Touring concert artists avoiding Canada due to high US exchange rate, rising travel costs, labor/equipment shortages
Where have all the concerts gone?
In pre-Covid times, Prince George was a major player on the small-town concert tour and the CN Center was a venue that hosted 10-20 concerts a year. Located at the intersection of two major highways, concert-goers will travel all day to see Prince George live on stage to reach his musical idols.
Touring musicians Shania Twain, Dwight Yoachum, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Miranda Lambert, Nazareth, Kiss, Elton John and Nickelback and the Tragically Hip played Prince George, and Jerry Seinfeld and Russell Peters performed their comedy acts twice. Brought, which packed the CN. Center stands.
But not this year.
That fun train has derailed. Travel costs, high US dollar exchange rates, Canadian taxes on touring artists, and a lack of skilled production technicians have all left concert promoters scratching their heads, wondering if they need to get off their tailspin and get back to booking shows. Have to go Like they used to do.
CN Center entertainment manager Glenn Mikkelsen says there’s no easy answer.
“Prince George is not alone, all markets like ours — Dawson Creek, Kamloops, Kelowna, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Moose Jaw, Regina — are having the same issue across the country as far as concerts coming in. There’s not a lot of entertainment in our buildings,” Mikkelsen said.
“The Canadian entertainment industry is challenged right now to find acts that will play venues like ours.”
These days, a bank will only give you $74.28 US for $100. Canadian and international acts want to pay in US dollars, causing ticket prices to skyrocket. Gas prices remain high across Canada and the cost of food, housing and wages has also increased, making tourism cost-prohibitive.
“There is also taxation, when acts come into Canada they are charged a different tax rate than the US and that is a deterrent,” Mikkelsen said. “They are taxed at 15 per cent of their fees and can apply to get it back through Canada Revenue, but some don’t and leave it out.”
A concert that attracts a large crowd brings in revenue for downtown businesses and hotels, restaurants and retail stores and keeps merchants and service industry workers employed. But now those opportunities are few and far between. Mikkelsen says he’ll probably book six to eight concerts at the CN Center this year.
There are opportunities to host other events such as the BC Natural Resources Expo, the Jehovah’s Witness Convention, indoor night markets and graduation ceremonies, but the concerts people have been waiting for are not happening.
People are spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to travel to major cities to see A-listers Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen on summer tours. For some, their annual entertainment budget would be spent on a live show.
Mikkelsen says large tours have created a shortage of rental soundstage equipment and drained the talent pool for sound and lighting technicians in an industry already experiencing shortages when skilled workers are forced to find alternative careers. He was forced to retire when the pandemic worked for two years.