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BC’s Music Sector – From Adversity to Opportunity

BC-Report-Cover-Image-FBBC’s Music Sector – From Adversity to Opportunity is new report that highlights British Columbia’s wealth of talented artists and music assets—sources of economic diversity and job creation in communities throughout every region of the province—and the factors that have put these assets at risk.

The report encourages decisive action on the part of the provincial government, municipalities, and music stakeholders to put BC’s music sector firmly back on the map and secure the benefits it can generate. The Government is a key stakeholder in this process, and we are thrilled to have the Premier’s support.

There are many benefits from music. These include job retention and attraction, increased foreign direct investment, increased tourism spending, youth retention and attraction, and spinoff talent attraction for BC’s tech industries.

The report was prepared by Music Canada after being specifically asked to help the local music community identify ways in which to boost the music sector.

The findings are based on in-depth interviews and consultations with more than 100 individuals in BC’s music sector, the broader business community, the BC Chamber of Commerce, municipal governments, the provincial government, provincial agencies, and community leaders.

Key Findings

The province’s music heritage is a source of pride among BC residents and receives admiration far beyond its borders. Though they are under threat, the province possesses all the key elements of a successful music sector.

  • Relative to its population, BC has produced an impressive number of stars with international audiences. Some of the most famous names in Canadian music are intricately associated with the province: Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado, Loverboy, Michael Bublé, and Sarah McLachlan among them.
  • Live music has a significant presence in communities across the province, spanning annual music festivals large and small, and performances in venues of every size. The Pemberton Music Festival attracted more than 115,000 patrons over five days in 2015, and generated a total economic impact of $56 million.
  • BC is the third largest centre for record label production and sound recording in Canada. The three major labels all have a presence in BC and the province has a reputation inside the music business for its recording studios which were once a magnet for major international artists.

The Benefits of a Vibrant Music Sector

Music has enormous potential as an economic, job creation and cultural driver. The benefits of a thriving music scene – and a supportive environment that enables it to thrive – have been demonstrated worldwide.

  • The music sector is an important source of economic diversification and can generate significant revenue for the province. A study of Nashville’s music cluster found that the music industry helps create and sustain more than 56,000 jobs and contributes US$5.5 billion to the local economy.
  • Music tourism delivers economic benefits through direct spending on concerts and music festivals. Tourism-related spending brings new money into the economy and music can be a powerful part of a city or provinces brand—leveraging well known stars and events to attract tourists and investment.
  • A vibrant local music scene can attract talent and investment outside the music industry, notably in the technology and creative industries.

Getting Back on Track: Recommendations

The recommendations based on this input are tailored to the specific needs of BC and are designed to position the province to compete in an increasingly global marketplace while also creating more opportunities for emerging BC artists to succeed and earn a living from their music.

Provincial Government Actions – a comprehensive BC Music Strategy will unlock the music sector’s potential and open new windows for young, emerging artists who are most affected by the industry’s challenges.

  • The BC Music Fund will stem the outflow of talent, resources and activity to other regions of the country while stimulating foreign direct and local private investment in BC’s music sector. A $15 million investment will produce an estimated total GDP impact of $73 million for the BC economy.
  • A comprehensive Music Red Tape Reduction Strategy will stimulate live music activity specifically related to venues and music festivals throughout the province.
  • The links between music education, overall academic outcomes, and strong technology and creative sectors are well established. Further, music programs keep at-risk youth in school. The province should examine the current state of music education in the province and identify opportunities for improvement.

Municipal Government Actions – cities have an important role to play, particularly for live music. Municipal policies and programs can be used to protect existing music places, create new ones, and build entertainment clusters.

  • Municipal regulation enforcement and licensing can become an unnecessary barrier to music businesses if the requirements are not balanced and appropriate, or if the application process is too difficult and time consuming. Regulations should fairly balance competing interests and processes should be as simple as possible.
  • Cities large and small are establishing Music Officers to act as a single point of contact for music in their municipality. Municipal government can be hard to navigate, and the regulations that affect music often span multiple departments. Music officers serve as liaisons between music businesses and municipal contacts and ensure policies accommodate the interests of the music community.
  • In Vancouver and Victoria, property values and rents have ballooned to levels that can be unsustainable for music businesses and artists. Music hubs and accelerators bring emerging artists together with the resources and expertise they need to flourish, and provide them with the opportunities to nurture their talent.

The Role of the Music Community – the people and businesses who work in BC’s music sector must take leadership in developing and driving solutions. This starts with increased collaboration and coordination among music stakeholders who have the greatest interest in the sector’s success.

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“This is an historic day for the province. The creation of a BC Music Fund as part of a comprehensive strategy to support music in the province is the best way to protect and support one of the province’s most important resources – music. The BC Music Fund will help music businesses produce, distribute, promote, and stage some of the province’s biggest artists. It will retain talent, and support emerging artists. It will rebuild the province’s recording industry, and prove once again that BC is a destination for music not only in Canada, but internationally as well.” – Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada.

“The landscape and culture in BC has always been a huge catalyst in my creative process. It’s where we came together as a band, and where we’ve cultivated our creative community. There is an incredible wealth of talent here, and until now, the resources and infrastructure haven’t been able to properly support and elevate the art that is constantly being created. It’s incredibly heartening to see the powers that be sit up and take notice of the cultural and economic benefit the BC music industry provides for our province. Dedicating more resources to this sector will have a lasting positive impact on our cultural landscape.” – Ryan Guldemond, Mother Mother

“The BC Music Strategy is a unique  opportunity to enrich our province. The BC Chamber looks forward to working together with the provincial and municipal governments, the music community, and our network of chambers to further diversify the economy, create jobs, and stimulate investment in BC.” – Jon Garson, President of BC Chamber of Commerce

“The best holistic perspective on the music ecosystem in British Columbia to date, this report underscores the importance and benefits of a healthy, thriving music scene in the province.  With the right investment, an opportunity exists to position BC as a leading live music destination – attracting tourists, creating jobs, and returning strong dividends for the local economy.  British Columbia already boasts an impressive array of festivals and concerts throughout the year, some of the best musical talent in the world, and a concentration of skilled industry professionals.  It’s now time to take it to a new level and we’re excited about the prospect of working with the government of British Columbia to realize the potential live music has to offer in the province.” – Jesse Kumagai, Chair – Board of Directors, Music Canada Live

“BC’s musical landscape, much like its physical counterpart, is both rich and diverse. We possess a vibrant and dynamic talent pool that often times swims up the current largely unnoticed. The pristine natural beauty of our golden coast has always been the backdrop to my creative inspiration. I believe music education is a critical and fundamental cornerstone in developing the young and growing musical minds that this incredibly unique part of the world finds itself in such a bounty of. It’s important to examine the state of music education in our province, and identify where we may be able to provide young people more opportunity for growth.” – Jacob Hoggard, Hedley

“Live music, from the Pemberton Music Festival to MRG Concerts to Vancouver’s Music on Main, is a fundamental cornerstone of the music industry in BC. It’s remarkable to see a government that understands what needs to be done and goes ahead and does it. This is extraordinary news for live music in the province – and therefore artists and fans, from BC, across Canada and around the world. We applaud the significant efforts of Music Canada and thank Premier Clark on behalf of our members in the province and throughout Canada’s live music sector.” – Erin Benjamin, Executive Director – Music Canada Live