Vancouver music scene worth $690m to economy, says report

But high cost of living putting strains on Vancouver musicians, who earn $18,178 a year on average

Vancouver’s music scene is hitting a high note in terms of economic impact, according to a new report.

The Vancouver Music Ecosystem study released July 9 found the sector represents $690 million for the city “including employment and additional revenue.”

Despite a “healthy scene,” Music BC executive director Alex Grigg said Vancouver’s music sector needs help from city hall to keep the industry sustainable.

“We never replaced a lot of the venues that shut down,” said Grigg, whose non-profit organization co-authored the study.

“I know a lot of the club owners who have sold their clubs and you really can’t blame them. It’s a tough business but with the real estate prices around here a lot of them have opted out and sold their properties.”

The study calls on the municipal government to create the new role of music officer at city hall.

“Having clear and flexible bureaucracy and accessible advice around licensing, permits, company registration and bylaws could expand the live music sector in Vancouver,” the study said.

The City of Toronto has such a position based at the Toronto Arts Council, which is funded by the municipality.

The Vancouver Music Ecosystem study suggests the Vancouver music officer report directly to the city manager’s office.

“That music officer needs to speak two languages,” Grigg said, adding the music officer must understand both how the industry operates and how city staff work.

The report also calls on Vancouver to increase the number of affordable rehearsal spaces for musicians and create a point-based evaluation system for grants to boost diversity within the music ecosystem (74.6% of Vancouver musicians surveyed in the study identify as having a European background).

City hall is also being told that it needs to boost the nighttime economy by increasing the number of special occasion licences for small-capacity venues, test a curfew extension for select venues and events, and extend night-time transportation options for some parts of the city.

While the average annual income for a Vancouver musician was $18,178, the national average annual income for a Canadian music was $22,770, according to the report.

“[Vancouver musicians] just based on the cost of living are really, really struggling,” said Grigg.

“A lot of musicians and a lot of professionals are moving to either Toronto, because there’s better infrastructure there, or in fact we’ve seen a lot move away [overseas] as well.”

The study was co-authored by London-based music agency Sound Diplomacy and the Vancouver-based Secret Study creative agency.

Vancouver city council is scheduled to receive a staff report and presentation on a city music strategy during a July 10 meeting.