Held back for two years by health rules, Quebec music and comedy festivals must overcome new obstacles at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is finally giving them respite: the scarcity of labor and the rise costs caused by inflation.
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Even if the holding of no event is in question and no one is crying catastrophic, throughout Quebec, several organizations must make unprecedented efforts to bring together the personnel necessary for the smooth running of their festivals and balance the budgets (see other text below).
“Recruiting in all sectors was difficult,” notes Laurent Saulnier, vice-president of programming and production at Équipe Spectra, which organizes the Francos and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
"We receive a lot fewer resumes than usual," adds the boss of Just for Laughs, Patrick Rozon.
“We had to tour CEGEPs and universities. It’s a challenge that takes a lot of time and wastes money,” explains the general manager of the FestiVoix de Trois-Rivières, Thomas Grégoire.
Will they show up?
At the Festival d'été de Québec, the development of the site of the Plains of Abraham, where the Maroon 5, Alanis Morissette and Rage Against The Machine will parade, in July, begins tomorrow morning after a race against the clock which notably involved the purchase of advertisements on Facebook to find all the skilled workers required.
“For the next three weeks, we have the teams to accomplish what is on the schedule. We are correct, but will all the people show up on Monday? I don't know," wondered the general manager, Anne Hudon, a few days ago.
Generally, the ComediHa! Fest-Québec needs 150 to 200 volunteers to ensure its smooth running. Currently, “I have 50”, reveals its general manager, Josée Charland.
“I hope people will answer the call, otherwise we will have to be creative and find solutions. If necessary, I will go and sell tickets,” she jokes.
Technicians and security guards wanted
At La Noce, in Saguenay, the organization could not find all of its sound and stage technicians in the region. “I have to go to my bank of contacts and friends who are in Quebec and Montreal,” says director Frédéric Poulin, who is also struggling to find rental vehicles and security guards.
“I asked Garda and they told me they couldn't bid because they don't have enough manpower. I'm looking for a complete team. I don't have enough people in Saguenay to do it alone and I don't have a head of security who can manage his team. At worst, if I do not have all the agents I need, we will ask volunteers to watch the doors located in less judicious places, ”says Mr. Poulin.
FRANCOS OF MONTREAL
From June 10 to 18 in Montreal
From June 16 to 19, in Tadoussac
FESTIVAL Dr MOBILO AQUAFEST
From June 20 to 26, 2022
From June 29 to July 2, in Chicoutimi
From June 30 to July 9, in Petite-Vallée
FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DE JAZZ
From June 30 to July 9 in Montreal
From June 30 to July 10 in Trois-Rivières
“Since this situation affects everyone, we are trying between producers to exchange employees. That is to say, instead of having a two-week contract for a single event, we hire them together for a period of two months.
– Patrick Rozon, vice-president, francophone content, and general and artistic director of Just for Laughs
"Given the pandemic, we've played it safe this year and our needs are less, so we'll do well."
– Josée Charland, General Manager of ComediHa!
“We are going to tell the artists that we are going to try to keep the same installation on stage as much as possible, between concerts, because we are short of manpower. »
– Sébastien Huot, general manager of Festivent, in Lévis
"The big unknown is that we don't know how many people are ready to come to big events."
– Laurent Saulnier, vice-president of programming and production at Équipe Spectra
Inflation is hitting Quebec festivals hard, which must absorb price increases of up to 50%.
“Everything is more expensive”, launches the boss of the Festive! of Baie-Saint-Paul, Clément Turgeon.
“For the same bid that was at $15,000 before, today it can go up to $23,000, in particular because of the price of gasoline. For example, chemical toilets, you have to pick them up in Gatineau,” he adds.
The increase in costs affects the remuneration of staff and artists, the rental of stage equipment, lighting and sound, vehicles, fencing, toilets, bar and catering supplies.
“It goes from 15%, to 30-40, or even 50% more expensive”, according to Thomas Grégoire, of the FestiVoix of Trois-Rivières.
“With us, everything we rent comes from Quebec, Chicoutimi or Montreal. Delivery costs have exploded, ”says the general manager of the Festival de la chanson de Tadoussac, Julien Pinardon.
From $4.2M to $4.8M
According to Laurent Saulnier, of Équipe Spectra, “it’s the accumulation that changes the game. It becomes a real budgetary issue.
At the FestiVoix de Trois-Rivières, the 2020 edition, which was canceled by the pandemic, was to be the biggest in the history of the event with a budget of $4.2 million. “In 2022, to achieve substantially the same thing, we have reached 4.8 million for the moment”, notes Thomas Grégoire.
For her part, the director of the Festival d'été, Anne Hudon, submits that there is a limit to the salary increase that her event wishes to grant to its seasonal workforce in order to "maintain fairness with regular employees.
Crucial help from governments
Despite everything, no one is crying out for food yet, mainly thanks to the COVID-related grants from Quebec and Ottawa that remain in effect.
“The two levels of government as well as the municipal really responded present. They had to be there for the recovery, ”rejoices Patrick Kearney, who directs the Santa Teresa festival, which took place from May 19 to 22.
It remains to be seen for how long the governments will be present, believes Clément Turgeon. “Going forward, if the government withdraws COVID-related subsidies, that is going to be an issue. To hire, you will have to be more generous and it will take more sources of income.”
Despite galloping inflation, festival-goers will not be hit by a drastic increase in ticket prices in 2022.
The financial support of the various levels of government, in connection with the pandemic, made it possible to avoid a price shock at the ticket office.
In general, the increases remain reasonable.
In Trois-Rivières, the FestiVoix has raised the price of its passports from $49 in 2020 to $59 in 2022.
"We have increased less than the inflation we are experiencing," notes director Thomas Grégoire.
The Festivent de Lévis has also raised its passports by $10, which are now $49.99 in presale instead of $39.99.
Things are not moving in Tadoussac
At the Festival de la chanson de Tadoussac, the prices have not changed. “We did not want to increase the prices because we know that it requires a good budget for transport and accommodation to get to Tadoussac. We hope that the various subsidy programs will take into account the increase in the cost of living,” explains director Julien Pinardon.
On the festive side! of Baie-Saint-Paul, the cost of tickets for a single event remained the same. Passports for the duration of the event are increased by $10 to $15 due to the addition of a fourth evening.
At the Festival d'été de Québec, the 125,000 passes all flew in presale to $130, an increase of $20 compared to what was expected in 2020, and which had been decreed, explained director Anne Hudon, to deal with inflation.
As for La Noce, in Saguenay, the increase is a little more significant. Passports have gone from $50 to $80.