Pop Culture

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

Canadians who have a passion for the performing arts are taking to social media on Tuesday night to raise awareness about the live events industry that they say has been left on life support by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We risk not having events,” said Jennifer Hildebrandt, who helped to organize a social media campaign using the hashtags #lightuplive and #lightuplivecanada in Edmonton. “We risk thousands of people being out of work [and] we risk coming out of this pandemic and not having events, not having concerts for people to go back to.

“I think that’s the one thing that a lot of people aren’t grasping right now, is that that’s a very real possibility. Venues are shutting down all across the country. It’s been going on for six months and it’s only going to get worse.”

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READ MORE: ‘The show cannot go on’: Canada’s arts scene takes hit from COVID-19 

Inspired by similar movements in Germany and the United Kingdom, the Light Up Live event on Tuesday asks venues, performers and events workers to take photos of themselves or venues with red lighting and then post them on social media accompanied by the movement’s hashtags.

“I think it will be a fantastic show,” said Christian Zeretzke, an Edmonton freelancer who specializes in rigging and carpentry for theatres. “It’s to raise awareness to the plight of events workers at the moment.

“Bring attention to this. That way we can ask the government to continue giving meaningful support… We’re writing and ready to go back to work because this is what we love to do.”

READ MORE: The show must go on for Edmonton’s arts community amid COVID-19 pandemic

Zeretzke, who came up with the #lightuplivecanada hashtag, said since the pandemic hit in March, he has only had one gig in the arts and has been forced to take other jobs to support himself.

He said from performers, lighting technicians, sound technicians, promoters, florists, security, cleaners and caterers to hospitality groups, an incredible number of people were impacted when live shows came to a screeching halt.

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“The list is mind-boggling how many people it takes to put on an event,” Zeretzke said.

Organizers of the social media movement say the live events sector employs about one-million Canadians, directly and indirectly.

In Alberta, the arts — including live events — contribute to the province’s economic growth as well as quality of life, according to the provincial government.

“This is an additional $1.3 billion in GDP generated, while sustaining nearly 20,000 jobs here in Alberta,” Michael Forian, press secretary for the minister of of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, told Global News in a statement. “Live experience events also generate economic activity through out-of-town tourism, at an average of $10 million in economic impact for larger events.

“Every $1 million in output from live performance businesses in Alberta generates 17 direct and indirect jobs. When arts and culture thrive, Alberta is well positioned to be seen as a good place to live, invest and do business.”

Over 600 venues across Canada, ranging from arenas to theatres and concert halls, are taking part in Tuesday’s social media event.

READ MORE: Ontario theatre to glow red for national event raising awareness for pandemic-hit live event industry

Zeretzke said even though some venues have been able to reopen in some areas, the limited capacity to accommodate social distancing — something he understands and agrees with — makes it very difficult to break even on a performance.

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“If you have a 100-seat capacity… and 15 of those are technicians and box office staff and actors or whatever, it’s really tough to make a profit off that,” he said.

“We’re really hoping to bring awareness and bring… [more] support from government and from the public for our industry and moving forward, you know, we need to maintain support for gig workers and live event workers,” Hildebrandt said.

“We need an economic recovery plan for our industry.”

READ MORE: Hit hard by COVID-19, Ontario music venues ‘in desperate need of help’ 

People are being asked to begin taking photos and posting them to social media once the sun sets in their region on Tuesday night.

For more information, click here.

–With files from Global News’ Kendra Slugoski

View some tweets with the hashtag #lightuplive below:

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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