Canadian Musician - March-April 2022 - Page 9

FIRST TAKE

Lifting of Restrictions Brings Hope for Canada ’ s Live Music Industry By Nicole Auger & Erin Benjamin , Canadian Live Music Association

Our last column for Canadian Musician ( written in December 2020 ) described the state of the Canadian live music industry nine months into the pandemic . At that time , most live music companies and organizations had seen little or no revenue since March 2020 while still attempting to manage significant overhead and operational costs . Venues were closing permanently , skilled workers were leaving the industry to pursue more stable work in other sectors , and soaring ( or , in many cases , completely inaccessible ) commercial liability insurance rates were preventing most venues from reopening , even when partial restrictions were lifted temporarily .

Today , as we approach the two-year mark , these challenges remain a stark reality for our sector . However , with the sudden rapid lifting of public health restrictions across the country , live music businesses and organizations are , with cautious optimism , carefully developing and re-examining their reopening strategies to safely welcome back audiences for in-person live events .
Rebuilding will take time . However , if we have seen one positive thing emerge throughout this period of immense crisis and loss , it is our industry ’ s strength , resilience , and staunch commitment to ensuring that Canadians continue to have the live music experiences they love - and desperately need . We have seen our industry come together in new ways – and demonstrate the power of a united voice – while recognizing , and beginning to address , the critical need for increased representation from equityseeking and sovereignty-affirming groups in decision-making positions around the table .
February marked the one-year anniversary of the CLMA ’ s launch of # ForTheLoveOfLIVE – a public awareness campaign to amplify the crushing impact of COVID-19 on Canada ’ s live music industry . With a reach of over 65 million , the campaign continues to inspire artists , industry , fans , and community members to share photos , stories , and messages about why live music matters to them . Last year , the government provided a historic $ 50 million in temporary funding for the sector – and most notably , for live music venues . That critical support helped in two vital ways : it extended the lives of many businesses
NICOLE AUGER
and it signaled to our community that the government believes live music companies and entrepreneurs matter .
However , it ’ s only one part of the longterm solution to the many challenges ahead for the live music industry . According to Statistics Canada ’ s National Culture Indicators , employment within the live performance domain fell significantly in 2020 , with a loss of over 34,000 jobs – 47 % of the workforce . While there were encouraging signs of recovery throughout summer 2021 , they were quickly eradicated by the Omicron variant . Access to , and affordability of , commercial liability insurance continues to present significant barriers to operation for live music venues and small businesses . And low consumer confidence and hesitancy will delay many audience members from returning to live performances until summer 2022 , even as restrictions are fully lifted . Additionally , many artists and industry workers continue to suffer from significant mental health issues , anxiety , and stress .
Thanks to the collaborative work of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses , of which the CLMA is a steering committee member , the renewal of support programs – such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy ( CEWS ), the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy ( CERS ), and the Canada Recovery Benefit ( CERB / CRB ) – over the past 23 months has meant more live music businesses had a greater chance of survival . The introduction of new lifelines , such as the Tourism &
ERIN BENJAMIN
Hospitality Recovery Program ( THRP ) and the Canada Performing Arts Workers Resilience Fund ( CPAWRF ) have brought some renewed hope to the industry ; however , these programs will expire long before the sector is likely to fully recover .
Live music and events can stabilize , and contribute powerfully , with strategic support . To address the longer-term recovery phase , the CLMA has made additional pre-budget recommendations to the Federal Government , such as requesting the extension of federal relief programs including the THRP and CPAWRF , as well as the establishment of a permanent $ 50 million Canadian Live Music Support Fund to assist with long-term capacity rebuilding and ongoing support to the live music ecosystem . These measures will be critical to the sector ’ s ability to bridge the gap to true recovery and beyond .
Nicole Auger is the project consultant and Erin Benjamin is the president and CEO at the Canadian Live Music Association ( CLMA ).
CLMA represents the interests of Canada ’ s live music industry , including venues , clubs , concert promoters , festivals , talent agencies , arenas , performing arts centres , industry associations , and networks , as well as suppliers to the sector . Its mission is to entrench the economic , social , and cultural value of live music – creating the conditions for concerts to thrive across the country .
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