re trying to do, learn how to secure a hold on a motherfucking venue.
It can’t be just any venue however. It has to be what is known in Canada as a Tax Exempt venue. This is any place that is open for the show only, and not for all day brunch or happy hour hi-balls or the cheapest pitchers in town, or whatever. Exempt venues are in the business of providing a venue for shows. Current examples of these in Vancouver include: The Biltmore, Fortune, Red Room, Media Club, Venue, The Rickshaw, as well as any all ages spot like Sasstorino’s, or a record shop that does night shows after business hours. You’re going to have to rent this venue. But before you do that, please, get a hold. Get in touch with the venue booker. Get a hold on the date(s) in question. A lot of bands or booking agent will give you a range of 3 or 4 dates to get a hold on as they firm up their route. Ideally, you need a 1st hold on every date requested. If you can’t get a 1st hold. Get a 2nd hold or a 10th hold. This means you have 2nd or 10th dibs on the venue if the guys ahead of you in line drop their hold. Now, keep approaching venues until you have secured a 1st hold on the date you need. Once you have a 1st hold, get a rental contract from the venue, you’re going to need to submit it to the border later.
Step 4: Inform the band or booking agent of your successful hold status and wait again, this time for them to send you a copy of their contract. Your natural inclination as a burgeoning independent show promoter might be to reject contracts. Guess, what: you’re attempting to immigrate a foreign worker, legally. This is how it works. You’re gonna read the contract, sign the contract and promptly return the contract to the band or booking agent. This is the last contact you’ll have with that party for a while.
Step 5: Get tickets printed. Typically, I go with Clubzone.com because they are cheap, fast, and I can pick them up downtown. Tickets are vital because in order for your show to qualify as a tax exempt event it needs to be ticketed. You’ll have to submit a photocopy of the ticket to Border Services along with the contract when the time comes so make sure you get a photocopy somewhere before you drop the tickets off at record stores. Make a note in your iPhone notes what ticket numbers went where, because later when you call the store to ask for a count (because the booking agent or band has requested to know how pre-sales are looking) they guy who answers the phone is gonna know less about your tickets than a stranger off the street and he or she is going to say “top number is ____”. It’s your job to know what the top number was when you dropped the tickets off, and be able to count down and subtract. It’s not rocket science but it’s frustrating as hell when you don’t mark down which ticket numbers went where, so do it.
Step 6: Step 6 is where the fun probably begins for you. Make a flyer. Buy some tape. Go postering. Never fuck around with wheat paste or other liquid adhesives as they are far too messy and labour intensive. You’re a business person now, you need to value your time. Postering services generally have very reasonable rates, and if you play your cards right you might be able to get the venue to get you their rates on stuff like this as part of your rental agreement. Make a facebook event. Do anything else you think might help promote the show.
Step 7: Obtain a manifest from the band or booking agent of everyone travelling and their personal info. Once you have that, you can download the form online to fill out with the information or simply attach it in a word document. For each traveler, you need:
- Given name
- Country of Residence
- Social Security Number
- Passport Number
- Job Title (ie: Artist or Crew)
Step 8: Create a Cover Letter addressed to the Superintendant of Canada Border services providing the details of the show, and that if satisfies the requirements for tax exemption. I made one of these 2009 based off one that someone else sent me, and I have been using it as a template since then, each time just changing the particulars such as band name, date, venue, etc.
Step 9: Create a Word document and draft an official letter of invitation addressed to the band or booking agent, specifying the date of the show you are booking. Also keep this as a template for next time.
Step 10: A few days before the show, fax (of all fucking things) the paperwork to Canada Border Services at: 604-538-0873.
But, before you fax the paperwork to the border, a) double check that fax number and b) make sure you’ve got everything you need. Here is your dummy-check list:
- Cover letter addressed to Superintendant, Canada Border Services
- Personnel Manifest of everyone travelling
- Signed Artist Contract
- Letter of Invitation addressed to the band / booking agent
- Signed Venue Rental Agreement
- Photocopy of ticket
Include your personal contact information on all documents and make sure you have these documents for each band crossing the border. In a case where there are multiple Canadian dates, you might not be the one in charge of faxing everything to the border for all the dates, so the band or booking agent might request that you simply e-mail all the documents to them for them to pass along. In any case, this is not legally binding, but if you follow these 10 steps you should have no problem getting any band into Canada legally.