For a budding musician, exposure is everything. A change in Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) policy will now let under-age performers hit the stage in licensed establishments where no minors have been allowed since 2007.
St. Albert’s Hailey Benedict, a 14-year-old singer and songwriter, says she couldn’t be happier.
“I’m now able to expose my music to a whole new audience range,” she says. “I think that’s going to be really great.”
Adult-only venues will be able to apply for a license to allow youth to perform in their establishments. Upon receiving the application, AGLC will review and determine whether or not to approve it.
Prior to the policy change, Benedict’s stage experience included performing at two local venues and in competitions. She says she’s looking forward to the more intimate atmosphere of performing in front of smaller audiences.
“You get to experiment and make mistakes and it’s usually those mistakes that become some of the best parts in a song,” she says.
Benedict started singing at six years old and started performing in competitions when she was nine.
Her mother, Brandee, says she’s more than supportive of allowing her underage daughter play at adult-only venues.
“I think it’s really great and it benefits the businesses and the younger artists. I’m obviously going to be chaperoning and watching over her the same as I would at any venue, so I don’t have any concerns at this point.”
Bill Robinson, president and CEO of Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, says the changes will encourage youth performers in their music careers. He said under-age musicians were frustrated with the previous policy.
“They felt someone shut out not being able to pursue their careers, so I think this is going to be positive. They’ll get the experience they need,” he explains.
Jacob Kryger, 18-year-old drummer for a ska band named Thursdays, says he wishes this change had come a lot sooner.
“If this had been around for us when we started, it would have been able to help us,” he says.
Kryger began playing the drums when he was eight, and joined Thursdays when it formed two years ago.
One of five members of the band is under-age, but now that won’t stop the band from performing at venues.
“Before we haven’t been able to play in certain places,” he says. “Even if most of us are 18.”
Prior to the changes Thursdays had been performing at all-age festivals and venues as well as private events.
“This is going to give people a lot more opportunities to play and to get paid to play. If younger people can get into those places then it’ll really enhance the music scene around,” he says.
It’s still to be determined what venues will put in an application to have under-age performers at their venues. AGLC will look at the venue’s past history and search for any prior contraventions before deciding whether to approve the application.