Orchestras During Covid-19


Introducing Canada’s Orchestras

Orchestral music may have gotten its start around the renaissance in the 17th century, but it hasn’t lost its relevancy as a music genre. Current research from the Canadian Council of the arts, and Orchestra Canada shows an increase in revenue and attendance for orchestra performances between 2018 and 2019. However, that’s increase has ended with the rest of the music industry since the start of Covid-19. 

The orchestra of Canada shows that income has increased by an average of 15% all across Canada since 2015. The average annual revenue for orchestral music in 2017-2018 is $210,365,000. The following year, the average annual revenue increased to $218,333,085. The total revenue increased by 3.8%.

This corroborates the projections from the CCA’s report published in the CCA’s report.

“Between 2010 and 2017, these show that revenue amounts have been increasing. Of the responding orchestras, they reported an increase of total revenue from $28.6 Million in 2016-2017 to 176.9 million in 2010-11. As shown below, orchestras make money in multiple different ways including earned revenue, public sector revenues, private sector revenues and of course other,” explains the report.

Orchestras and Pandemics

Most of Canada’s orchestras are not-for-profit organizations and registered charities.

“In 2018-19, according to OC’s comparative data from 71 of our largest member orchestras, orchestras derived 35.8% of their revenues from ticket sales and sold services, and 40.2% from individuals, corporations, foundations, and special fundraising events. Government support (from all three orders of government) made up the difference. Our members reported revenues of almost $218 million and connected with 2.8 million Canadians.”

That being said, this isn’t the first pandemic to hit orchestral music.

“While we are certainly living in unusual and challenging times, Covid-19 -19 isn’t the first global pandemic that has struck our communities and shaken the arts industry. The Canadian orchestral landscape was much younger when the Spanish Flu of 1918 hit the country, just months after the end of World War I. Much like what we’re seeing right now, many industries, including the arts, were forced to close their doors to stop the spread of the virus.” reads a report from Orchestras of Canada.

Impact of Orchestras During Covid-19

In 2020, Orchestras are facing a stressful time with up to 76% of their income vulnerable as Orchestra Canada explains.

According to the live vitality from Canadian Live Music, on a yearly basis, presenters attracted an average attendance of 38,000, with a median of 5,700. Paid attendance represents 68% of total attendance. A loss of attendance for live performances is the main aspect impacting musical performances throughout Canada.

“Depending on the size of the orchestra, anywhere from one to well over 200 people are paid to do work directly for and with the orchestra each season, and they are all vulnerable to changes in their orchestra’s financial health. Orchestras also tend to plan and market their concerts 18-24 months in advance.”

In terms of financial support, there is support for Canadian orchestras, but there is a gap as there is for all Canadians at this time. All combined, this leaves Canadian orchestras in a tough spot to be able to continue.

Statistics Regarding Orchestras in Canada

A survey from Violinist.Com showed….

  • Well-run orchestras will return to large-scale orchestral concerts, but some orchestras will not recover:
  • Large-scale orchestral concerts will return to pre-COVID-19  levels after a few years:
  • I fear large-scale orchestral concerts are a thing of the past.:
  • Large-scale orchestral concerts have already returned in my geographic area.:

But why does it matter what happens to the music industry?

“When I watched a man with dementia shuffle into one of our concerts with his wife, and he sat at the back of the hall, seemingly unresponsive to those around him…then, his eyes lit up and he asked his wife to dance, and gracefully danced with her at the back of the hall for most of the evening! The power of the arts!” Bassano Arts Council Bassano, AB from Live Vitality.


Carleton, K. (2020). Brief to the Standing Committee on Finance May 8, 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2021, from https://oc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2020.5-May-8th-Brief-to-the-Standing-Committee-on-Finance-8-May-2020.pdf

Niles, L. (2020). V.com weekend vote: How will COVID-19 affect the future of large-scale orchestral performances?. Retrieved 28 February 2021, from https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/202010/28508/

Smith, S. (2019). OC Comparative Report 2017-18 – GUIDE to SUMMARIES EN Final.pdf. Retrieved 28 February 2021, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jDYAEiydLNiQD_NHN__cUObEna0bpnzV/view

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