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Low Canadian dollar hits Calgary's music festivals booking international artists

The slipping Canadian dollar, and shrinking sponsorships because of the economy, are making it tough for Calgary's premier music festivals to book international artists and keep ticket prices down.

Folk Fest, Sled Island struggling to keep ticket prices down as loonie drops

Organizers of Calgary's marquee music festivals, like the Calgary Folk Fest, are struggling to book international acts because of the dropping loonie. (Submitted by Ashley Thompson)

The Calgary Folk Music Festival and Sled Island are struggling to book international artists because of the low Canadian dollar and fewer sponsorships this year.

"Right now with the current lineup I'm developing and with the state of the dollar at a 70 cent dollar, that's about um, that's over a six-figure-impact, just in exchange," said Kerry Clarke, artistic director of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.

At least 30 per cent of the normal lineup requires pay in US dollars, so she's hoping to avoid reducing the numbers of big name, unique acts.

"So it's about how many artists are we bringing back that have been here before? How many of those artists are already playing at other festivals around the province and around the country?" she said.

It's not as shiny and exciting if you have all repeat artists.- Calgary Folk Fest artistic director Kerry Clarke

There is also the pressure from shrinking sponsorships, as some Calgary energy companies withdraw their support.

"It's not as shiny and exciting if you have all repeat artists and all headliners who have been here before, so a lot of it is the cost really of the more marquee artists," Clarke said.

Sled Island, another major music festival in the city, faces the same challenges.

Executive director Maud Salvi says if she booked the exact lineup from Sled Fest 2014 it would cost, "more than $80,000 more for the same thing." 

Both Salvi and Clarke say they don't want to increase ticket prices. They're hoping for bigger turnouts to make up for the costs of the dropping loonie, and calculating whether international artists could draw more international tourists.

In the meantime, every day is a balancing act.

"I have to readjust my budget every day. It essentially keeps shrinking the artistic budget," Clarke says.

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