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Posts by Miranda Mulholland (3)


COVID-19 continues to hit the music industry’s most vulnerable: Music Canada survey

The COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented challenge for the music community, and has shed light on the sad realities faced by artists everyday. As Chair of Music Canada’s Advisory Council, I partnered with Music Canada and CONNECT Music Licensing to conduct an Artist Impact Survey. Developed in consultation with artist members of the Advisory Council and with Deloitte, the survey received responses from artists from across the country and across all stages of their careers. The preliminary results are in and they make crystal clear the serious and possibly irreparable harm the pandemic has had on Canada’s artists. The majority were already living in a precarious state – and this pandemic has only exacerbated their challenges. 

The financial impacts of this crisis on artists are widespread, and significant. When asked whether they would lose income due to the crisis, the answer was a nearly unanimous yes. Canada’s entire artist community is concerned about making ends meet: more than 80% of artists are in need of financial assistance. Many artists already live close to the poverty line, and now the pandemic has pulled the rug out from under them financially: almost half of the respondents reported that they have lost more than 75% of their income.

The impact on artists will ripple throughout our communities: Artists are entrepreneurs, and job creators. Respondents to the survey create an average of 3.7 jobs per artist – with artists unable to perform or create, these jobs will be lost as well.

There have been further impacts to the creative process. A majority of artists also stress that they are struggling to find the creativity and inspiration needed to generate work. This is especially true for those who are caring for children or loved ones at home. 

Also alarming is the significant number of people in our music community who report that they must go deeper into debt just to survive this moment in their lives. It’s clear that these losses are threatening the survival of entire sectors of the industry, and that the impact will be felt long after the pandemic ends. 

The Federal Government has taken important first steps for providing immediate relief to many individuals, including the self-employed, who have lost income due to COVID-19. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is a key component for helping the hardest hit as they try to weather this storm. However, a post-COVID-19 environment needs to be one where artists can thrive. Artists have the power to generate massive economic growth – when they are supported. As concert halls, venues and theatres remain closed for the coming months, artists will need our sustainable support to ensure that they can cross the bridge over this chasm. 

The Unison Benevolent Fund offers a free 24/7 toll-free number to connect Canadian music professionals and their immediate family with counselling and health solutions in both English and French as well as emergency financial assistance, and I encourage those who may find this useful to reach out. 

It is a frightening time for everyone but heartening to note that we are collectively turning to art to make our way through this. Let’s support our creators however we can. For those who are quarantined at home, I encourage you to please continue to stream music over paid platforms and purchase merchandise online from your favorite artists to support them.   

Miranda Mulholland
Artist Advocate & Chair of Music Canada’s Advisory Council

Notes from the Road: A Secret Habit in the Music Industry

BelleStarr - bioCanadian singer and fiddler Miranda Mulholland has just completed a tour with Belle Starr, with stops across Canada and the US. She’ll be sharing her experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring!

There are some people in the music industry who have a secret habit. All of us musicians know about it though, we talk about it, we discuss these people in hushed tones. We really wish they would come forward and get it out in the open, to make this habit known. To be made an example of!

What is this secret habit? These industry people pay to see live music. Even though they work with musicians, even though they are friends with lots of musicians, even though we ALWAYS put them on the guest list because they are champions of our work, they pay anyway.

In this Brave New World – A world in which the digital age and its promise of “eliminating the middle man” has actually only eliminated the creative middle class, musicians are really struggling to find a sustainable business model.

What about streaming, you say? Well, streaming income is risible (785 plays = 12 cents!!) and actual sales are down because “why buy when you can stream for almost free?”

I get it. I really do – I am a consumer as well. There are benefits to having your music made readily available all over the world, I see that too.

Okay then, we are told touring is the way to make a living so we leave our families and hit the road. Expenses are high, however, guarantees are low and budgets get very tight. Every dollar matters. Every ticket matters.

So here’s the thing, music industry. We are glad to have you there at shows supporting us, we do understand that you go to a lot of concerts for work and it’s sweet when you buy us or all your colleagues drinks, but it would be even sweeter if you showed us you value our work by paying a cover. It really does make a difference.

Allow me to point out for a second that musicians pay YOU for the work YOU do. We pay you in commissions, in percentages and in flat out invoiced fees. We value your work. If YOU don’t value musicians and the work we do what kind of example does this set to the rest of the world at a time when we are all are trying to combat the notion that music should be free?

To the people who I see at every gig, who, on the list or not, hand over money to see a band, I want to thank you! We musicians know who you are, we talk about you with a lot of love and respect. We value YOU. THANK YOU!

