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Abacus Data Research: Canadians Very Wary of Going to Concerts Again, Even After Restrictions Are Lifted

New research from Abacus Data that was commissioned by Music Canada indicates it could take up to six months after physical-distancing restrictions are lifted for even self-identified “live music lovers” to feel comfortable going to concerts again.

Music Canada commissioned Abacus Data to conduct public opinion research to determine how Canadians’ feelings around music have changed during the pandemic. The national public opinion survey gauged the comfort Canadians have for returning to live music as restrictions lift, and the results are startling.

“As governments across Canada and the world increasingly shift their focus to recovery, this data from Abacus underscores the precarious position of the live music ecosystem – an ecosystem upon which artists rely for a significant, and in some cases predominant, portion of their livelihood,” says Graham Henderson, president and CEO of Music Canada. “The music industry faces a triple threat. First – the very real medical concerns of Canadians about the virus. Second – that government restrictions will remain on large gatherings well into recovery. And third – that even after government restrictions have lifted and economies begin to reopen – Canadian confidence in returning to these live events will continue to be low.”

The findings show that even of the self identified “live music lovers” – for many, it will be at least 6 months after government restrictions are lifted, before they feel comfortable going to: bars/pubs (28%); small venue concerts (35%); large venue concerts (42%); festivals (41%); community events with live music (31%).

The research also demonstrated how important music is in helping Canadians to get through the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds  (58%) of respondents reported feeling worse about the pandemic because of the cancellation of live music events. Half of those identified as “live music lovers” also reported listening to more music during the pandemic, and that for the vast majority (86%), listening to music is a way to relieve stress.

Most striking, 50% of the respondents said they may never feel comfortable again going to a concert in the United States, with another 32% saying it would take at least six months before they feel comfortable again.

As well, older Canadians expressed longer time horizons before they would feel comfortable again, as did women generally.

“As an artist, what I’m finding I miss the most is the collaboration and connection I have onstage with my fellow musicians and that powerful, ephemeral experience that is created between artists and a live audience,” says Miranda Mulholland, artist, advocate, and Chair of Music Canada’s Advisory Council. “What I find most heartening is that 84% of music lovers state that digital will never replace the live experience. Also, more than a third of respondents increased their music listening during this pandemic. These stats show that people clearly recognize the value and importance of music in their lives, perhaps more than they ever have.”

“Unfortunately, it’s clear that the pandemic will cause serious and possibly irreparable harm to Canada’s artists, the majority of whom were already living in a precarious state. We must continue to think about how we can help them through this as they’ve been here for all of us in this crisis,” adds Mulholland.

Not only are these findings significant for the music industry, but they are important for the travel and tourism industries as well. As the government and music industry develops plans for recovery, Music Canada says they must understand that those whose businesses depend on large gatherings will continue to be affected by this pandemic for a much longer time. To that end, Music Canada says it will continue to assess Canadians' changing perspectives on their comfort for returning to live music so that it can deliver this information to its partners.

For more information on the findings released from Abacus Data, please visit abacusdata.ca/live-music-after-pandemic/.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.
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