COVID-19 has Devastated the Canadian Independent Music Industry

Some parts of the sector have lost up to 79% of revenue from 2019

A new report details just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Canadian independent musicians. Among the most shocking revelations, the evaporation of an energetic live music scene has led to a decline in revenue of $233 million in just six months and that the industry will likely not recover to pre-COVID levels until at least 2023. The revenue loss has been most acute for emerging artists and their representatives who have very few avenues for discovery outside of live entertainment.

Happier times seeing The Record Company just killing it at Toronto’s Velvet Underground . May 2017

The report, entitled The Impact of COVID-19 on Canadian Independent Music, was conducted by Nordicity on behalf of the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) and shines a light on the various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Canadian independent music sector.

The key findings, in addition to a staggering decline in revenue, show how live music has been the hardest hit with a 79% drop in income from 2019 and Independent sound recording and publishing companies have seen a 41% decline in revenue from 2019. The survey forecasts that almost 2,000 full-time jobs were lost in six months since March when Covid-19 locked down most of Canada.  While the report focuses on lost live entertainment, like most facets of our Canadian small business economy the suffering continues through the bars and clubs that are not able to open to the serving and hospitality staff that cannot work.  While we may look at this report as a plea for government aid, it should also represent the ripple effect of how entwined our independent business culture is and when one sector suffers the dominos fall to other categories that also drive our economy. 

The study predicts that in a best-case scenario, industry revenue will not recover to pre-COVID levels until 2023-2024, and only with further emergency financial supports considering how new musicians are unable to promote their work, which in the past was mostly through concerts.  

While the study groups independent music as a whole the pandemic (and events that occurred during Covid) have highlighted the need for the industry to improve access to different voices. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Black, Indigenous and People of Colour have not seen the same funding support as the rest of their peers – both as artists and as music industry entrepreneurs. Most worrisome for the industry, between the variable funding levels at the Canada Music Fund, the potential reforms to the Copyright Act, and the recently introduced Broadcasting Act legislation (Bill C-10), there is uncertainty surrounding how Canadian independent music companies will be supported as they recover from the pandemic. 

“If real support is not made available to music creators, Canadian music may not recover. Not only do we have an obligation to protect Canadian music as a voice for our country and as one of our proudest forms of cultural expression, but we also have a responsibility to support the hard-working Canadians who work in this industry. This is their livelihood, and it has been devastated,” says CIMA Board Chair and co-owner/president of Sonic Unyon Records, Tim Potocic.

As part of the Nordicity report, CIMA includes several recommendations for additional support that can back the independent music industry as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the recommendations:

·Extending and enhancing the Canada Music Fund’s Annual and Supplemental Funding

·Increasing flexibility in how funding is disbursed

·Enhancing financial and technical support for audience development

·Providing wage support for workers in the Canadian music sector

·Creating tailored financing for underrepresented groups; and

·Enhancing support for online training for new and emerging music professionals.

“We are asking the government to consider that without such support, ‘the band cannot play on,’” says board director and president/founder of Aporia Records Gord Dimitrieff. “Every day, more music creators and their representatives are losing their livelihoods and there is nowhere else for them to go. This thriving and dynamic Canadian music industry that we are so proud of is quickly eroding, and without speedy action, it will be years before it can even begin to recover.”

Every Canadian artist who is now a household name started as a independent, trying to make a name for themselves.  We can’t allow a pandemic to wipe our a generation of Canadian talent.  Support local and support indie.