May 14, 2020

By David Coletto

OTTAWA – A new poll conducted for Music Canada finds that many Canadians say it will take six months or more before they feel comfortable going to watch live music again, even after physical distancing restrictions are lifted.

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At the end of April, Abacus Data conducted a national public opinion survey commissioned by Music Canada, the national association represents the country’s largest music labels, to explore how Canadians are feeling about the pandemic as it relates to music and live music in particular.

Here is what we found:

MUSIC IS HELPING CANADIANS GET THROUGH THE PANDEMIC.

During the pandemic, Canadians report they are consuming more music than usual and finding comfort during these difficult periods.

• 35% say they are listening to more music than before the pandemic started.
• 31% say they are watching more video content from musicians online than before.
• 31% say they are watching more music videos than before.
• 24% say they are watching more recorded live concerts than before.

Hunkered down in their homes, music has been both a source of discovery and relief for many Canadians. Almost eight in ten agree that listening to music is a way to relieve stress. Another 55% agree they have found a lot of new content online about music and musicians they love during the pandemic. 43% say they have discovered new artists during the pandemic.

MILLIONS OF CANADIANS HAVE HAD LIVE MUSIC EVENTS POSTPONED OR CANCELLED, AND FOR LIVE MUSIC LOVERS, IT’S MAKING THEM FEEL EVEN WORSE ABOUT THE PANDEMIC.

One in five Canadians (19%) report that a live music event they were planning to go to had been postponed while another 20% report a live music event had been cancelled because of the pandemic.

For the 26% of Canadians who are “live music lovers” (those who regularly attend live music concerts or events pre-pandemic), the impact of the pandemic on their plans has been especially significant. 39% have had live music events postponed and 43% have had them cancelled.

For these Canadians, live music is a big part of their lives. They crave the experience, the social aspect of the events, and the way live music makes them feel. 58% say that the cancellation of live music events has made them feel worse about the pandemic, 34-percentage points higher than average.

DESPITE WANTING TO GO, CANADIANS, EVEN THOSE WHO LOVE LIVE MUSIC, SAY THEY WILL BE RELUCTANT TO GO BACK TO LIVE MUSIC EVENTS BEFORE A VACCINE FOR COVID IS FOUND.

Even if they are permitted to go to live music events, many Canadians, including those who love live music the most, will be reluctant to return for some time.

We asked respondents how soon they will feel comfortable enough doing several activities, once physical distancing restrictions are lifted. In almost all cases, fewer than 40% said they would feel comfortable in a few months or less. For most, the time horizon was much longer with many saying they may never feel comfortable again.

For example, 43% said it would take six months or more before they would feel comfortable going to a music festival or a concert in a large venue. Another quarter said they may never feel comfortable going to those types of events again.

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 to 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.

Later in the survey, we asked respondents:

“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 concert if a vaccine is not found for COVID-19?”

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.

MANY CANADIANS ARE REPLACING A LIVE MUSIC EXPERIENCE WITH A DIGITIAL ONE.

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 COVID-19 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.

Finally, the survey captured the deep unease Canadians have about travelling to the United States. Many are ruling it out completing and for others, it may take months before they feel comfortable returning for live music events in the US. This will have important implications on tourism, travel, and the live music industry in the United States.

Access the questionnaire and results for the survey here.

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METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from April 24 to 30, 2020. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.0%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Access the questionnaire and results for the survey here [add link]

Good Decisions Require Good Data.