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A Juno Awards poster hangs outside the Coors Event Centre in Saskatoon on March 12, 2020.

Matt Smith/The Canadian Press

On the day the nation’s music industry had planned on celebrating with its annual Juno Awards ceremony and broadcast, the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) drafted a letter to the Canadian government requesting fiscal intervention on behalf of its members. A week of Juno activities, set to culminate Sunday at Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre, were called off in the wake of concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak. In light of a sweeping number of concert postponements and cancellations already announced and the ones surely to come, yesterday the CLMA issued a list of “urgent recommendations” geared to help safeguard live-music companies.

“If we lose our concert industry,” the letter states, “we lose the heart and soul of who we are as a country.”

The CLMA represents show promoters, festival organizers and owners and operators of music venues across Canada. In its letter addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and four other ministers, the body suggested the following relief measures related to the live-music industry:

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  • A large-scale compensation fund for concert and festival producers;
  • Assistance for self-employed workers and small businesses;
  • That tax-relief efforts being extended to other business sectors also include the live-music industry;
  • Quick access to short-term work benefits such as employment insurance;
  • That the government hold the insurance industry accountable and insist they follow proper protocol by paying out on claims;
  • That Canadian live-music companies and organizations be eligible for any grant/loan program being offered.

“What we’re trying to stress is how intrinsically linked the live music is to the economy and our quality of life in Canada,” CLMA president and CEO Erin Benjamin told The Globe and Mail.

The CLMA says the live-music industry contributes $3.5-billion to Canada’s GDP.

In Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan, public gatherings with more than 250 people have been banned. Public-health authorities in Nova Scotia, Winnipeg, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador have suggested similar measures. The stipulations and recommendations have resulted in the widespread cancellation or postponements of music events big and small.

The SOCAN Awards, an annual event that celebrates achievements in songwriting, composing and music publishing, will no longer take place on March 30 in Toronto. The Canadian Folk Music Awards, in partnership with Music PEI, announced the cancellation of its events, scheduled for April 3 and 4 in Charlottetown. Although organizers of Canadian Music Week announced last week that its annual industry conference and music festival would be “taking place as planned" from May 19 to 23, it is expected that the event will be postponed.

According to CLMA’s “cautious” estimates, more than 36 per cent of its members will fail outright within the next four to eight weeks, with others laying off some three-quarters of their work force. “The numbers could be double by tomorrow,” said Benjamin, referring to a “quick and dirty” poll of its members. “The reality of what’s happening is just beginning to settle in. I don’t think everyone has come to terms with it all yet.”

Late last week, North American mega-promoters Live Nation and AEG issued a joint statement recommending large-scale events through the end of March be postponed, while suggesting small-scale events “follow guidance set by their local government officials.”

So, while the postponement of Celine Dion’s Courage World Tour has scuttled April arena shows in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, many small venues, though suffering from artist cancellations, are still holding music events.

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“As long as the small venues are following the government guidance and best-practice suggestions, they should make their own decisions,” said CLMA’s Benjamin.

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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