The entertainment industry was hit hard when the province announced new restrictions less than a week ago to combat the spread of the omicron variant.
Artists and venues had scheduled performances for New Year’s Eve, the busiest time of year. Many have now had to pivot and cancel their events in person to return to the Virtual Route for a second year.
“We expect a lot of attendance at our events, but this money will not get us over it,” said Clark Bryan, executive director of Aeolian Hall. The London, Ontario site went live as soon as news from omicron began to circulate.
Artists who rely on live performances for their income also find it difficult to see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
“The first thought that crossed my mind was ‘never again.’ I almost felt like I had PTSD from last year,” said Travae Williams, a musical theater artist.
“I was hoping to return to events in person with a new fire, and I thought there would be people returning as well, that doesn’t seem to be possible in the near future,” said DJ Zahra Habib.
For Williams and Habib, the financial pressure of losing their paycheck also takes a toll on their mental health.
“It’s exhausting, it can get depressing. Especially when your job is taken away from you, it’s already tough financially, so you feel like you’re hanging on to whatever job you can get,” Williams said. .
Williams sings at his church’s annual New Years Eve party, but with capacity limits in place, he’s unsure if that will happen.
“As artists, we are very resistant, but it is also difficult for us because what we do is for the joy of others, but it also brings us joy and it is our way of breathing” Williams said. “When COVID takes that away, it feels like we’re not breathing.”
Habib has not scheduled any live performances for New Years Eve as a precaution. While she streams virtually, what she will miss the most is the energy of a live audience.
“We miss this real human and moving interaction,” she said. “At some point people are going to need to be with each other again.”
“It’s extremely uncertain, to be very honest. It puts things on hold and we just have to figure it out, but that’s what artists do,” she added.
“Politicians make very erratic decisions”
Sites like Aeolian Hall are also facing customers looking for refunds, as well as an overall drop in revenue.
“People don’t understand that if you have 50 percent capacity you really can’t do most events because the economy isn’t working. People always have to be paid the same amount,” Bryan said. .
Politicians make decisions very erratically, he said.
“When they say they’re going to help you up to 75 percent, you must be wondering where the remaining 25 percent come from? It’s not enough.”
“Maybe more people who are in this industry are directly affected [by the restrictions] must be at the table to help governments make these decisions, ”said Habib.
Although the future looks uncertain, the industry is optimistic and believes it will rebound again. In the meantime, Williams and Habib’s message to other artists is to take care of themselves.