Forget the pivot, the art sector has evolved into new ways of doing it

Announce, postpone, reschedule and repeat. The pandemic is changing the way business is conducted in the arts and entertainment arenas.

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As the second anniversary of the arrival of the pandemic approaches, Donna Spencer is tired of the “P-word.”

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The artistic producer of the Firehall Arts Center says the cycle of announcements, postponements, cancellations, capacity caps and COVID-19 variants has ruined traditional business models. “Blind budgeting” better describes 2022.

Donna Spencer, artistic producer of the Firehall Arts Center.
Donna Spencer, artistic producer of the Firehall Arts Center. Photo by Pedro Meza /PNG

“I’m tired of pivoting, because it’s not figuring out how to use the extremely limited resources you may still have to draw potential losses,” Spencer said. “Constantly juggling what you can afford to invest in while covering any losses is normal now. Every time you cancel, there are fees for artists, for creative teams, for staff. You can not say” sorry, we do not do the show, so we do not pay you. “

Two cancellations in January means this season is not getting off to an excellent start. Still, Spencer remains optimistic because of the audience’s demand for live performances, because during the brief withdrawal of provincial health orders, people came.

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What has not been returned are significant technical, production and support staff. As uncertainty drags on the booming Hollywood North, technology and gaming are reaping the benefits of highly experienced workers changing sectors.

Alvaro Prol from This Is Blueprint says the whole prospect of delivering content to events has changed completely – again – in the last six months.

“We played about 60 concerts between December and March following the new health regulations before Christmas,” he said. “It makes it so hard to get people, talents – all you need to fill rooms, make money and keep going. People get cloudy.”

This Is Blueprint operates in several spheres. A constant in the running of nightclubs like celebrities, venues with live music like Vancouver’s Fortune Sound Club and Calgary’s Commonwealth and producing Surrey’s FVDED in the Park and Contact Winter Music Festival, are workers.

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“It was a problem for every festival I was a part of last year – and for every event now – where everything from getting a fence or a barricade to security is a challenge. People have spread and get these bodies back, them , lost to film, technology, marketing – all that – will require clearly sustainable business. “

Prol figures that the wage bill for March 2020 was 713 people. Then it dropped to a core team of 26. Today’s levels are less than half of those pre-pandemics. Since every cog in the creative sector imagines doing business in some uncertainty, rebuilding is not going to be an easy task.

At Vancouver-based music-PR firm Fritz Media, owner Jen Fritz says her 2021 client list holds about 75 percent of the top before COVID. The problem is trying to get the gear going again after losing about 50 percent of last year’s expected revenue. And with clients postponing campaigns due to rescheduled or canceled tour dates, the design of work strategies goes back to the blind faith model.

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“Increasingly, artists are just deciding to just put a product out and see what happens,” Fritz said. “It’s a shame, because without touring revenue it means no money for anyone. Honestly, without Creative BC and FACTOR involvement, I do not think anyone would survive.”

Vancouver International Children’s Festival artistic and managing director Katharine Carol says it’s crucial to announce lineups in advance to secure all major school tickets in advance, as well as negotiate with other festivals to arrange cross-country tours. Tickets are usually sold to schools in the October to May event. The festivals in 2020 and 2021 only went online.

Carol says this was not a focal point: It did not produce.

“We expanded our audience to those schools in other parts of the province that cannot reach us geographically, so this year we are planning a personal festival with online shows,” Carol said. “But it does make it more daunting for festivals to figure out how to build tours together and guarantee artists. The positive is that a lot of local artists are booked, but that’s because they’re not out touring and making money either.”

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Most festival contracts provide non-refundable deposit to artists. With everything up in the air, these deposits typically fall. This is a safeguard against COVID cancellations.

At BlueShore Financial Center for the Performing Arts, Director of Programming Fiona Black admits that such new developments make booking incredibly difficult and challenge artists. She points out that as a facility at Capilano University, this means that schedules can be cut down as dictated by the time a luxury private operators do not have.

International and American artists are leaving Canada from their travel plans in 2022 to avoid border crossings during the pandemic. Black says the announcement of “the big year” seasons is over in today’s world.

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“Like most, two years out, I’m still figuring out how to bring back the international shows that played such a key role in building BlueShore’s reputation, and that’s uncertain,” Black said. “I’m lucky to have a 20-year relationship with presenting artists so I could develop Backstage on the CapU interview show with them for engagement on social media. It does not generate revenue.”

Next release is Bass Jeopardy with Jeremy Holmes, Jodi Proznick and Bradley Ferguson in February. It’s free.

Jodi Proznick is part of Backstage at the Cap U online Bass Jeopardy event.
Jodi Proznick is part of Backstage at the Cap U online Bass Jeopardy event. jpg

One festival has proven immune to all of this. The Vancouver Mural Festival managed to expand during the pandemic, its separate brand VMF Winter Arts celebration starting Feb. 11-27 in downtown Vancouver.

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“There are two main reasons why we thrive in this time. Our event takes place outdoors, and we have designed Winter Arts specifically as something to withstand the changing landscape of COVID,” said VMF CEO and co-founder Andrea Curtis.

“After the success of using our app to encourage people to walk around and check out different areas of the city while maintaining social distance, we got together and used what we learned for something amazing that people could do safely in the winter “We used the technology to show virtual reality because you can not really paint in February – and we had over 35,000 participants last year.”

With a new hub added to the Vancouver Art Gallery designed to meet existing guidelines for up to a crowd of 600, VMF Winter Arts is a creative masterpiece to bridge the wait until things return to business as (sort of) usual again .

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

twitter.com/stuartderdeyn

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