New Study Highlights the Grim Realities Facing Toronto Music Venues

Despite generating $850 million annually and creating 10,500 jobs, venues are facing some dark days ahead due to the COVID-19 crisis
New Study Highlights the Grim Realities Facing Toronto Music Venues
The City of Toronto has recognized the enormous economic impact of its live music venues, which are among some of the most financially affected businesses by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A two-year study conducted by Nordicity called "Re:Venues: A Case and Path Forward for Toronto's Live Music Industry" found that the city's venues contribute $850 million annually and represent the equivalent of 10,500 full-time jobs. Due to ongoing restrictions on large gatherings, those numbers are obviously in jeopardy.

"Toronto's live music venues contribute greatly to the city's cultural, social and economic fabric but these venues require critical support in the face of ongoing pressures that have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic," Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

"This long-awaited study has confirmed the vital role the industry plays in our city and the commitment to supporting them not only through this pandemic but afterwards," he added. "I want to thank all the partners involved in helping us bring this study forward and for realizing the need for real support for artists and the music venues they rely on."

Another part of the study found that, even before COVID-19 halted the industry, "an alarming number of venues closed their doors, often due to rising rent and redevelopment."

This should come as no surprise, considering the recent loss of iconic venues like Hugh's Room, the Hoxton, SoyBomb HQ, UNIUN, Double Double Land, the Silver Dollar Room and the seemingly never-ending revitalization of the city's historic Massey Hall. As of September 3, the study found that 13 percent of the city's "core" venues have permanently closed because of the pandemic. 

Earlier this year, the city introduced a $1.7 million property tax relief program for venues affected by the pandemic. Of the 588 venues across Toronto, the initiative gave financial aid to 48. The city plans to keep the program going beyond 2020.

The study outlined a number of recommendations for the continued support of Toronto's live music venues. Such actions — on behalf of the city — include tailoring insurance programs to live music venues, redirecting funds to support Toronto's cultural infrastructure and offering opportunities for business education for venue owners, among other suggestions.

Read the full list of recommendations here.

Meanwhile, permanent closures throughout the pandemic continue to rise. Last month, condo developers announced plans to reconfigure the city's southeast corner of Bathurst Street and College Street — the home of live music venue and restaurant, Sneaky Dee's. Earlier this year, Queen West's LGBTQ+ bar and venue, the Beaver, announced its closure

As of press time, Ontario's daily coronavirus cases have reached their peak, with 800 new cases reported today, 265 of which are in Toronto. It remains unclear when or if the province's live venues will be able to operate as normal again.