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Canada’s Live Music Industry In 911 'Crisis' Mode

The nation’s promoters and venue operators are in a perilous state resulting from the Covid lockdown that has resulted in a combination of zero revenue for the past two months and short to medium forecasts that promise no material change.

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA), representing an amalgam of small music venues, concert promotion companies, major arenas and festivals, performing arts centres, and others including talent agents and event suppliers, is calling on the federal government to save an industry that is in crisis.

“Until recently, this vibrant industry, with obvious ties to the tourism sector contributed $3.5B to Canada’s GDP and supported 72,000 jobs – and this was before taking into consideration the myriad of indirect impacts and the livelihoods of our artists for whom touring and live performance are their number one source of revenue,” CLMA President/CEO Erin Benjamin states in an open letter delivered to Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault Thursday.

Continuing: “As the government continues to grapple with the incredibly difficult task of navigating such unprecedented times, Canada’s live music industry is failing and failing quickly.  In early March 2020 revenues plummeted to zero overnight as the industry experienced a full and complete shut-down due to (the pandemic).  This sector, which feeds our country’s creative economy as well as helping to define our cultural identity, was among the first ‘hit’, and will be among the very last to recover.  The timeframe for the reopening of the live music sector is not known, and even when we can open, the public may be cautious about large gatherings. 

“This is a crisis within a crisis,” she writes.

Alarmingly, a recently completed org survey suggests that as high as 96-percent of its membership is teetering on the brink of insolvency.

“Regrettably, and as forecast by the CLMA in our letter to governments on March 16th, we are witnessing a near-total collapse of the Canadian live music industry,” Benjamin says.  “Within months, a staggering 96% of respondent companies say they will close permanently if they haven’t already, despite the fact that these companies are already leveraging existing federal programs.

The CLMA CEO acknowledges that some financial support programs have helped the live industry, but she urges a roll-out of phase 2 support programs be introduced before the live industry is killed by the coronavirus.

Below, the full text of Benjamin's letter to Heritage minister Guilbeault

An Urgent Call To Government For Support of Canada's Live Music Industry

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) represents the breadth of the industry: the stages upon which our artists stand, both indoors and out, and the supply chain that surrounds them. We represent those who own/operate small live music venues to Canada’s largest concert promotion companies, major arenas and festivals to performing arts centres, and others including talent agents, event suppliers and more. Until recently, this vibrant industry, with obvious ties to the tourism sector contributed $3.5b to Canada’s GDP and supported 72,000 jobs – and this was before taking into consideration the myriad of indirect impacts and the livelihoods of our artists for whom touring and live performance are their number one source of revenue.

As the government continues to grapple with the incredibly difficult task of navigating such unprecedented times, Canada’s live music industry is failing and failing quickly.  In early March 2020 revenues plummeted to zero overnight as the industry experienced a full and complete shut-down due to COVID-19.  This sector, which feeds our country’s creative economy as well as helping to define our cultural identity, was among the first “hit”, and will be among the very last to recover.  The timeframe for the reopening of the live music sector is not known, and even when we can open, the public may be cautious about large gatherings.  
 
This is a crisis within a crisis. 

96% of responding live music companies will fail (or have already failed) without additional government support within a matter of months
On Friday, May 8th the federal government announced the details of the $500 million Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations to “protect jobs and support business continuity for organizations whose viability has been negatively affected” for “those in the arts and culture sector”.  We thank the Government for their efforts, knowing that our not-for-profit members are likely to receive some financial support through the “phase one” roll-out of the plan.  This is extremely welcome news, and while it won’t solve all the problems it will help. Thank you.

However, as the CLMA has repeatedly shared with governments – the live music industry, which nurtures and supports our touring artists, is very diverse.  Every company and organization in the broader music industry ecosystem, for and non-profit is dependent on the other; we are intrinsically linked.  Artists (and their teams) don’t differentiate.  A paying gig is a paying gig – whether it’s on stage at a non-profit festival, a small grassroots music venue or a commercially-oriented enterprise. 

As many as 70% of CLMA members have never been able to access federal programs such as FACTOR, Music Action, Canada Council, Canada Music Fund and CAPF due to their eligibility criteria. This means that a very significant part of the live music industry will not be able to access additional, life-saving support through phase 1 of the Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations.

While righting these historical inequities is an on-going part of our long-term dialogue with government and funding agencies, our foremost priority today is saving our stages, our people and our companies who facilitate touring on behalf of artists in Canada, as soon and as quickly as possible.  

On May 10th, the CLMA surveyed our members who self-identified as not having a funding relationship with the federal government to capture data that demonstrates their real-time fight for survival.  

As the federal government works to determine how to disburse its Phase 2 allotment of the Emergency Support Fund, we ask that it consider the critical importance of domestic touring for artists since changes in the music industry over the past few decades have decimated other income streams such as sales from recordings. Touring is connected to every aspect of the Canadian music industry and is a key – if not the key – to its overall health.   

Regrettably, and as forecast by the CLMA in our letter to governments on March 16th, we are witnessing a near-total collapse of the Canadian live music industry.  Within months, a staggering 96% of respondent companies say they will close permanently if they haven’t already, despite the fact that these companies are already leveraging existing federal programs such as CEWS and others. We can extrapolate beyond the respondents and suggest that these findings are likely representative of the entire live music sector across Canada. 

70% of our members do not receive sector-specific support from federal government programs. This is higher than anyone else in the ENTIRE arts and culture sector, by a significant margin.

What does a Canada look like with little to no touring infrastructure? No small venues – indeed, no venue ladder at all – where so many of today’s stars began their careers. Given the importance of tourism for artists the loss of this infrastructure will have a severe impact on Canada’s broader ecosystem from music record labels, management companies, music publishers, talent agencies, songwriters and more. 

The unimaginable is in motion. 

Please, help Canada’s live music industry by ensuring that Phase 2 and any other support is directed to all those who need it. Canada’s live music industry needs you, Canadian fans and audiences need you.  Artists and musicians need you.
 
Thank you,
Erin Benjamin President & CEO

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