Organizers of the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival came under fire this week after a local musician made public that he was offered a prime time slot, but was not offered pay for the performance due to the festival running out of entertainment budget.

Brett Smith-Daniels posted a screen grab on his Instagram stories of the email he received from a representative of the festival.

In the email, the rep explains that all of the festival’s entertainment budget has been spent, but they would still like to offer a time slot to perform. The email goes on to say that if the invitation were to be accepted, the festival “could book you next year too and give you a fair monetary compensation then since we expect a lot more funding in 2022.”

It is also stated in the email that the festival aims “to reignite the musical culture of this city.”

Musicians were some of the hardest hit financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down live performances for more than a year. The reaction to the offer that many in the music community interpreted as performing for exposure was not postitive.

The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Society issued a statement on social media Thursday saying that “it does not and is not asking for professional musicians, bands or groups to play pro bono” and that a new staff member overstepped her authority and that the offer to “play pro bono” was not authorized by the VDBFS.

The statement goes on to say, “We, however, wish to apologize to that band and our professional music community in general for any confusion or insult this may have caused as the “story” as it may be repeated in various iterations do not reflect the objectives of the festival.”

The 25th annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival is scheduled to take place August 14 and 15, 2021.

The original email to the musician and the statement of apology can be read below:

dragon boat
Left: Email received by a Victoria Musician offering a performer spot at the 2021 Victoria Dragon Boat Festival for no compensation
Right: VDBFS statement of apology to the musician