Image courtesy of Freepik.com
Image courtesy of Freepik.com

New Survey Casts A Worrisome Shadow Over Live Music Industry

Data from an April 24 to 30 online survey with 2,500 Canadians aged 18 and over offers crushing news for promoters of live music with about 40% saying it will take six months or more before they will feel comfortable going to a concert at an arena or a music festival and a majority saying they are unlikely to go to a live music event, even if distancing protocols are put in place and the number of people at the venue is reduced.

“As governments across Canada and the world increasingly shift their focus to recovery, this data from Abacus underscores the precarious position of the live music ecosystem – an ecosystem upon which artists rely for a significant, and in some cases predominant, portion of their livelihood,” said Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada. “The music industry faces a triple threat. First – the very real medical concerns of Canadians about the virus. Second – that government restrictions will remain on large gatherings well into recovery. And third – that even after government restrictions have lifted and economies begin to reopen – Canadian confidence in returning to these live events will continue to be low.”

Even going to a bar or pub to listen to music would take some six months or more to feel comfortable to do again. A third of Canadians (33%) said they likely wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a pub or bar for live music for at least six months, about a quarter said they probably would never feel comfortable again.

Most striking, half of Canadians (50%) said they may never feel comfortable again going to a concert in the United States with another 32% saying to would take at least six months before they feel comfortable again.

Older Canadians expressed longer time horizons before they would feel comfortable again, as did women generally.

But even among Canadians who love live music the most and report going most often before the pandemic, many will be reluctant to return quickly to live music events if they are allowed.

Among “live music lovers”:

• 49% say it will take six months or more or they may never feel comfortable going to a concert in a large venue.
• 48% feel the same way about going to a music festival.
• 68% say it will take six months or more or they may never feel comfortable again going to a concert in the United States.

The Abacus Data survey at one point asks: If concert venues and local bars reduced the number of people allowed into the venue to allow for more distancing, how likely are you to go to a concert if a vaccine is not found for covidvirus?

Overall, 31% said they would be certain not to go with another 28% saying they are much less likely or somewhat less likely to go (59% total). Only 4% say they are certain to go with 26% saying they were more likely to go or might consider going. Even among those most likely to attend live music events, 42% say they are certain not to go or less likely to go to a live music event, even if the number of people allowed into the venue is reduced to allow for distancing.

In short, even if they are allowed to return, many Canadians, including those who love live music the most and miss being able to, won’t feel comfortable attending until there is a vaccine or their risk of infection is substantially lower.

While live music events are postponed and cancelled, many Canadians have replaced the live experience with a digital one.

Three in ten say they have watched a live music show on Facebook or another social media platform and most (70%) say they have been satisfied with the overall experience.

Despite being generally satisfied with the digital content, most (79%) admit that digital experiences are a good stand-in for live music, but cannot replace the real thing. This is especially true among “live music lovers” who are far more likely to have consumed a live music event online (47%, 17-points higher than average) but also overwhelmingly agree (84%) that digital content cannot replace the feeling of seeing live music.

UPSHOT

The pandemic has caused widespread worry, anxiety, and loneliness for millions of Canadians who are stuck at home and isolated from their loved ones and their usual activities.

During this period, music has been a source of comfort and discovery for many. Technology has enabled Canadians of all ages to find new artists, discover new songs and albums, and interact with their favourite artists in new ways. Millions have streamed live music content, watched more music videos, and learned about the artists they love.

But the pandemic has also taken away the joy that live music brings to so many Canadians. Millions report postponed or cancelled live music events. People who love attending live music events are using it as a barometer for how they feel about the pandemic. The inability to go to see their favourite artists in small and large venues alike has made the pandemic even more difficult to get through.

Despite a genuine desire to return to live music events, to experience them in small and big venues, many Canadians are hesitant and reluctant to return. About 40% say it will take six months or more before they will feel comfortable going to a concert at an arena or a music festival. A majority say they are unlikely to go to a live music event, even if distancing protocols are put in place and the number of people at the venue is reduced.

Since concerns about contracting the virus and a second spike in infections linger, even if restrictions on large gatherings are lifted, it would be wrong to assume that people will return to their normal behaviours. Just because people can do something, doesn’t mean they will. This suggests the impact of the pandemic on the live music sector will persist long after restrictions on large gatherings are lifted.

Music Canada commissioned Abacus Data to conduct public opinion research to determine how Canadians’ feelings around music have changed during the pandemic. The national public opinion survey gauged the comfort Canadians have for returning to live music as restrictions lift.

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