News > Performing Arts Presenters and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Performing Arts Presenters and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Chronicle of a Pandemic and the Performing Arts

Presenters' revenues by source: Earned, 53%

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy offers assistance to organizations who saw a 30% drop in revenues because of the pandemic. The program will be a huge relief for some presenting organizations, but others are feeling left out.

According to the Vitality and Impact survey, on average, earned revenues represent 53% of presenting organizations’ total revenues: 28% from admissions and 25% from other earned revenues (rentals, bar, parking, etc.). The proportion of earned revenues is lower for small presenting organizations (organizations with total budget <$200k): 32% admissions and 7% other revenues.

Based on the above statistics, it looks as though most presenting organizations should qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). However, survey averages say little about the actual reality of all respondents that fall outside of their standard deviation. Could it be that some presenters might not meet the eligibility criteria of the CEWS? 

CAPACOA asked the question during a town hall on April 7th. Little did we know, more than half of participants who answered the poll reported they might in fact in fact not qualify, in part or in full:

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you anticipate that your organization will meet the eligibility criteria for the 75% Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy? (See details here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/wage-subsidy.html). Number of responses: 28 responses.

We passed on this feedback to the government and, the very next day, the Prime Minister announced changes to the program:

  • Businesses/organisations can use January and February as reference points for revenue decline;
  • For the month of March, they need to demonstrate a 15% decline in revenue rather than 30%;
  • Not-for-profit organisations and charities have the option to include or exclude government funding in their revenue loss.
Forms response chart. Question title: Does the current wage subsidy structure work for your organization?. Number of responses: 37 responses.

These were positive changes, but were they the changes that performing arts presenting arts organizations needed? We revisited the CEWS during the following town hall, on April 14. We once again surveyed participants. We noted a very modest increase in the proportion of eligible presenting organizations, but a majority of respondents still did not qualify.

19 respondents said they were not eligible. Of these, 8 were municipal presenters and 5 were festivals.

This is just instant polling. A more rigorous survey might paint a more nuanced picture. Still, no matter what the stats may say, we are hearing concerns from many presenting organizations who do not yet appear to fit anywhere in the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

Many front-of-house workers and technicians are contract workers. Some of these workers may be able to benefit from the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, but presenting organizations are worried that they’ll lose touch with them and that they may no longer be available when the crisis ends.

Summer festivals across the country are announcing their cancellation. But that doesn’t mean cancelled festivals can lay their staff off right away. All the careful booking and planning that was made up until now must be undone. Suppliers and artists must be notified and arrangements must be made. Yet, most festivals won’t qualify for the CEWS, because the bulk of their sales come in during the actual week of the event. They can’t demonstrate the loss in revenue in either Jan/Feb 2020 or Mar/Apr 2019. It’s “a hole in the program right now.” 

The concerns also remain for municipal presenters and all other publicly-owned presenting organizations. They are not eligible for the CEWS because of their legal status. Yet, they operate major performing arts facilities and are essential players in the performing arts ecosystem.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a daily avalanche of constantly-shifting news, concerns, updates, and government responses. Presenters, agents, and artists are all trying to grasp a new and rapidly-evolving reality. This is why CAPACOA, with support from Ontario Presents, has determined to document the changing state of the situation, as you report it to us during our online gatherings. We hope that our weekly Chronicles of a Pandemic and the Performing Arts will help those of us in the sector, and those looking to support it, to grasp our unique situation as it continues to evolve.

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