News / Edmonton

Facing the music? Survey says Albertans have the least desire to live near venues

Meanwhile, advocacy group says music venues attract young adults to live in areas and provide a boon to local economies

Thom Bennett is a musician and founder of the Edmonton Live Music Initiative.

Kevin Tuong / for metro

Thom Bennett is a musician and founder of the Edmonton Live Music Initiative.

A new poll shows a surprising number of Canadians want to live near music venues — though not so many in Alberta.

The poll, conducted by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), found more than 70 per cent of Canadians under 35 in urban areas feel it’s important to live in a neighbourhood with a vibrant local arts scene that includes live music.

That number is only at 50 per cent when it comes to Albertans, however. Why that pull is not as strong in Alberta as other provinces seems to be a mystery.

Thom Bennett founded the Edmonton Live Music Initiative to bring musicians, venue owners and government officials together to find ways to strengthen local music scenes, and he said it’s hard to say why support for live music is waning.

“That is a million-dollar question. Because if you could answer why it’s just not as vibrant as it was before, there would be a really easy way to fix it,” said Bennett, who is a full-time professional musician.

“The weird part about it is, there’s a younger cohort of people in Alberta now who have arguably more disposable income than 30 years ago, but the live music scene seems to be hurting a little bit more.”

SOCAN’s VP of licensing Leslie Craig said music venues attract young adults to live in areas that have them and are a boon to local economies.

A Music Canada study from 2012 found live music brought $1.2 billion to Ontario’s economy, while music venues contributed $432.4 million in taxes and live music companies provided 10,500 full-time equivalent jobs.

Bennett helped lobby for recent AGLC changes to remove the ban on underage musicians playing bars, and has recently been in talks with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.

His primary push now is to create live music districts, where people can hop from one venue to another and take in multiple events.

He said running venues and promoting shows are tougher than many people realize financially, because of numerous costs that aren’t accrued by bar owners running spaces without live music.   

“It’s really important for people to understand the financial realities that face venue owners, promoters and musicians. I think everyone knows that people in the arts generally tend to make a little less money,” Bennett said.

SOCAN made several suggestions for cities to help foster healthy live music scenes. including low-income housing spaces for musicians, organizations like Bennett’s that bring different communities together, and policies that see a portion of developing fees paid by property developers — which currently go to items like transportation, libraries and parks — go to live music programs or venues.

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