By David Coletto
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives and incomes of Canada’s professional musicians. Not only have live events been cancelled or postponed this year, but the outlook for 2021 is not promising.
According to a national survey of over 700 professional musicians commissioned by Music Canada, most professional musicians say that the number of bookings so far for 2021 is lower than usual, and many don’t expect a quick return to the stage – either because of government restrictions or personal discomfort performing while the risk of the virus exists.
Most professional musicians in Canada have relied on government emergency aid to get by. But as those programs expire, the outlook for professional musicians is quite dire. Professional musicians are feeling anxious, scared, uncertain, and worried about the future.
1. Live music is the lifeblood for Canada’s professional musicians.
It is how they make their living and, more important to them; it is what motivates them as artists. The pandemic feels like a choice – between making a living and keeping them and their family safe. A choice that makes them very uncomfortable.
Canadian professional musicians perform, on average, 96 times a year, travelling across Canada and the globe to performance. The revenue they generate from live performances helps support, on average, another 11.5 other people like band members and those who go on tour with them.
2. The pandemic has had a severe impact on Canada’s professional musicians’ ability to earn a living.
85% agree that if they can’t perform live, they will have a difficult time making a living as a professional musician. To underscore the impact of the pandemic, for the rest of 2020, the average number of bookings is eight, down from last year’s average of 87. More than half of the musicians surveyed have zero performances booked for the remainder of the year.
3. Despite loving to perform, many worry about the health risks associated with COVID-19 if performances restart.
They worry about their safety, the safety of their loved ones who might be exposed to the virus they could contract, their fans and audiences, and the impact distancing restrictions will have on the experience performing. While some safety protocols, like limited audience size or temperature checks, make some feel more comfortable, there is no silver bullet. The risk of COVID-19 is still too high for most musicians.
4. The pandemic has also had an impact on professional musicians’ ability to create music.
Most professional musicians surveyed report that their ability to create music or songs been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The pandemic has isolated them from other artists. Physical distancing at home and not being able to access creative spaces is distracting and affects their creativity and productivity.
5. Going digital isn’t an easy solution for most professional musicians.
The technical aspects and isolation make performing difficult, and the income replacement is nowhere near enough to make up for in-person performances. Many musicians report steep learning curves with technology and dissatisfaction with the lack of connection a digital experience creates between them and their audiences.
6 As long as physical distancing requirements continue and live performances are limited, professional musicians in Canada will find it hard to make a living.
This will hurt their livelihoods, impact their families, and those who are supported by the revenue generated from their live performances (band members, managers, technicians, and others in the industry). It may also have a long-term impact on their creativity and music they produce.
Download the full the report
On behalf of Music Canada, Abacus Data conducted a national survey of 723 Canadian professional musicians and a 90-minute online focus group with 12 professional musicians to explore the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on their careers, emotional and financial well-being, and the impressions of the music industry in Canada.
An exploratory focus group was conducted before the survey on May 28, while the survey was conducted from June 11 to 23, 2020.
Respondents were invited via the Connect platform and using snowball sampling from Music Canada’s Advisory Council.
The margin of error for the survey is + 3.7%, 19 times out of 20.
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