Live & Let Live With CLMA CEO Erin Benjamin
Canada's live music industry has taken a pounding because of covid and,a wobbly economy. CLMA boss Erin Benjam loves nothing better than love on the tracks and money in the bank. Anything short of either has her woking as if having a giant disorder.
By David Farrell
We asked Erin Benjamin, President and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association, to write an assessment of the industry she represents, past and future. An ardent, articulate and connected individual representing venue owners and operators large and small that are on the frontline of industries battered by extraordinary health and economic conditions, her positiveness provides a compelling reason to believe that the dark days we have been through will provide lovers of live music with optimism that will cascade nationwide when some degree of normalcy returns to our public lives.
Opening and staying open!
People are back at shows!
Seeing renewal of some key programs (like the Ontario Tourism Relief fund) and having really productive conversations with government (especially Federal) about the importance of live music re: policy moving forward.
I feel super optimistic that, despite what I anticipate as belt-tightening in the next budget, there will be some consideration given to live music folks who have not typically been “at the table” (but have been helped through covid).
I remain ‘cautiously optimistic,’ and I have no idea what that could look like - but I’m buoyed by conversations to date.
Insurance remains one of the most frustrating files on my desk.
We continue to request meetings with government with the hopes of seeing some kind of intervention, having tried and failed with the insurance sector itself (there are champions there, they just haven’t been able to help as much as we had hoped). (And yet) Venues and others continue to pay exorbitant rates if they can get insurance at all. We are not the only sector facing this challenge – This is very much a problem for many across the tourism space.
* We have to address the challenges in touring that artists especially (and the ecology) are facing. I hope we can do this as a community. I sense a growing divide and I think 2023 will include a very real, very hard/necessary conversation about what’s not working and how we can work together to try to fix what is within our control.
* Insurance, top of pile. Labour challenge, also top of pile (expect some research out of our office on that later this spring).
* The CLMA has hopes of launching a national economic impact study of the live music sector to quantify the current reality and to help amplify future needs.
* We also have to reconcile the ongoing disruption and understand how to mitigate impact… e.g., some shows continue to under-perform, and audiences not coming back to everything.
The feeling is things will continue to improve as market offerings even out and the economy improves (when will that be?) … but this remains to be seen. No question some shows are doing really well, and that’s terrific. Now we have to get everything else back up to 100% best we can… by understanding where audiences are at, by hoping inflation recedes, by keeping fingers crossed that every time there’s a new variant, we don’t strike fear back into the hearts of concert-goers in the demo’s that aren’t fully back, etc.
* Finally, we need to continue to work with industry partners and others to amplify the needs of BIPOC folks, following the recommendations in our Closing the Gap study and work hard to make the live music industry a more equitable, safer, healthier, more welcoming space to work in for all.