Live Music Returning to Some Small Venues Across Canada

Though the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout largely continue to keep the live music industry dormant, public performances are starting to re-emerge across Canada as smaller venues come back online with reduced capacities and stringent distancing regulations.

In Atlantic Canada, specifically Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, live indoor and outdoor performances resumed in late-June in smaller venues, restaurants, and cafés, all running at significantly limited capacity and with regulations about staying at tables with small groups. Establishments are also asking visitors to sign in upon arrival in the interest of contact tracing.

Venues in Quebec can now legally reopen, again with reduced capacities in indoor spaces and outdoor patios and public gathering spots. As events slowly come back online, though, the City of Montreal has established a $22-million fund to help businesses including music venues weather the storm as the public re-adjusts to public gatherings for live events.

Winnipeg venues like The Pyramid Café and Royal George Hotel have returned with relatively steady show schedules at limited capacity.

Alberta has loosened restrictions in Stage 2 of its reopening plan, now allowing indoor events of up to 50 people and outdoor events of up to 100, which include “non-vocal concerts.” Stage 3 will see larger venues like halls and nightclubs reopening, again at limited capacity, though a date for said phase has yet to be determined.

While performances have yet to re-emerge in Toronto, the Canadian music industry’s epicentre, with no clear date on the calendar for when they will, people in Saskatchewan are biding their time until July 16th, when live music and entertainment will return.

And as for Toronto, the city has has reduced property taxes for music venues by 50 per cent as part of a $2-million initiative.

Of course, outside of in-person events, artists are still reaching audiences via a massive influx in livestreamed events, some of which have been quite well produced, as well as newer initiatives like balcony and drive-in concerts.

In late June, concert giant Live Nation announced its first-ever drive-in concerts series featuring headliner Brad Paisley from July 10-12, with Live from the Drive-In’s nine shows taking place in amphitheatre parking lots in three U.S. cities including Nashville.

While the slow reemergence of live music is a reason for optimism, the majority of live venues and other stakeholders in the music sector continue to struggle across the country. In recent weeks, the Canadian Independent Venue Coalition formed under the umbrella of the Canadian Live Music Association to advocate for federal government support, noting: “recent industry research indicates that 96% of the independent music industry across Canada, including over 90% of independent venues, will disappear in a matter of months in the absence of a very significant financial aid package.”

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Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Music Trade. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webina
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