After a year of unprecedented struggle, the Canadian government is pledging to inject badly needed emergency funding into the country’s depleted music economy.
The government said this week that its latest budget allocates $70 million (about USD $56 million) for the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Music Fund — $50 million (USD$40 million) of which is targeted for the ailing live music sector.
The three-year funding allocation — which in 2021-22 will represent $50 million in emergency funding, nearly twice the $26 million the government contributed to the fund in 2018-2019 — comes as Canada’s live music businesses have lost 92% of their revenues during the pandemic, according to a study conducted last fall by the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA). The association estimates that about 90 music or music-reliant venues have shuttered.
“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID,” the government states in the foreword of its 725-page document. “It means providing Canadians and Canadian businesses with the support they need to get through these final, third-wave lockdowns, and to come roaring back when the economy fully reopens.”
Before it becomes law in Canada, the budget still needs to receive “Royal Assent,” the final stage of approval for a bill to become an act of Parliament.
Nevertheless, the music industry reacted positively to the news. “The new budget clearly recognizes the integral role the Canadian live music industry plays in our quality of life,” Erin Benjamin, the president and CEO of Canadian Live Music Association, said in a statement.
Last year, the Canadian government’s Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations allocated $20 million (USD$15.9 million) to help the live music industry and $5 million (USD$4 million) for the recording industry. Since the pandemic began, the federal government has invested close to $50 million in the live sector, according to estimates from the CLMA.
The budget earmarks $300 million (USD$239 million) over two years to establish a Recovery Fund for Heritage, Arts, Culture, Heritage and Sport Sectors. The government also said it will aid major festivals and live events with $200 million (USD$159 million) assigned through regional development agencies; will allocate another $200 million through Canadian Heritage to support local festivals and community cultural events; $49.6 million (USD$39.5 million) over three years for the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage Program; and $595 million (USD$474 million) from June to November for the Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP), which makes it easier for employers to hire staff.
“I have the sense the Canadian live music business is going to survive this pandemic,” Jeff Cohen, co-owner of two Toronto venues and president of promoter Collective Concerts, tells Billboard, “and maybe emerge from it economically and institutionally stronger than ever.”