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#Lights-On teams up with industry to help rebuild live entertainment

Initiative offers concrete steps to help reshape sector during pandemic and beyond
October 20, 2020

COVID-19 continues to tear a gaping hole in the fabric of the live entertainment industry.

Rather than wait to see how the pieces fit back together, a host of collaborators teamed up to form #Lights-On, a range of outreach activities designed to support the rebuilding of the live entertainment industry through a series of issue-specific strategies and practices.

Theaters, concert halls and venues have turned their lights off. The goal of #Lights-On is just that; to think forward to turning the lights back on once again.

The project was launched by two FCAD faculty members — Dr. Chris Gibbs, chair of Creative Industries, and Dr. Louis-Etienne Dubois, assistant professor of Creative Industries — as well as Dr. Shawn Newman from the Toronto Arts Council.

Its organizers include: FCAD School of Creative Industries, the Toronto Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Foundation. The project is also supported by the City of Toronto, Mass Culture, TO Live, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, SOCAN and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts.

#Lights-On: Recovery and Reboot in Live Entertainment

Louis Dubois on panel discussion with guest at the Folie Launch

Louis-Etienne Dubois, assistant professor of Creative Industries

The roadmap to future recovery 

To start, the project asked 34 music industry professionals to reimagine how musicians might find success in a post-pandemic world and released a report on its findings.

“The situation remains very critical and fluid for those working in the live entertainment sector,” said Dr. Louis-Etienne Dubois, assistant professor of Creative Industries and partner in the project. “We realize the report may not address some of the most urgent and basic needs, but we truly hope that it can contribute ideas and directions to future recovery efforts.”

The report outlined five key areas of focus for the immediate future: education, advocacy, monetization, engagement and partnerships.

Education, such as workshops, help artists learn about monetization, licensing, technology, and production. Its relevance across the entire industry left few respondents in doubt of its potential impact. Advocacy is also crucial, as the music sector must further encourage financial support from industries with vested interests, like brands and streaming services.

Monetization is critical to the survival of live entertainment. Artists need guidance when choosing the right platform to monetize their work and grow subscribers. Online stores for music and merchandise, “tip jars” for live performances, private online performance and other premium experiences should also be considered. 

Engagement with live entertainment in the online world remains a challenge. However, new ideas like SoundCloud’s “Fast Track” and the creation of other online formats to engage fans will better future-proof the industry, noted the respondents. Lastly, artists should focus on creating new partnerships with well-established players including social media companies like Twitter, communications companies like Rogers, and even VR and AR companies.   

Focusing on creative processes 

#Lights-On also offers many initiatives yet to come. FOL!E, a partnership between FCAD and Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, will soon offer six Project Tracks to help artists learn new skills and navigate the new abnormal.

Each track consists of a single focus, such as ‘Funding, Fundraising and Revenue Streams’, and will include virtual workshops and webinars in both English and French.  

“While operations remain stalled or limited, we are witnessing a lot of activity on the creative side of things, which is promising for the future. Just because the lights are out doesn’t mean that the creative processes have stopped,” said Dubois.

Further to its initiative, #Lights-ON is in the process of publishing a venue guidebook to further assist artists and creators in their efforts to manage, operate, and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will offer comprehensive initiatives for artists, back of house and productions teams, patron communication, building operations and more. 

In the meantime, visit the official #Lights-On page to learn more and sign-up for a Project Track.

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