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Arena Market: Canada

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With a population of 6.5m, Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and the capital of Ontario. The Scotiabank Arena is the city’s major venue and opened in 1999 as the Air Canada Centre but was renamed in 2018.

For music shows, there is scalable capacity, going from 5,935 people in a reduced theatre set-up to 18,420 people in a 360-centre set-up. It also boasts a $1m Bose sound system.

Despite being the home to two separate sports teams (the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs as well as the National Basketball Association’s Toronto Raptors), it puts on a large number of concerts.

“Music makes up about 50% of our calendar prior to NHL and NBA playoff runs,” says Melissa Bubb-Clarke, SVP of music and live events at MLSE, the owners and operators of Scotiabank Arena.

“Music makes up about 50% of our calendar prior to NHL and NBA playoff runs”

It now has complete mobile ticketing for all events and is a cashless venue. The Scotiabank Arena app allows ticketholders to pre-order merchandise and QR codes around the venue can be scanned to determine wait times for concession stands.

Dua Lipa, Diljit Dosanjh, Eric Church, and Rage Against The Machine have all played so far this year, and future bookings in 2022 include Harry Styles, Seventeen, Pearl Jam, Post Malone, Lizzo, and The Who, making it one of the busiest concert arenas in the world.

“We hosted our first concert on 7 October 2021 with Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, 580 days after our last concert,” says Bubb-Clarke of the post-Covid opening up of live music. “Our venue capacity was temporarily decreased until we re-opened to full capacity on 1 March 2022.”

Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city, with a population of 4.3m. As the biggest city in the Francophone province of Quebec, it is characteristically different to the major cities in the country’s other provinces. The Bell Centre dates back to 1996 and can hold up to 15,000 people for concerts. Anglophonic acts are, however, well represented, with shows later this year from Gorillaz, Panic! At The Disco, Daddy Yankee, Scorpions, and My Chemical Romance.

“Our venue capacity was temporarily decreased until we re-opened to full capacity on 1 March 2022”

As the major city on the western seaboard and with a population of 2.7m, Vancouver has a high concentration of arena-level venues. The Pacific Coliseum dates back to 1910 and has a capacity of 15,713 in permanent seating, but this can be extended by a further 2,000 temporary seats. International acts playing in 2022 include Nelly, TLC & Shaggy, and Tyler, the Creator.

The Rogers Arena opened in downtown Vancouver in 1995 and is a major sporting venue, but in its music configuration it can hold audiences of 19,000. It has hosted the Juno Awards several times, and acts like Ariane Grande, Iron Maiden, and Adele have all played there. Acts performing in 2022 include The Killers, Backstreet Boys, Seventeen, Gorillaz, Florence + The Machine, and Eagles.

The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre opened in 2008 and can hold 8,000 people for concerts. In 2022, acts playing the venue include Olivia Rodrigo, Royal Blood, HAIM, and 5 Seconds of Summer.

“The live industry has seen an incredible increase in shows as restrictions have been lifted, especially in our market”

As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is only the sixth-largest city in the country, but despite its relatively small size, it has a number of leading arenas. With a capacity of 19,153, the Canadian Tire Centre is on a par with the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Acts who have played the venue in recent years include Def Leppard, Carrie Underwood, Lynyrd Skynyrd, André Rieu, Avenged Sevenfold, and Elton John. Music bookings for later this year include Pearl Jam, Rod Stewart, and Luke Combs.

The FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton opened in 1985 and can hold 19,000 people for music concerts, with acts playing in 2022 including Rage Against The Machine, Judas Priest, and Pearl Jam.

“The live industry has seen an incredible increase in shows as restrictions have been lifted, especially in our market,” says Bubb-Clarke on the recovery of live music in Canada. “Scotiabank Arena will host 57 shows by the end of this year, based on the calendar from January to December 2022.”

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