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‘The envy of the world’: How public funds boost Canadian music

Financial support from local and federal government is a key part of Canada's live music success, says one of its most senior booking agents

By IQ on 15 Dec 2017

Drake made a surprise appearance at the 2017 Canada Day concert in his hometown of Toronoto

Drake made a surprise appearance at the 2017 Canada Day concert in his hometown of Toronoto

Agent Jack Ross, the newly appointed co-head of APA in Canada, has hailed Canadian authorities’ support for music businesses as being key to the health of its thriving live music industry.

Speaking to IQ for issue 74’s Canada market report, Ross identifies the grants provided by federal, provincial and municipal governments for events where live music is a major component as a significant contributor to the success of Canada’s concert market, which at US$711m (C$907m) is the world’s seventh largest (see PwC figures from the ITY 2017).

“That support,” he says, “really makes the Canadian music business the envy of the world, quite frankly.”

“It’s robust,” agrees Jim Cressman, president of Pentiction, British Columbia-based Invictus Entertainment Group, which books and promotes 500–700 concerts per year at multiple venues. “The right artist at the right price,” says Cressman, “almost always does predictable business.”

Though no national study has yet been done on the live music industry, an economic impact analysis of the business in Ontario – Canada’s most populous province and home to the music hub of Toronto – illustrates how important it is to the Canadian economy.

“The right artist at the right price almost always does predictable business”

The Live Music Measures Up study showed that the industry was responsible for 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2013 and that spending by live music companies and the tourism activity generated by music festivals together contributed just under C$1.2bn to Ontario’s gross domestic product.

While optimism was expressed by most people interviewed for the market report, the Canadian live music industry isn’t without its challenges. These include the secondary ticketing market, which the Ontario government is trying to curtail with new (albeit not universally supported) legislation, and the low value of the Canadian dollar compared to its American counterpart, which can in turn work to the advantage of homegrown artists who get paid in ‘loonies’.

“Every time we put an offer in for a US artist, a dollar is costing us C$1.35,” says Louis Thomas, president and owner of Sonic Entertainment Group, a Halifax, Nova Scotia-based concert promotion and artist management company that also owns a record label and recording studio. “That has a big impact on ticket prices, at the end of the day.”

Read the full market report, which focuses on Canada’s major promoters, venues, festivals and more, here.


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