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.