Canadian Live Music Association unveils the results of national research study

Alanna Stuart

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) along with the support of FACTOR and the Government of Canada, Creative BC and the Province of BC, and Ontario Creates unveiled the results of the national study Closing the Gap: Impact and Representation of Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) Live Music Workers in Canada.

The definitive study, conducted over a period of eighteen months, provides critical data, and better informs CLMA and its partners of the challenges and barriers that impede IBPOC workers in the Canadian live music industry. The findings also highlight the most pressing issues and obstacles and emphasize the urgent need to better serve IBPOC live music workers across Canada.

CLMA consulted extensively with IBPOC artists, organizations, and community members alongside its project team led by Alanna Stuart and Kim de Laat which included many collaborators, community partners and an advisory committee to ensure that ongoing conversations with a wide range of unrestricted perspectives and experiences helped shape the direction and research questions driving the study.

Including country-wide demographic survey data on the economic, mental, and physical health effects of working in the live music sector as an IBPOC worker, the comprehensive report uniquely outlines actionable recommendations for the live music industry and presenters, as well as Government and funding bodies, calling for them to close the gap in representation and implement more inclusive practices nationwide.

“The Canadian Live Music Association is proud to have championed and led this report and we are so grateful to our industry partners and funders for helping to make it happen. We’re neither shocked nor surprised at the findings,” said Erin Benjamin, President & CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA).

Kim de Laat

“But now, with this report in-hand, we can – all of us – accelerate and make every effort to rid systemic inequities from our industry – prioritize and fight for the change that the report calls for, that we know we need, that we know is right. This is our community and it’s our responsibility to ensure that IBPOC live music workers have every opportunity to succeed. Today marks the end of creating the report and the beginning of closing the gap in Canada’s live music industry.”

The national study validates the urgent need to advocate for racialized individuals working in the sector. IBPOC workers make up 16% of the total number of live music industry workers in Canada and on average make $11,700 less per year than white industry workers. The survey demonstrates that if IBPOC workers and artists earned the same as their white counterparts, they would add $202.2 million to the industry’s annual contribution to GDP. In total the absent GDP contribution of missing IBPOC workers and lost wages is an estimated $273.5 million.

Additional key findings include a need to immediately address gatekeeping. The top four reported employment positions among white live music industry workers are gatekeeping positions: venue owners, promoters, live event producers and festival programmers. IBPOC workers are significantly underrepresented in certain live music workplaces with 61% of white entrepreneurs and owners reporting that IBPOC workers make up a minority of their workplaces.

Sources of inequality include lack of representation, the highest reported barrier to IBPOC respondents’ sense of belonging in the live music industry along with tokenization which is cited as another major barrier. The scarcity of advancement opportunities and employment-related obstacles including hiring processes, nepotism and high turnover rates were also widely identified by IBPOC respondents, while Black participants specifically mentioned a lack of supportive leadership as a major hurdle. Indigenous respondents most frequently reported fear of losing control and ownership over their stories, artistic projects and/or decision making, while mental/physical wellbeing (i.e., lack of health or other insurance benefits, little to no work/life balance), was reported as a significant impediment to career progression by all survey respondents.

The results of the study also emphasize concerns with genre categorization where terms such as “Indigenous Music” and “World Music” were highlighted by respondents as both providing a source of community and belonging, while also creating feelings of marginalization and tokenization. Intersecting inequalities: in particular, the confidence gap among women of colour was also identified in addition to complicated relationships to whiteness where only 42% of IBPOC respondents established that there are people in the Canadian live music industry holding leadership/executive-level positions from their communities, compared to 78% of white respondents.

Within the national survey there are several key recommendations presented to the Canadian live music industry (i.e., venue owners, promoters, agents, managers, festival organizers and more), Government and funding bodies, IBPOC workers and calls-to-action for presenters. Among them, promoting industry shifts by including eligibility guidelines and assessment criteria that stipulate white-led organizations must include significant IBPOC representation in decision-making positions along with increasing access and inspiring trust.