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‘They need to play’: Owner of N.B. music agency worries for future of live music

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 restrictions hit N.B.’s entertainment scene once again' COVID-19 restrictions hit N.B.’s entertainment scene once again
New measures to control the Omicron COVID-19 variant came into effect Saturday in New Brunswick. This means entertainment venues must now operate at half capacity. As Suzanne Lapointe reports, it’s another blow to the already hard-hit live music industry – Dec 18, 2021

The owner of a Moncton-based music agency and record label says the new year could be the worst yet for live music in New Brunswick.

Carol Doucet, the owner of Le Grenier musique, said she anticipates 2022 will be even harder on the music industry than the prior two years of the pandemic.

In an interview on Saturday, she said the combination of the worsening of the pandemic, the lack of government subsidies that helped artists get through 2020 and 2021, as well as venues booking fewer shows in the new year means many artists are leaving the industry.

“The artists, they need to play, they need to tour in order to live off their music. We’ve lost a lot of musicians,” she said, adding they’ve only been booking at about 15 to 20 per cent of their normal rate.

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Read more: Canadians use social media to shine light on live music industry left in dark by COVID-19

She said since her artists weren’t able to tour over the past two years, they have almost doubled production of new music, leaving the artists with streaming, sales, and radio plays as their primary form of income.

“Streaming is not very important financially for artists … so it’s very important for radio stations to play local music and it’s not always easy to convince them to do that,” she said.

The unpredictable nature of the pandemic means lots of work goes to waste, especially for her artists that work internationally, said Doucet.

“We have musicians going to Louisiana, and Belgium, France, Switzerland in March and April, but we’re not sure if this is going to happen,” she said.

“With all the cancellations, it’s hard to get new projects out there, because they have to rebook the shows that have been cancelled. ”

She said she and the artists she works with have tried to come up with alternative revenue streams, like online music camps and music lessons, but there’s only so much they can do.

Entertainment venues reduce capacity 

On Saturday, the province’s new interim measures to slow the spread of the Omicron variant came into effect.

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This means entertainment venues like theatres and music halls must now operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Read more: COVID-19: N.B. reports 2 deaths, 133 new cases as interim measures go into effect

Gregg Corrigan, the co-owner of Happy Craft Brewing in downtown Moncton, regularly books live musicians.

He said many artists have reached out to him directly “partially because there are less venues than there were.”

He is able to ensure the necessary distancing by having acts play in the brewery section of the building, far from the seating area, and he said he’s determined to offer live music as long as he’s able to.

“If we’re allowed (when restrictions tighten) we’ll still bring in the one man shows,” said Corrigan. “For sure it won’t be a money maker for us but that’s OK.”

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