MusicOntario's Remarks to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs ​For its study of recommendations relating to the Economic and ​Fiscal Update Act, 2020 and the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the arts and culture sector

Posted on
June 25, 2020

Remarks to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
For its study of recommendations relating to the Economic and
Fiscal Update Act, 2020 and the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the arts and culture sector
Delivered by Emy Stantcheva, Executive Director, MusicOntario

June 25, 2020 at 2:00 pm:

Ontario is the hub of Canada’s rich music industry... We are home to every piece of the supply chain - from performance and industry arts institutions, to small businesses and artist entrepreneurs that make the sector’s needle move, and to everyone in between involved in harnessing music, recording it, and packaging it for cultural and economic consumption. I’d like to share with you some ways in which our communities have been affected by COVID-19, and how Ontario’s government can be part of our recovery for the better.

We have worked closely with industry partners to survey and consult our sectors to better understand their collective needs. To that end, MusicOntario provided input to Minister MacLeod’s COVID-19 working panel for the Music sector, gathered from our membership and community advisory committees. We support the final recommendations made in the panel’s report and echo some of them here.

Of course, thank you to Minister MacLeod and her team, and the dedicated folks in the Ministry, and at Ontario Creates. We appreciate the accessibility shown by the Minister, and the many opportunities for consultation we have had. Now, we look forward to working with you to put into action some of these suggested measures as we fight to save Ontario’s music industry and creative communities.

The global music community is facing critical turmoil and upheaval, and Ontario, as the centre of Canada’s own music sectors, finds itself in dire straits. The music industry was one of the very first forced to close due to the pandemic and will be one of the very last to recover, reopen, or reimagine.

Live music events of any size that might fuel revenues are cancelled and will likely not resume in any substantial capacity this year, with some of our most lucrative summer months trickling away as we speak.

A recent Music Canada study shows that, even if we were to resume sooner, 43% of consumers don’t have confidence in attending large gatherings for at least six months, if not into the second half of 2021. A crippling statistic given, that we cannot embark upon any real recovery until live events for large masses of people are permitted again, and even then, until music fans are willing to buy in.

As CIMA described, every revenue stream available to us is affected. The scope of devastation captured in the many industry surveys we have engaged our members with is staggering.

Companies are reporting massive revenue shortages and layoffs, and Ontario’s artists are hit particularly hard, where CERB eligibility requirements may have let them fall through the cracks, with little recourse for nuance.

40% percent of artists reported that they may be able to sustain their careers up to three months without the ability to work, while 27% reported that they could manage less than one month without employment.

This is Ontario’s creative working class. They want to work but cannot due to COVID.

Culture contributed over $53 billion to Canada’s economy in 2017, yet the median individual income for an artist was $24,300, a stunning 44% less than the median for all Canadian workers.

Further data shows that chiefly artists with economic privilege can afford the risk of the gig economy, with income data suggesting that white and male privilege also contribute to this disparity.

According to 2016 census data, artists who are women, Indigenous or from racialized communities report even lower median incomes. In 2020, these numbers will become even more drastic, as CAPACOA reported that, while Canada’s employment rate gradually rebounds, the nearly 200,000 workers in culture, recreation, and information who lost their jobs in the last four months do not see any sign of respite. Some of our artists are even facing homelessness, as residential rental markets across the province skyrocket, and protections for tenants decrease.

The music and intellectual property created by our artists is commercialized all over the world, bringing those economic benefits back home to Ontario. By taking their uniquely Ontarian purviews and communities, and building them into vibrant sonic scapes, artists define what it is to experience our province. Whether it’s sitting on the dock at the cottage, or experiencing our restaurants, wineries, community facilities, galleries, parks, and more, Ontario’s musicians and artists invest in our rich cultural tapestry and ensure our heritage by assuming the uncertain and arduous paths of creators.

As a world-class destination for culture and tourism, it’s our responsibility to foster the conditions necessary for music and the arts to thrive, because they contribute so much back to us.

For example, Quebec presented a $33.5 million dollar allocation to the independent music sector from its cultural recovery fund, declaring that “culture is the soul of the people of Quebec.”

In Ontario, about a year before COVID-19 hit us, our indie music sector saw a 57% cut to the OMIF budget; a fund that requires that recipient companies and artists invest matching dollars back into Ontario’s economy.

We could argue the merits of the cuts when they were made, but we no longer live in that world or with those realities.

As a first step, MusicOntario’s members ask the government to partner with the industry to reinstate the Ontario Music Investment Fund to its original budget of $15 million dollars annually.

Our industry relies on this access to capital, so that we can return on the investments for years to come, as we always have done. In the fund’s first three years, OMIF recipients leveraged each public dollar into an additional average of $4.52. Dollars that kept companies operational, and Ontario’s artists working, which, in turn, kept thousands of Ontarians employed across the supply chain - manufacturers, designers, marketers, media, event spaces, engineers, producers, studios, tour personnel, record shops - the list goes on.

I’d like to suggest a few thought starters as to how this government can continue its work with Ontario’s music industry. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development could engage with us to:

  • identify barriers to access for youth and in underserved communities;
  • assist with training individuals working in our sector to lead truly equitable diversity and inclusion charges within their organizations, so that Ontarians might see themselves better reflected in our industry;
  • to help creators and business owners explore and expand digital skill sets as we pivot into post-COVID strategies.

The Ministry of Health could engage us to examine the scope of mental health supports that are all too commonly needed and lacking in music and the arts.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing can envision with us how Ontario’s music cities can be more welcoming of artists and musicians, of live music venues by supporting by Agent of Change principles as cities gentrify, and of vibrant professional arts and DIY spaces that strengthen Ontario’s roots in excellence.

What’s at stake is the survival of our music industry and its significant economic, social, and cultural contributions to the very core of Ontario. We are a resilient industry, with a boundless capacity to grow, change, and do better by our artists and communities.

But, we need the progressive support of our province to navigate this overwhelming and inconceivable fork in the road.

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