Music is worth more to Vancouver than many residents might be aware. And not just in terms of arts and entertainment, but in pure dollars and cents.
How much? $690 million a year, according to a new analysis by Sound Diplomacy that's included in a report going to city council tomorrow (July 10).
"In 2017, B.C.’s live music sector contributed 6,950 FTEs [full-time equivalent jobs], $619.3 million in labour income and $815.8 million in GDP to the provincial economy," it reads.
"However, similar to other sectors, the Vancouver music community faces challenges posed by the lack of affordable housing and music spaces, inadequate remuneration, municipal red tape, as well as missing infrastructure to develop the next generation of music artists and music industry professionals," the report continues.
In a telephone interview, Music B.C. executive director Alex Grigg said that's why councillors should accept and implement the policy recommendations included alongside that economic analysis.
"How are we supporting both the commercial and the nonprofit sectors, to ensure that they are viable for a very long time?" he asked. "People need to know that plan is being worked on."
Grigg told the Straight that with a civic elections scheduled for October 2018, the industry's hope is for the city to create a position at 12th and Cambie that will look out for Vancouver's music scene in a way that transcends politics.
"Regardless of what happens with this current council [in the election], we'll know that if that person is in there, that we can continue our work," Gregg said. "That's been proven to work around the world. It starts there. That person who speaks two languages. One or them to understand the inner workings of the city, and also be able to speak to the needs of the industry at large, to everyone from a club owner to an artist.
The report going to council contains recommendations by Sandra Singh, the City of Vancouver's new general manager of arts, culture, and community services. It calls on council to approve $400,000 in one-time spending to create a temporary but full-time staff position with the city.
This person would focus on the music sector and to create a number of grants that would become available to "Vancouver-based, music-focused projects aligning with the current directions identified in this report".
"B.C. boasts over 160 recording studios, over 285 music companies, and more than 400 festivals that take place across the province each year," the document notes.
It adds that a vibrant music industry creates jobs, increases local revenues, stimulates tourism, and attracts and retains talent and investment, among other benefits.
The report goes on to detail challenges faced by B.C. residents who work in music and industries that are closely related.
"More than half of the respondents, for example, reported unaffordable housing (56%) and lack of funding support (53%) as significant challenges," it reads. "Additionally, half (50%) indicated that obtaining adequate performance fees was an ongoing challenge.
Grigg emphasized that while the report makes clear there are big economic benefits to a thriving industry, the true value of music defies quantification.
"Our hope is that they [city council] really consider the magnitude of the industry, and not just economically but what it actually means as part of the community here," he said.
"When something is being done at the city, whether it's a development going up or a new policy put in place...we're trying to make sure that we're in the forefront," Grigg continued. "It comes down to very simple steps that can be done. Music needs to be at the table within every department."