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REPORT | Canadians Worry About The Future Of Live Music And Most Support Government Aid

By Anya Wassenberg on February 10, 2021

Winspear Centre, Edmonton, AB (Photo by IQRemix/CC 2.0)
Winspear Centre, Edmonton, AB (Photo by IQRemix/CC 2.0)

Almost a year after the global COVID-19 pandemic silenced live music venues of all kinds across the country, a strong majority of Canadians worry about both the present and future of live music and culture in this country.

Abacus Data, a Toronto and Ottawa based research and strategy firm, just released the results of its latest survey into the state of the live music industry. It’s the third such survey commissioned by Music Canada. The online survey results come from 2,000 Canadian adults 18 and over, and were taken between December 28, 2020 and January 1, 2021.

Music Canada is a non-profit trade organization founded by major recording labels, including Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc., Universal Music Canada Inc., and Warner Music Canada Co., to advocate on their own behalf as well as that of the artists they represent and the industry as a whole.

Abacus Survey - Canadians love music
Graphic courtesy of Abacus Data

Canadians Love Music — And They’re Worried About It

What they found isn’t surprising, but amidst the anxiety over the future of live music, the results do demonstrate strong support for the arts and culture sector among Canadian adults.

Perhaps the most optimistic result of all is that 91% of Canadians say they “like or love” music, and more than 80% plan on returning to indoor concerts, local bars and other venues, and outdoor concerts and festivals, with 88% in the latter category.

It’s a bit of good news that Canadian audiences can’t wait to get back to live music and performance. Once it’s safe, presenters can safely count on them coming out in droves. But — whenever that happens, who and what will be left standing?

In general, Canadians are concerned about the pandemic and its effects on live music and Canadian culture overall, with just under 40% saying they were “extremely worried/worried a lot” about it.

Abacus Survey - Canadians support music sector 2021
Graphic courtesy of Abacus Data

They Recognize The Impact And Support Government Help

A solid block of Canadians across genders and age groups know that music festivals, presenters, and venues have been terribly impacted by the pandemic and resulting lockdowns. Up to 78% believe that impact has been severe when it comes to music festivals. Music festivals, pubs and bars, and live music rank among the top five sectors recognized by the Canadian public as being hard hit through 2020.

It therefore follows that a majority of Canadians believe that the music industry will require some form of support from the government both to survive and get back on its feet. Just under two-thirds believe live music will need support, and slightly less believe music festivals should get government aid. Those numbers rise among younger Canadians, as well as in Quebec.

That concern on the part of Canadians extends not only to musicians and venues, but to the thousands of people who work in supporting roles in the industry, from stage technicians to ticket sellers.

Abacus Survey - govt support for live music 2021
Graphic courtesy of Abacus Data

Is Canadian Culture At Risk?

A large majority of Canadians recognize that the pandemic lockdown has not only short term but long term effects on Canadian arts and culture in general. Fully 84% expect there will be negative impacts, with 35% saying those effects may be “very negative”. The overall number rises to 89% in Quebec.

There are a number of sources of concern.

  • Just under two-thirds believe that musicians may pivot to other ways of making a living and not return to performing;
  • 53% believe that, without the support of the government, a generation of Canadian culture risks being lost.

Local bars and other small music venues can take heart from the fact that about 20% of Canadian adults, or six million people, have a favourite local music venue. What’s more, they believe it contributes to the general quality of life in their community. About half of those people are worried that their venue of choice has or will close as a result of the pandemic, and most worry that they will never re-open.

Because of the current dilemma, Canadians see the live music market shrinking, and 40% believe there will be fewer places to experience a concert or performance when society reopens. The survey respondents expressed emotions ranging from angry to disappointed for the most part, with the level of anger increasing as the level of permanent closures grows.

While many Canadians have also discovered the pleasures of livestreaming during the pandemic, an innovation that is surely here to stay, it’s also clear they strongly value and support the live music industry.

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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
Follow me
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