Tag Archives: music festival


Festival Alert! Which Ones Are Cool and Which Ones Are Not

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Negotiations are underway once again for the 2020 festival year, and there are details that members need to be aware of. Please take the time to read through this list, and, if in doubt, call your local for the latest information.

The Junos – Cool

Our agreement with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences expired after the last event, and we have since negotiated
a new deal covering the next three years. Juno week is comprised of two parts: Junofest and the awards show. Each is covered by a separate CFM contract. Junofest contains fees and pension for performances during the week leading up to the awards, and the Juno telecast is done under a letter of adherence to the CFM General Production Agreement. This year, the Junos are in Saskatoon, and all indications are that it will be a tremendous success.

Canadian Country Music Awards – Cool

The CCMA agreement also must be renegotiated, and bargaining was scheduled for February 28 in Toronto. Historically, the association has treated our members very well, and I do not anticipate any variation from that trend. The week prior to the show is also covered by a separate agreement from that of the broadcast, which is also done under the General Production Agreement. The live performances have fees and pension, as does the broadcast. This year’s event is back in Hamilton, Ontario.

East Coast Music Awards – Cool

The three-year deal with the ECMA is also up for renewal, and we have just returned from Halifax where we were successful in negotiating a tentative deal. Pending approval by the East Coast Music Association’s board, we will have another multi-year deal which includes fees and pension for the live performances as well as for the live-streamed award show. The ECMA’s move to a different Atlantic Province each year, with the 2020 event scheduled for St. John’s, Newfoundland.

BreakOut West – NOT Cool!

The Federation has been without a deal with the Western Canadian Music Association for the past three years, since the entity took the position that the venues “showcasing” live musicians as part of their event “are not gigs, but networking opportunities.” As expected, the CFM begs to differ. If musicians are on stage performing for the public, where liquor and food are served, it’s a gig. The Federation tried to negotiate a deal at the time but was unsuccessful as the WCMA were quite married to their new model.

Two years ago, along with the Alberta Federation of Labour, members from Edmonton, Calgary, and a healthy contingent from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra staged an impressive rally in front of the host hotel, which generated a significant amount of media attention. We were unable to follow up with a similar demonstration last year, since the event took place in Whitehorse, Yukon. In 2020, the festival is scheduled to be in Winnipeg, which is the location of the WMCA offices. It’s also a place where there are 600 AFM members to draw from, should we not get a deal and initiate informational pickets.

The Federation has made a preliminary outreach to the WCMA, with a view to resuming negotiations for a fair contract. To date, there has been no response. While we have every intention of continuing our efforts, at this time, the BreakOut West Festival remains on the Unfair List, and we must therefore insist that our members DO NOT ACCEPT ANY ENGAGEMENT FROM BREAKOUT WEST. We will keep you updated on any changes, as necessary.

Except for BreakOut West, enjoy the festival season and we hope that your paid performances provide a useful vehicle to international connections and profitable work abroad.

Musicians “Broke, Out West”

At the time of this writing, I have just stepped off a plane from Edmonton, Alberta, having spent the last few days organizing a demonstration/rally, juggling interviews with the press and radio reporters, and meeting with a politician of the ruling provincial New Democratic Party (NDP). At the core of it all was the ongoing effort to get an agreement with the Western Canadian Music Alliance (WCMA), the entity that operates the BreakOut West music festival (BOW).

As I have reported before, the WCMA have an operating budget of roughly $600,000, with a substantial amount of that derived from various government grants and funding, along with private sponsorship. While they have no choice but to pay the “headline” acts fairly, as they have the effect of validating the festival, the lion’s share of the musicians are not paid. Previous agreements with the festival did provide for payment, but BOW has changed their “business model” in favour of belittling musicians even further.

BreakOut West music festival

More than 50 musicians and supporters picketed the BreakOut West (BOW) festival’s host hotel. BOW has refused to negotiate a contract to pay musicians.

This type of social injustice is not just a problem for musicians, but for all Canadian workers, and that premise was why we approached the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) for their assistance. They were eager to help, as our message was a perfect fit for “$15 And Fairness,” a nationwide campaign of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The AFL folks were instrumental in producing themed signs and handouts, issuing an “Action Alert” to their affiliates and media to announce the day and time of the rally, and then bringing their staff to participate.

Special thanks must be given to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, who sacrificed their break time to help bolster our numbers to more than 50—plenty of folks to fill the street in front of BOW’s host hotel. In addition, in a stunning show of solidarity, we were joined by international jazz great P. J. Perry and blues artist Graham Guest of Local 390 (Edmonton, AB). With chants of “Pay the band, not the man,” our group was successful in sending a strong message.

BreakOut West music festival

(L to R) At the BOW Rally are AFM Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, Supervisor Electronic Media Services Canada Daniel Calabrese, Director of Organizing & Education Michael Manley, and Negotiator Todd Jelen.

I would also like to thank the AFM Director of Organizing Michael Manley, along with Negotiator Todd Jelen, and Supervisor Electronic Media Services Canada Dan Calabrese, who rounded out the AFM’s onsite personnel. In addition, a special thank you to Local 390 President E. Eddy Bayens and Secretary Edith Stacey for their assistance and outreach to members, and to Local 547 Secretary-Treasurer Doug Kuss, who took the day to travel and support our event.

Following the rally, Bayens and I met with a member of parliament to impress upon him the government’s error in not being more careful about what they were providing grants for. Since the NDP are currently in power in Alberta, one would have to believe that more serious consideration will be forthcoming, as it was pointed out that musicians were paid nothing, not even minimum wage, as required by law.

The demonstration and show of solidarity is only the beginning of this story; pressure must now be brought to bear upon all sponsors of the festival, to ensure that next year’s event is either under a CFM agreement or doesn’t happen. Members, please take note that the WCMA continues to be on the International Unfair List. No contracts should be entered into with them or their affiliates for any performances, until further notice.