Of all the secret habits to have in the music industry, this is a good one!


Notes from the Road: Belle Starr – Winter Tour, 2016

BelleStarr - bioCanadian singer and fiddler Miranda Mulholland is currently on tour with Belle Starr, with stops across Canada and the US. She’ll be sharing her experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring!


A funny thing happened at the Canadian border the other night. As a band named for a famous outlaw, we shouldn’t be surprised by any skirmishes with the law, but this brush up got me thinking. After explaining where we were coming from and where we were going while crossing the border at midnight, the patrol guard actually asked us with condescension, pity and bewilderment “Is this really the way you make a living? All three of you?”

I am not surprised she asked. We did make a funny picture – packed tightly with our instruments, suitcases and merchandise in my 1998 Toyota Corolla. We had just played a two hour concert in Stowe, Vermont then negotiated some very treacherous roads for hours in a heavy snowstorm post show to reach where we would be sleeping that night so we were all rattled and pretty tired. Certainly not what one pictures when one dreams of being a touring musician.

For the majority of musicians, touring these days is not the glamorous or wild lifestyle depicted in movies, TV shows and books. That’s not to say these things don’t happen – you can buy me a glass of wine sometime and I can tell you some stories – but the quotidian existence of a touring musician is one of a lot of hurry up and wait, a few crippling lows and some exuberant highs for a very small paycheque. Somehow it seems to even out.

Our band, Belle Starr is a bit of a rarity as although all three of us are full time musicians, we don’t get to spend a lot of time touring together. Stephanie Cadman is a world class tap/step dancer as well as fiddler and was in the Toronto production of the musical Once. Kendel Carson plays in a duo with Dustin Bentall as well as being a member of Alan Doyle’s band and I am a member of Great Lake Swimmers among other projects. This makes it all the more special and exciting for us when we get to play music together.

We started this tour by flying to Alberta and driving up and down that beautiful province. Routing is rarely ideal and found us back and forth on the same stretch of highway a number of times and landing three days in a row for a needed coffee stop at the Red Deer Mall. I never thought I’d see that much of the Red Deer Mall.

The drive from Calgary to Cranbrook is one of Canada’s best. Watching the mountains appear to slowly rise up in front of you like benign giants watching over the rolling meadows of cows, horses and crops. While there are many long drives touring in Canada (Toronto to Winnipeg is 24 hours!) we really do have some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the world. And we see a lot of it! Sometimes the drives can be easy – a clear day, sunshine and empty road. We had our fair share of that on this tour but also torrential rains for hours, elk on the highway, twisty mountain roads and one of the scariest car crashes any of us had ever seen happen right in front of us. It takes nerves of steel sometimes!BelleStarr - road
Vancouver was next and we indulged in some delicious sushi and caught up with friends. One of the best parts of touring is getting to visit with pals all over the world – In contrast though, one of the hardest parts is not really ever being part of friend’s lives – not getting sharing the little victories and the hard times, birthdays, special occasions and casual hangouts. It seems to be an endless series of catch ups with hurried dinners between soundcheck and the show.

Crossing the border into the USA is always a bit difficult. Even with our very expensive permits to perform in the United States, it is not always a guarantee that we will get across. We had a lovely officer on this crossing who wished us a safe trip, so we breathed a collective sigh of relief. The spring-like weather down the coast was very welcome and we enjoyed the green and blossoms beginning.

Mondays and Tuesdays are hard to book so we had two days off in groovy Portland. Great coffee, amazing vintage stores and my favourite bookstore in the world, Powell’s. Instead of a hotel, we opted for an AirBnB to take advantage of laundry and save some money by cooking and catch up on sleep. It was such a treat to not have to drive anywhere for 48 hours!

The biggest performing highlight of the west coast tour was just around the corner. The Admiral Theatre in Bremerton, WA was built in 1942 as a movie theatre and was beautifully remodeled in 1997. It has a water theme with mermaids and waves and one of the only remaining steel marquees left in the USA. The staff were very professional and friendly and the audience was warm, appreciative and really made that show tremendously memorable.

BelleStarr - Marquee

Live music is all about alchemy. Creating something from simple elements into something unforgettable and valuable. What happens during a performance happens because all those elements are there and once over, can never be recreated. The audience has as much to do with this chemistry as the artists – it is a symbiotic relationship. This is what I love most, the ephemeral quality of live music. It happened. We heard it, felt it, experienced it – and it can never truly be captured, and that is what makes it so special.
Is this really the way I make a living? Why, yes. it is. Sometimes it’s the wild west out here, it can be really tough, but the highs are really high…and I couldn’t be more proud to make my living this way.