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News / June 28, 2016

Finally: An Artist-Fee Calculator for Canada

Traditionally, figuring an artist fee in Canada has not been easy. But that changes this week with the launch of a one-click online fee calculator.
A visitor takes in “Pictured Windows,” an exhibition at Equinox Gallery during Canadian Art's 2015 Gallery Hop Vancouver. Photo: Lindsay Elliott. A visitor takes in “Pictured Windows,” an exhibition at Equinox Gallery during Canadian Art's 2015 Gallery Hop Vancouver. Photo: Lindsay Elliott.

Traditionally, figuring out the artist fee for an exhibition in Canada has not been an easy task.

Though Canadian artists and galleries have been fortunate to be able to reference a standard minimum fee schedule updated yearly by CARFAC and RAAV—two non-profits that advocate for artists’ rights—that schedule has not been very user-friendly, requiring multiple clicks online that may cause users to miss important information.

Sally Lee, executive director of CARFAC Ontario, is hoping that will change this week with the introduction of Canada’s first official online artist-fee calculator. The calculator is a joint project of CARFAC, RAAV and CARFAC Ontario.

“Our concern was that for some people, the fee schedule could be a bit confusing, and that made it a bit of a deterrent for people to actually go use it,” Lee says.

Lee hopes that the one-click, drop-down-menu ease of use in the new calculator will ultimately help more Canadian artists get paid for their work.

“Once we started doing [this project] a lot of people were like, ‘This is a no-brainer,’” especially for what Lee calls “a new generation.”

The new calculator is the first phase of a process in making artist fees payable online by the summer of 2017.

And it joins artist-fee calculators that have already been developed for the United States and Ireland, among other jurisdictions.

But, emphasizes Lee, the calculator is not the final word on artist fees in Canada.

“We are stressing that the online fee calculator should be used as a preliminary guideline to set the minimum fee,” says Lee. “But we would like to see artists being paid more than what is on the minimum fee schedule.”

Lee says that CARFAC and RAAV are also slowly working on harmonizing their fee schedule with that of the Independent Media Arts Alliance, so that eventually the fee calculator would cover a wider range of artist needs—for example, screenings as well as exhibitions.

And on a non-technological front, Lee and her colleagues at CARFAC and RAAV are pushing for another kind of change in the coming months—namely, to shift away from terms like “exhibition fee” towards terms like “exhibition royalty.”

“I think [the term “royalty”] emphasizes the fact that the artist holds the copyright,” Lee says. “Somehow, a ‘fee’ seems like a charge that the artist is making, like a discretionary charge, rather than an actual economic right that they have given that they have copyright over their work.”

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via