The Canadian touring market is still on fire.

"Maybe you need to talk also to some of my colleagues in the other provinces as well, but by current accounts, Canada is still selling tickets and the traffic is still on the road," says Patti-Ann Tarlton, director of bookings at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto.

Billboard did check with the other provinces, and the news was the same from the other side of the country. "Yes, the Canadian market is still hot," says Shane Bourbonnais, president of touring/business development for Live Nation Canada, based in Vancouver. "Bookings are looking really strong, [with] lots of the big Canadian acts, such as Avril Lavigne and Michael Bublé, out early in 2008, along with many of the big international acts."

Live Nation Canada chairman Riley O'Connor in Toronto adds, "The summer looks like the best mix of genres of acts I have seen in over two years."

Tarlton's bookings at the ACC show that mix. "We are just about to play out four Spice Girls, and Bon Jovi has added their record-setting fifth show" at ACC, she says. "Country music is playing nationally, TV shows gone live are still selling tickets, Ozzy [Osbourne], Bublé, Lenny [Kravitz], Rascal Flatts, Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, Avril, Celine [Dion], [John] Mellencamp, Matchbox Twenty, Three Days Grace and wrestling are all up and doing numbers in Toronto."

Similar news comes from the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, where 2008 "is shaping up to be a great year," according to venue VP/executive director Tom Conroy. Already on the datebooks for the first quarter are Mellencamp, Rascal Flatts, Foo Fighters, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Def Leppard and Disney's "High School Musical." "The rest of the year should see the business continue at a similar pace," Conroy says.

The question that remains, as it has for the past few years, is how can the market stay at the same levels? "We all expect the market of Canada-it really is one market to all of us from coast to coast-to sustain," Conroy says. "Live Nation is promoting the majority of shows, but AEG is beginning to make tracks here in Canada, and we welcome their business."

Still, agents and promoters should use caution when routing tours through Canada. "It's only on fire for acts that do not overplay by coming back six months or a year later," O'Connor says. "Acts that plan strategically to tour Canada with well-thought-out launches in marketing their new product and price-point sensitivity on a market-by-market basis will do solid business."
Tarlton says that while the state of the U.S. economy makes news north of the border, the Canadian touring market is anything but skittish.

"We remain cautiously optimistic about Canada, and the dollar is still hovering around par, which bodes well for the business," Tarlton says. "This summer looks like it will be outdoor-based, yet I am still challenged to find time in our arena schedule to execute a number of capital improvements based on the demands of the live industry."

Right now, success is breeding success in Canadian markets coast to coast.
"There are some really great markets to route through, and thanks to strong sales in all the markets, we are seeing more and more confidence from promoters and agents, who in turn view Canada as an excellent market," Conroy says.