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August 10, 2020

By David Coletto

For video interviews by Skype or Zoom or audio interviews, please contact David at 613-884-4730 or david@abacusdata.ca

In May, we published results of a national survey conducted for Music Canada to explore how the music industry is being impacted by the pandemic through the lens of concert-goers and those who consume live, in-person music. That study found widespread hesitation about returning to live music, given the safety concerns many Canadians were feeling, including those who regularly attend live music events. A few weeks ago, we also published results of a survey of Canadian musicians, exploring the impact of the pandemic through their eyes.

To assess whether perceptions and intentions have changed since that time, Music Canada commissioned us to conduct another national survey in which many of the same questions were re-asked.

Our survey finds that an increasing number of Canadians are concerned about COVID-19, and a growing number of them plan to avoid public events even after restrictions are lifted, resulting in a longer threat to live music.

Most Canadians, including those who regularly attend live music events, remain uncomfortable with returning to live music events in the foreseeable future. Concern about the virus is down but remains elevated. More today think the worst is yet to come than did back in April.

The results also suggest that several safety measures may do little to alleviate fears of infection. Even if live events are allowed to re-open, most consumers will likely stay home, including those who tell us they deeply miss the experience of attending live, in-person music events.

Many Canadians have experienced cancelled or postponed concerts, and among those who have seen those events cancelled, there is a deep sense of loss and frustration. Despite this, music remains a source of comfort and discovery for Canadians during this pandemic.

This second round of research is also a reminder of the importance of live music to Canadians. They continue to report that they value music; they miss going to live music events; and they miss it more than they did in April. While they are discovering new artists and finding more new content from their favourite artists, the vast majority of Canadians agree that digital performances will never replace the feeling of attending live music events.

Here are some additional highlights from the research:

CONCERNS ABOUT COVID-19 REMAIN ELEVATED.

One in three Canadians are extremely worried or worried a lot about COVID-19 today, down slightly from April but still elevated. Concerns cross all age groups and are fairly consistent across the country.

More troubling, more Canadians today believe the worst is still to come with the pandemic than they did in April (44% today vs. 39% in April). These views are even higher among those who regularly attend live music events (those we refer to as Live Music Lovers), with almost half thinking the worst is still to come.

The widespread concern about the pandemic means that few Canadians (18%) want health authorities and governments to move more quickly to allow normal activities to resume. Four in ten want governments to move more slowly than they currently are.

MORE CANADIANS MISS GOING TO CONCERTS THAN IN APRIL AND WHILE THE AVAILABILITY OF DIGITAL CONTENT IS APPRECIATED IT DOESN’T REPLACE THE FEELING OF SEEING LIVE MUSIC.

Millions of Canadians have experienced postponed or cancelled live events over the past few months due to the pandemic, including half of those who regularly go to live music events.

Many Canadians want to get back to enjoying live music when it’s safe to do so. Since April, those who say they really miss going to concerts has increased by 11 percentage points to 88%. Another 77% are upset about cancelled music festivals this summer.

And despite many digital alternatives being available, most say that digital content won’t replace the feeling of seeing live music, including 89% who attend live music events regularly.

That being said, music remains a vital antidote to the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic. Eight in ten Canadians agree that listening to music is a way to relieve stress. More than half agree they have found new content online about music and musicians they love, and 4 in 10 have discovered new artists during the pandemic.

This is especially true of Live Music Lovers. Almost all of them say they miss live music events and concerts and agree that digital experiences won’t replace the feeling of seeing a concert in person. They want to experience live music again and can’t wait until they feel comfortable to do so.

AS ECONOMIES RE-OPEN, MORE CANADIANS EXPECT TO STAY AWAY FROM LIVE MUSIC EVENTS LONG AFTER PHYSICAL DISTANCING RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED.

Among all Canadians, large majorities express hesitation returning to live music events. More than seven in ten say it will take at least six months or more before they feel comfortable going to large or small indoor concerts or music festivals.

Even most of those who regularly attend live events report say it will take a long time before they are comfortable returning. 55% say they will wait at least six months or longer to attend a music festival after physical restrictions end – and for large concert venues, it is 60%. Perceptions of risk for attending these types of events are rising over time instead of declining. Ultimately, Canadians are more resistant to returning to live music events today than they were three months ago.

SAFETY PROCEDURES AT VENUES WILL DO LITTLE TO REDUCE PERCEPTIONS OF RISK ASSOCIATED WITH RETURNING TO LIVE MUSIC EVENTS.

While Canadians miss attending live music events, many suggested safety protocols or procedures do little to make them feel more comfortable returning to live events.

When we tell respondents that a venue has reduced the number of attendees that can go to a concert, only 15% of all Canadians and 32% of Live Music Lovers say they are certain to or likely to attend a concert.

Moreover, other safety measures such as mandatory mask-wearing and hand sanitization or physically distanced seating only get 19% to 24% of people saying they would be more likely to attend an indoor concert. Even those most likely to attend live events remain resistant, even with these measures in place.

All this suggests that even if venues put in place procedures that reduce the risk of infection, concert-goers will continue to be hesitant to return, and potentially for a number of months. Just because people can attend a concert with these new measures, it doesn’t mean they will.

UPSHOT

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to elicit widespread worry and anxiety for millions of Canadians. The threat of the virus has not subsided, and if anything, the longer the pandemic lasts, the more people recognize that the disruption to their lives will last far longer than many expected when the pandemic started.

Our survey for Music Canada clearly demonstrates that even if concerts are allowed to re-open, audiences will be slow to return, even among those who regularly attend these kinds of events and genuinely miss them during this extended pandemic.

Safety measures will make some people more comfortable and reduce the potential risk of infection, but the data suggests it may not be enough to make these events viable. Not only will most measures – like mask-wearing, distancing, and hand sanitizing – not be enough to bring back most back, but they could have a negative impact on the overall experience. These measures are likely to repel as many concert-goers as they attract back.

All in all, these results paint a bleak picture for the artists, technicians, and others who depend on live music to make a living. While Canadians value their craft and miss the live music experience more as the pandemic continues, their elevated concerns about the virus make them more hesitant to return to live events. Even when live music events return, fans may not at the level needed for venues and live events to be economically viable. Until the risk of infection drops substantially, the threat to live, in-person music remains real and profound.

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from July 13 to 17, 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 +/- 2.2%, 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.

ABOUT MUSIC CANADA

Music Canada is a non-profit trade organization founded in 1964 that promotes the interests of its members as well as their partners, the artists.

Our members are:

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