The COVID-19 pandemic hit live music venues throughout B.C. hard.
Yet many, like the Duncan Showroom in the Cowichan Valley, were quick to adapt.
As a small, 60-seat, theatre-style venue, the Showroom couldn’t compete with larger venues. Instead, for the last five years, owner John Falkner has offered a five-camera livestream of each performance.
“Because we were livestreaming before the pandemic, we were in a great position to switch to streaming as our main format of giving musicians a performance space,” Falkner explained.
The Showroom hit the ground running in March. It removed seats, extended the stage and put in place a safety plan. The Showroom kept the momentum going by moving the 39 Days of July Festival online, which helped keep the venue going through the summer. Still, without ticket sales, Falkner was facing disaster.
“I was going to have to close by the end of September,” Falkner said. “After 17 years, I couldn’t let that happen.”
Receiving a $10,000 Amplify BC grant kept his doors open.
“We’ve never applied for a grant in all the years we’ve been doing this,” Falkner said. “This grant allowed me to go to my landlord, to the electric company, let me stay in the game. More than that, it reinforced the value of what we’re doing here.”
When James Taylor re-posted a Showroom performance by 11 year old Malakai, it racked up more than 17,000 views in two days — proving the value of places like the Showroom. Live music venues give young musicians places to hone their skills and seasoned ones a place to shine.
The Showroom is one of 95 venues, festivals and presenters throughout B.C. that received support through Amplify BC. This year, Creative BC changed the guidelines to allow venues to use the funds for operations. It’s helping sustain live music venues through very difficult times.
“Thanks to Amplify BC, we’re staying the course, finding new ways,” Falkner said.
The province’s investment in Amplify BC is doing more than keeping the lights on. It’s sparking innovation and fuelling resilience in B.C.’s music industry.