Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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2020 Was Bad, But it Could Have Been Worse for Performing Arts- and 2021 Showed Signs of Early Recovery

Recent data released this week by StatsCan show that while 2020 was bad, 2021 showed signs of recovery- and as pandemic restrictions lift, the arts and entertainment might be able to rebound back in a relatively short amount of time if given proper supports.

First, the bad.  

It’s no surprise that due to the cancellation and postponement of shows and seasons that the arts and entertainment industry across Canada saw revenues decline to $1.8 billion in 2020. This represents the lowest level since comparable data became available in 2014. Non-profit performing arts organizations saw their number of performances and attendees decline by approximately half from 2018 to 2020. Cancellations and audience-related restrictions through lockdowns led to a drop in total performance revenues of $166 million; with almost $115 million from single ticket sales and the remainder from subscriptions.

To help mitigate falling revenues, many arts and entertainment businesses shifted to find substitutes to in-person performances, developing new business models or investing in e-commerce platforms. However, the number of organizations that were able to enter this marketplace were minimal, with less than 50% of respondents either adopting contactless business models or investing in e-commerce platforms.

Virtual performances, digital presentations and streaming became the primary way to consume and enjoy the performing arts safely from home. As a result, e-commerce sales expanded significantly, accounting for almost 25% of all sales revenues in 2020. However, as many artists and organizations know, online sales revenue was nowhere near the revenue that would have been received for an in-person performance.

Non-profit organizations were also able to access more grants to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Grants, subsidies, donations, corporate sponsorship and fundraising increased over 15% in 2020 from 2018. However, as many performing arts organizations were unable to collect sponsorships for cancelled performances or hold fundraising events, private sector donations declined by almost 10%. 

Now the good.

As larger organizations cancelled or postponed presentations, artists and collectives were increasingly given the opportunity to connect with fans directly. Musical groups and artists were particularly effective, increasing their share of industry revenue during the pandemic to 44.5% in 2020. The next largest industry group was theatre (24%). 

As public health restrictions began to lift towards the second-half of 2021, live performance saw a 30% growth in gross domestic product (GDP). While this growth is considerable, in 2019, the live performance GDP was just over $3 million. In 2021, it reached $1.4 million. Despite this growth, the live performance sector remains the hardest hit among all culture domains; however, is rebounding above the impact at the start of the pandemic.

Jobs in the live performance sector also saw an increase to the number of jobs in the sector by almost 25% towards the end of 2021. While employment is still below pre-pandemic levels, it has increased to higher than the start of the pandemic. 

In short, during the late summer and fall of 2021 (the latest time period for when data is available), the live performing arts was beginning to show signs of rebounding. In a relatively short period of time since being allowed to reopen, the industry had started to rebound to mid-2020 levels. While these numbers don’t reflect the Omicron wave that began in Ontario towards the end of 2021, it also does not reflect other external factors. This includes a newly re-elected government that promised support for the arts and culture sector as it slowly recovers.

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