Re:Venues: A Case and Path Forward for Toronto’s Live Music Industry

A new study measuring the economic and cultural impact of Toronto’s live music venues was released today at a virtual news conference by the City of Toronto and the Canadian Live Music Association, in partnership with Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area and Ontario Creates.

The long-awaited study entitled Re:Venues: A Case and Path Forward for Toronto’s Live Music Industry, outlines the contributions and status of the industry and includes recommendations for actions needed to support and protect live music venues through this economic uncertainty and beyond.

Conducted by Nordicity, the study finds that live music venues in Toronto generate a total economic impact of $850 million annually, while providing the equivalent of 10,500 full-time jobs.  Labour income generated by the operations and tourism impacts of Toronto’s live music venues total $514 million each year.  The report emphasizes the importance of live music venues to the city’s economy and calls attention to the key role these establishments play in a thriving music ecosystem.

Each venue that closes costs an average of $575,000 in annual GDP contributions, and $148,000 in provincial and federal taxes.  Since March 2020, Nordicity estimates the shutdown of music venues in Toronto cost the city’s economy $99M in GPP, the equivalent of 1,480 jobs.

The critical areas of need vary across immediate, short and long-term recommendations, but given the immense urgency, the Nordicity report concentrates on immediate, short and medium term recommendations via eight categories.

Each of the eight categories quantify actionable items the industry should adopt to survive the current crisis,  rebuild the industry’s foundation, and to sustain and grow the sector:

  • Reimagine programs to address immediate needs protecting against the loss of cultural infrastructure
    Adjust existing emergency programs to make it mandatory for property owners to access the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) to ensure music venues receive rent reduction benefits.
  • Spearhead a group insurance program tailored to live music venues
    Establish a group insurance plan tailored to the unique needs of live music venues to address cost escalations that inhibit the ability of venues to renew liability insurance.
  • Ensure permanent benefits of tax classification for venues to lessen the burden of escalating property taxes
    The study calls on the City of Toronto to maintain a mechanism to protect music venues from increasing property values and property tax assessment.
  • Identify funds that could be redirected to support cultural infrastructure
    Expand or redirect existing funding to include live music venues to provide more long-term support as emergency COVID-19 funding ends.
  • Streamline permitting and amendment processes
    The report recommends that a move to digitization for the applications of business licences would help to alleviate significant delays in securing approvals, which are barriers to entry for new businesses.
  • Develop a Canadian Live Music Fund to stimulate event activity and ensure the future viability and success of Canada’s live music sector and drive economic impact
    Dedicate permanent funding to provide support for live music venues beyond the emergency period and for the foreseeable future.
  • Develop a Section 37 guide to help councillors prioritize gaps in the city’s music venue ecosystem
    Section 37 permits the City of Toronto to authorize increases to permitted height and or/ density of a development. The report calls for a prioritization of provisions to the zoning bylaws to better accommodate venues within this framework.
  • Establish opportunities for business education among venue owners
    Provide ongoing business skill training through permanent programming presented in partnership with the Canadian Live Music Association, The City of Toronto and other partners such as Destination Toronto and Ontario Creates.

The actions identified in the report for Toronto, Canada’s largest city and a world leader in entertainment will have implications for the industry across the country.  In 2019, 107,000 individual artists performed at venues in Toronto alone.

The development of a sustainable, healthy music industry is critical to the countless Canadians who benefit both culturally and financially from this sector.

Further information about the study, and images/infographic can be found Here.