Lowly Loonie Bad News For Summer Events Business

The lowly loonie is causing more than headaches for concert promoters and talent buyers across the land. An increasing outcry from festival and venue operators is reaching fever pitch as budgets are getting exhausted and promoters are shifting in to crisis mode.

"I hate to say it's going to be Darwinian and only the strongest are going to survive, but I think natural attrition is inevitable this summer," Kevin Goodman, chief entertainment officer of Front Row Centre Music and Entertainment Marketing, tells CBC News.

"There are going to be festivals that aren't going to be able to keep their heads above water, I think, in light of what's going on with the U.S. dollar and the exchange rate....You're probably going to see some festivals go by the wayside after this summer, especially some of those smaller festivals."

Mark Fisher with Shift Project and Event Management is still working on the two-day Waterfront Concert Series event for the Charlottetown Event Grounds for the Canada Day weekend, but the slumping Canadian dollar means he stops short of guaranteeing a show.

"Honestly, it gives me a headache every day,'' Fisher is quoted as saying in The Guardian, the city's news daily.  

"It is probably the single most stressful part of what I do right now — the conversations that are had at the management and agent level and the prices that are quoted.''

Fisher isn't the only one feeling the squeeze.

Organizers with Maritime Countryfest in Fredericton, N.B., cancelled their show over the slumping dollar, and there are rumours that another one of the city's festivals, FredRock, could be next.

Fisher said trying to pull in acts from the United States this year means costs go up about 40 per cent.

In Edmonton, Interstellar Rodeo founder Shauna de Cartier says the weak loonie means her budget is being stretched to the limit for her three-day festival, July 22 to 24, in Hawrelak Park.

“The dollar is having a huge impact on our booking processes,” de Cartier tells the Edmonton Journal. “We don’t know what the dollar will be when it comes to paying those artists. It could be even worse than it is now, when we’re putting in our offers. So it’s really stretching my budget. I’m going to have to spend about 30 per cent more than in previous years.” 

Boosting her budget, however, could lead to an increase in ticket prices, which de Cartier is loathe to do because of mounting job losses in the face of low oil prices.

Music Canada Live ED Erin Benjamin, an organization that lobbies for Canada's live music industry, says her organization is well aware of the stress concert and festival promoters are facing with the sub-par Canadian dollar. In a recent FYI article, she said that the org is currently analyzing the options and stated that "we have requested a meeting with the Ministers of Heritage and are in the process of requesting one from the Minister of Int'l Trade as well to discuss the challenges facing the industry and how we might work with the government to address them. We are also working with our membership as a whole to understand individual immediate and longer-term impacts." 


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