• Michael Sniderman

COVID-19 and the Entertainment Industry: Part 3 - Financial Resources

Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash


In just over one month since social distancing measures were put into place in Ontario, the entertainment industry has been dramatically affected. Due to the rise of COVID-19, television and film production has been halted, live performances have been cancelled, and it has been projected that large-scale gatherings will not return until 2021.

It is our responsibility as entertainment lawyers to address the issues for our clients that stem directly from this new reality, including the logistical issues concerning the production and release of content, contractual issues for both talent and producers, and financial issues that affect all of the creative industries.

In this three-part series, we will address these topics as well as reasons to be optimistic about the outlook for the entertainment industry and the new opportunities that may arise.

In Part 3, we’ll look at the financial resources for Canadian artists that can be accessed in connection with COVID-19. Part 1, which deals with the major logistical issues for the entertainment industry stemming from COVID-19, can be read here. Part 2, which addresses contractual issues in the entertainment industry, can be read here.

Financial Resources for the Entertainment Industry

As a result of COVID-19, many professionals in the entertainment industry have found themselves with lost contracts and no prospect of obtaining new work opportunities in the near future. As musicians have cancelled concert dates, filmmakers have been forced to halt production, and art galleries have had to close their doors, creative professionals have been precluded from, in many cases, their only source of income. As a result of these consequences to the arts community, federal and provincial agencies, along with other arts organizations, have been making efforts to provide financial relief and viable solutions for artists.

There are many detailed resources that have been prepared regarding the support that is currently being offered to artists throughout Canada. Notably, Canada Media Fund’s COVID-19 Information Hub for Canada’s Screen Based Industries provides a regularly updated directory of the federal and provincial measures that have been implemented to benefit entertainment industry professionals, including financial aid, grants and fiscal deferrals for taxes. Telefilm Canada has also launched a COVID-19 updates page providing details regarding how project financing will be affected during the pandemic. Likewise, CAVCO has been issuing occasional bulletins outlining their updated procedures, the latest of which (published on April 22, 2020) can be read here.

Several arts organizations throughout the entertainment industry have reacted to COVID-19 by providing new funding opportunities. MusicTogether, supported by the Ontario Music Fund, has created a digital platform for eligible musicians to perform live-stream shows and receive $1,000 in emergency relief funding. Similarly, Format’s Photographer Fund has been offering assistance (for the time being, limited to $500 per person) to self-employed photographers who are facing financial hardships.

With new grants and funds frequently being introduced in order to help creative professionals while their usual income streams are limited, it is important to keep an eye on application deadlines. For example, May 5, 2020 is the third round deadline for the Canadian Writers’ Emergency Relief Fund which is offering grants of $1,500 to eligible Canadian writers with losses of income exceeding that amount since March 2020. May 15, 2020 is the deadline to apply for the Artist Project’s COVID-19 Studio Relief Grant which is awarding one emerging contemporary visual artist with a $1,000 Akin Collective studio credit and a $1,000 honorarium to offset arts supplies and day-to-day costs. The Canada Council for the Arts is accepting applications until June 15, 2020 for a “digital originals” micro-innovation grant of up to $5,000 (and an additional $1,000 for select projects), enabling artists to either adapt existing work or create new work for digital dissemination on CBC platforms.

For those who are looking for ways to support the entertainment industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Toronto Arts Foundation has created the TOArtist COVID-19 Response Fund which has raised more than $800,000 with 100% of all funds donated going directly to Toronto artists. The AFC, a charity providing short-term emergency financial relief for Canada’s entertainment industry (which artists requiring immediate assistance can apply for here), accepts donations here.

Many global organizations and entertainment platforms have also taken proactive steps during these times. On May 1, Bandcamp waived its fees for 24 hours so that all proceeds from sales would go directly to musicians. Spotify has also allowed artists to set up COVID-19 support pages (only accessible via the Spotify app on mobile devices), where fans can send contributions directly to the artist, or to a fundraising cause of the artist’s choice.

Lastly, for general community support for artists during the pandemic, I Lost My Gig Canada is providing a platform for freelance/gig workers to share stories and resources related to COVID-19.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of resources for artists in Canada, it is an encouraging sign that Canadian agencies and organizations are committed to the wellbeing of the entertainment industry and creative professionals. For more information on the above resources, many of these organizations offer regularly updated materials and newsletters dealing specifically with COVID-19. Since we are constantly learning more about COVID-19 and how society will move forward, it is important to check frequently for the most up-to-date information, and hopefully these efforts will help bridge the gap until creative professionals in Canada can resume business as usual.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Please contact Michael Sniderman at Hall Webber LLP (michael@hallwebber.com) if you wish to consult a lawyer for advice regarding your individual situation.

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