Saskatchewan festival and theatre goers may notice more Canadian talent on the schedule as local arts groups cope with a shrinking loonie and changing consumer habits.
The Saskatoon Jazz Fest will celebrate its 30th anniversary this summer with more Canadian content than ever before because a low dollar means it’s more expensive to bring in American talent, director Kevin Tobin said.
“We’re being much more selective in our artist selection and our focus is likely going to be that we’re going to have a program that is populated by Canadian and Saskatchewan talent, which of course is never a bad thing,” he said.
On an average year, up to 65 per cent of the artists come from Saskatchewan, 25 from the rest of Canada and only 10 per cent from across the globe, according to Tobin.
Craven Country Jamboree may also feature more local talent to cope with the high dollar.
“Two out of the three headline acts that we’ve booked for this year, we’re paying $1 million to, and that’s American dollars,” Craven director Kim Blevins said.
Craven staff have also kept close tabs on the fluctuating dollar and invested in American dollars when the price was right.
Concern for the arts industry has peaked across Canada after the New Brunswick Maritime Countryfest canceled its entire festival because much of its talent came from the U.S.
Tobin said a Jazz Festivals Canada programming meeting in November focused heavily on the effects of the dollar. He said they are monitoring global markets and the price of oil, because each has its own unique affect on Canada’s economy.
Tobin said they are searching for more sponsors too maintain their level of free and cheap shows and will have to become more creative with their revenue streams and generating community support.
Broadway Theatre artistic director Kirby Wirchenko said while nearly all of their artists and movie distributors are Canadian, a flattening economy, caused in part by the dollar, changes the way people consume art and the type of talent he brings in.
During leaner times, people are more likely to cut out luxury expenses like movies, restaurants and concerts.
“People used to call the movie industry recession proof… because movies used to be seen as a cheap form of entertainment. Nowadays, if you were to go out to a major chain theater, a movie night can cost you $30, $40, $50, but you might have Netflix at home for $10,” Wirchenko said.
Because people don’t want to take risks, they are also less likely to spend money on unknown artists, so Wirchenko said that affects what he chooses to bring to the theatre.
For now all three groups hope to keep ticket prices down to avoid scaring off customers.
“If dollar continued to plunge we may have to revisit that, but at this time we’re committed to making sure our fans get the best value for their dollars,” Blevins said, adding Craven site improvement projects may be put on hold to avoid rising costs.
“Are we happy about it? No, but it’s something that’s outside of our control and all we can do is try to cushion the blow as much as we can.”