Music venues say vaccine passport makes attracting customers a challenge

After being closed for months, Montreal music venues are working to get back on their feet. But now, local industry insiders are saying the vaccine passport has made it challenging to draw customers indoors.

“Our venues are the ones that are going to get fined if ever there’s a slip-up” with vaccine passports, said Jon Weisz, founder of Les scenes de music alternatives du Quebec.

“They’re already not making a lot of money, and the prospect of a $6,000 fine […] might be enough for venues to just say, ‘you know what, we’re just going to stay closed.'"

Performers say the new passport rules give an advantage to artists who perform outside. Vincent Stephen-Ong, a musician with the Urban Sciences Brass Band, says he’s been booked solid.

“There’s a high demand for bands that can play outdoors,” he said. “I swear to God, this is not part of my ‘great conspiracy plot’ [...] [but] we’ve had the busiest summer that we’ve ever had.”

“It’s been non-stop. We’re lucky and happy to be busy.”

The passports have pushed some to shift how they’ll present their work for live audiences. Bonsound, a Montreal-based music management company, is hosting shows on the water, with attendants floating on foam paddle boards during the performance.

The ‘Contre Courant’ series is ongoing at Jean-Doré beach in Parc Jean-Drapeau.

“It’s a new setting for us,” said artist Magi Merlin, adding that playing a show for an audience afloat brings new meaning to the words “crowd surfing.”

Still, despite being outdoors, show-goers will need to present proof of vaccination, causing issues for some.

“We did have a couple of people asking for refunds, I want to say about 10 to 15 per cent in the last week,” said Bonsound spokesperson Chloé El-Sayegh.

Still, “most people are just grateful to be able to come out and see live music,” she said. “We’re happy to comply with any government measures as long as we’re allowed to still put on shows.”

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