At a news conference this afternoon (February 11), Premier Christy Clark announced that the provincial government would be providing a $15-million grant dedicated to the revitalization of B.C.’s music industry.
The announcement came in response to a B.C. report from Music Canada that was released at the same conference. It focused on rebuilding the province’s music economy by creating more opportunity for up-and-coming musicians, increasing childhood music education, and allocating funds to support live music venues, among other things.
Government stakeholders, notable local musicians, and the media packed into a room at Warehouse Studio in Vancouver to hear members of Music Canada launch their report, B.C.’s Music Sector: From Adversity to Opportunity.
Chad Kroeger, Matt Good, Bruce Allen, Dan Mangan, Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond, and Michael Buble, who wrote a forward for the document, were just a few B.C.-born musicians and industry professionals in attendance to lend their support for the report, which is described as “a roadmap to reclaim B.C.’s proud music heritage and ignite its potential as a cultural and economic driver”.
“The people of B.C. and its government are people who care passionately about its music and its artists…and this great national resource is in peril,” the president of Music Canada, Graham Henderson, said. He called the genesis of the idea behind the report “simple yet daunting”, and he noted that musicians today are challenged “in ways they haven’t been challenged before".
The information in the report was collected through musicians, government, and industry members, and it was funded by members of Music Canada, which include big industry names like Sony, Warner, and Universal.
It cites massive changes in the global music ecology as the reason for significant erosion of B.C.’s assets in the industry in recent years (artists, live music, recording studios, performance spaces, etcetera), but it goes on to provide potential solutions by taking control of these assets and creating a “vibrant music sector” in the province.
The report states that benefits of such a sector include economic diversification and growth, music tourism, cultural development and artistic growth, supporting growth in B.C.’s tech sector, and brand-building.
Challenges that the local music industry are currently facing include the side effects of music's digitization, as well as the fact that some of B.C.'s home-grown musicians are opting to leave the province for more financially viable locations like Ontario, where that province’s government announced in 2013 a $45-million contribution to its local industry through the Ontario Music Fund. The number of individuals enrolling in music education in B.C. has also "declined significantly", Henderson said.
“In 1999 at the retail level, the music industry [in B.C.] was worth $1.5 billion. Today, it’s under $500 million,” Henderson said.
According to Henderson, a $15-million investment in the music sector from the government could result in up to $73 million in revenue.
The report makes suggestions to both provincial and municipal levels of government. These suggestions include increasing funding and education as well as reducing red tape, especially when it comes to liquor licensing at music events and concert venues.
B.C.'s draw for musicians, according to the report, is its climate, geography, and lifestyle: it calls our “stunning mountains and coastal scenery” a unique selling point that has helped draw national and international artists in the past—and it encourages local artists to keep our province as their home base.
Clark reflected on her past as a frequent concertgoer, and she echoed the importance of B.C.’s landscape when she made the announcement.
“One of the things that makes a city a great place to live is live music venues, and I can tell you…the shows I used to see at Richards on Richards, Club Soda, and Graceland, I look back at them...and I think about how it made me enjoy my city,” she said just before announcing the grant.
Speaking to the musicians in the crowd, Clark said, “Big and small, old and new, established and just beginning; all of you change a lot of people’s lives, with respect to live music—which I’m really passionate about—so thank you to the community here, because when you go to see a live band…that crowd is other musicians. This is a tight-knit community of people who support each other, and I’m happy to be joining you in supporting each other.”
Michael Buble also spoke and emphasized the importance of Vancouver to Canada's music sector as a whole.
“I don’t understand why this can’t be the Nashville of Canada,” Buble said. “For a long time, people have had to go to Ontario if they wanted to afford to make a record…it’s never been tougher to develop your career as an artist.”
When asked by the media about the $45-million contribution that the Ontario government made to its music industry, Clark stated that the grant from the B.C. government is proportionate because Ontario’s population is three times the size of B.C.’s. However, she didn’t say that support would stop at $15 million.
“The thing about these investments is we really want to stimulate the growth of the music scene,” Clark said. “I think it’s a great investment, and if I’m right, you’ll see us investing in this again.”