An Open Letter to Live Music Venues

Dear Live Music Engagers,

2016 marked the ‘Year of Music’ here in Calgary as proclaimed by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. We’ve seen the creation of ‘Calgary’s Music Mile’ as well as the continuing ‘Alberta Music City Initiative’; the opening of the Bella Concert Theatre and the DJD Dance Centre. Calgary also hosted this year’s JUNO Awards. Where and how do musicians fit into the grand scheme of these plans and is the ‘Year of Music’ really supporting their reality?

In this open letter, the Calgary Musicians Association would like to take the opportunity to inform Calgary music clubs, neighbourhood pubs and other live music venues of what the musicians’ union deems to be minimum fees for performing. We use the term ‘minimum fees’ because musicians who have more experience, profile and/or a following charge and deserve more than the minimum.

As a general rule of thumb, our minimums are based on a fee of $168 for a bandleader/solo musician and $112 for each additional sidemusician. This is for an engagement of up to 3 hours long. These fees can be discounted if the venue hires a musician or group for more than a single performance. All expenses such as promotion, production, travel fees and booking agent fees are charged over and above these minimums.

It's fair to say that musicians don’t just arrive on stage. It takes years of music lessons, practice and rehearsal time for a band to be born or a song to be written; not to mention the cost of musical equipment required to perform a gig. Musicians invest this time and money and deserve fair payment for their hard work just like any other tradesperson or professional does.

In order to thrive and succeed in the music business, musicians need to earn a living wage. This allows them to work at their craft while enhancing our cultural and social experience. Most musicians live well below the poverty line. It is vital for live music venues and patrons to provide a fertile foundation for something better than this to occur. Please make a difference and support live music!


Doug Kuss, Sec-Treasurer

Calgary Musicians Association

The Calgary Musicians Association (CMA) is a professional association dedicated to establishing and maintaining professional standards, ethics and fees in the music industry and assists members in the business areas of their careers. It is affiliated with the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM).

For the public, it provides a free referral service for those seeking musicians, bands or music teachers and annually administers various music scholarships and free public concerts in venues including schools, parks, hospitals and seniors’ homes through the Music Performance Fund.

The CMA has served musicians in the Calgary area and Southern Alberta for almost 80 years.


13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Live Music Venues

  1. Well said. I’ve stopped pay pubs and bars. Out here just west of Toronto it’s 100 dollars a guy 3 guys/girls Max. Assuming you could fit more players in the corner they stuff you in the pay per play just divided thinner
    For me now it rib fests. Festivals and soft seat theatres. Fewer gigs it’s true but less work and better pay. It often works out even or ahead month to month. Fight the good fight.

  2. As an AF of M member from long ago in local 290, Sudbury Ontario, as I now go into retirement, it’s good to see a re-assertion of performers rights. After playing for Harris at Ranchman’s for many years, I was sad to see the venue go soft, and reduce pay. Same is happening out here on the coast in Vancouver.

  3. Well said Doug I think the same type letter will do well in Grand Rapids MI I ask your permission to use some of the body and change the situation, and appropriate names and numbers. Eric V

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