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The annual guide to the global live entertainment ticketing business
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Canada has always been something of a hotbed for music. International stars like Drake, Celine Dion, and Neil Young, as well as renowned festivals M for Montreal, Montreal International Jazz Festival, and Shambhala make Canada a cultural heavyweight, something that was reflected in ever- growing audience numbers throughout the 2010s.
By 2019, 59% of Canadians said they attended live music events, a figure that jumped to 70% with millennials. “All major festivals across the country have returned to their pre-pandemic glory in 2022,” says Trevor Allin, managing director of Ticketmaster Canada. “Demand is continuing to rise, and Rolling Loud will hold its first Canadian event this fall.”
Ticketing is complicated by a few of Canada’s geographical features. Occupying a landmass that’s second only to Russia in terms of square kilometres but falling to 222nd in terms of population, it means that people are very spread out (only six cities top one million inhabitants). As such, it takes a large operator to cover such a wide area, and Ticketmaster are by far and away the most dominant player in the sector.
“All major festivals across the country have returned to their pre-pandemic glory in 2022”
While other more local operators exist – for example, Ticket Window services the province of Ontario – no one else has Ticketmaster’s reach or clout. Toronto, being the largest city by population, tops the live ticket sales charts; in 2019, the city accounted for 31% of that summer’s total ticket sales countrywide.
Canada has always had a problem with bots, something that’s become a scourge for Ticketmaster and fans alike. As a result, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia all banned the use of bots, although it remains to be seen what affect legislation has actually had – both StubHub and Viagogo are active in Canada, and continue to sell tickets to in-demand events.
There is currently no federal law prohibiting the reselling of tickets, with the issue being left to states to resolve on their own. As such, consensus on definitions and the best way to combat the practice, is non-existent.
DISTRIBUTION OF SALES
Like most Western markets, digital is taking over. “Digital tickets are fast becoming Canadians’ go-to way to manage their tickets and will undoubtedly continue to grow” says Allin. “Ticketmaster recently signed with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which has seen excellent adoption of our digital ticketing technology.”
INTERNATIONAL / DOMESTIC SPLITS & GENRES
Much like in the US, mainstream pop and rap dominate, with home-grown stars such as Justin Bieber playing multiple nights at venues like Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. International stars, particularly from the US, are also frequent visitors, and it’s common for mid-size and even smaller, more niche artists to tack on a few shows north of the border when they hit America.
We are responsive to the needs of the Canadian market and are particularly focused on ensuring we support dual-language requirements”
Classic Canadian folk continues to be popular, too, as does the traditional music of Canada’s varied First Nations people. “We are responsive to the needs of the Canadian market and are particularly focused on ensuring we support dual-language requirements,” says Allin.
Summer is obviously the main season for live events, particularly outdoor festivals, with July the busiest month. The focus remains on larger events in or around the main cities, too.
“We’re also seeing lots of potential in the world of NFTs, and the opportunities to surprise and delight fans before, during, or after events”
The last few years pre-Covid saw an increase in branding and sponsorship, with events keen to funnel greater revenue into more impressive line-ups, and the live entertainment sector remains keen to branch out and innovate. “E-sports look to be an exciting area for growth, with an e-sports-specific venue being built in Toronto and slated to open in 2025,” says Allin.
“We’re also seeing lots of potential in the world of NFTs, and the opportunities to surprise and delight fans before, during, or after events.”