How has COVID-19 impacted Canadian musicians and fans?

Céline Dion, Neil Young, Avril Lavigne and more have postponed or cancelled tour dates.

Céline Dion, Neil Young, Avril Lavigne and more have postponed or cancelled tour dates

Singer Celine Dion performs during her Courage World Tour in Quebec City on September 18. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

As the coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization — with the worldwide count of reported coronavirus cases nears 226,344, and 727 reported cases in Canada — many touring musicians are starting to rethink their international travel plans. 

Canadian musicians who have cancelled or postponed shows so far

  • Earlier this year, emo group Silverstein announced a tour to celebrate the band's 20th anniversary. That tour has now been called off and will be rescheduled from March/April to July/August.
  • Metal musician Devin Townsend was forced to cancel his recent tour, which according to a statement "had significant financial implications" leaving him with "no idea how to make income for the next while." On March 17, Townsend launched a GoFundMe campaign asking fans for support to "help sustain my family whilst being able to continue working on new musical ideas." 

    The fundraiser has already surpassed its $50,000 goal. In response, Townsend has released a new song as a thank you to those who donated. He has also promised to launch a quarantine project, which could take many forms including more music, Twitch streams and potentially a podcast. 
  • Country star Shania Twain's Let's Go! Las Vegas residency kicked off last December, but on March 16, she announced that she was rescheduling her shows due to COVID-19 concerns. "The safety and well-being of my fans, touring staff, family and anyone else who could possibly be affected is my top priority," Twain wrote on her social media accounts. 
  • Alanis Morissette was set to take her Jagged Little Pill anniversary tour to Japan, Manila, Australia and New Zealand in the coming months, but has now rescheduled those dates. "Please hang on to your tickets (except Bluesfest in Byron Bay), details to come soon for the rescheduled shows," she wrote in a Twitter post. 
  • On March 14, electronic artist Caribou announced that all of his tour dates in March and April will be postponed. That includes shows in Canada as well as the U.S. and Europe. 
  • Céline Dion's Courage tour kicked off last September, but will be hitting pause on the rest of her North American dates from March 24 through April 27. The pop star made this announcement on March 13 via Twitter. Just two days prior, Dion tested negative for coronavirus after coming down with a cold, but postponed two tour dates.
  • Singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer was scheduled to kick off her Canadian tour to support her latest album, Are You Gone, in Peterborough, Ont., on March 24. But on March 13, Harmer decided to reschedule her spring shows "to a time in the hopefully near future when the threat of the COVID-19 virus has passed," she wrote in an online post
  • On March 11, Tegan and Sara announced their 2020 Tonight We're Seeing Colors tour, which would have the Canadian pop group on the road from May through September. The next day, they released a followup message not postponing the shows, but postponing any ticket sales. "We'll keep you updated and hope that all of you are being careful and safe," they wrote in a Twitter post
  • Oakville, Ontario-born, Los Angeles-based pop musician Allie X has also postponed her North American tour. In a Twitter post, she told fans: "Please wait for me. I am working on rescheduling these dates and am looking forward to rejoicing, crying, dancing, screaming and laughing with you."
  • Schitt's Creek star and musician Noah Reid was in the middle of his First Time Out tour, but will be postponing and rescheduling the remainder of his March shows in the U.S. In a press release, Reid said "it feels like the right thing to do." 
  • 2020 Juno-nominated act the Glorious Sons are halting their cross-Canada tour. They were also scheduled to perform at the Juno Awards, which announced its cancellation on March 12
  • Also on March 12, Michael Bublé took to Twitter to postpone the start of his U.S. tour, pushing shows that would've run from March 17 to April 5. New dates, he added, will be "announced shortly." 
  • That same day, Ben Cook, member of Toronto hardcore band F--ked Up and leader of his own side project, Young Guv, set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to help him, his Young Guv bandmates and their driver return to their respective homes in New York and Canada following the cancellation of their tour with Kentucky rock band White Reaper.

    "We were depending on this tour to pay our way through our travels," Cook wrote. "The mounting costs related to touring, gas, accommodations, and musician's fees have driven me deep into the red financially. To make things worse, I, along with every member of my band, currently have no place to go, as we have all sublet our rooms for the month of March."

    The campaign has now reached its $5,000 goal, less than a day after launching it.
  • On March 7, Neil Young took to his NYA Times-Contrarian website to address the status of his long-awaited tour with his band, Crazy Horse. "The idea of announcing the tour and putting tickets on sale is questionable and needs to be thought through," he wrote. "We're all super ready to go, and the last thing we want to do is put people at risk, especially our older audience. No one wants to become sick in this pandemic." Young ended his note by sending his best wishes to "all of the health care and government workers in all of the world, to all the scientists who will learn and share with us the best ways to ensure survival in our world challenged." 
  • Concert pianist Angela Hewitt, who's based in England but performs around the world, announced on March 5 that her recitals in Milan and Florence this month were cancelled by government decree. For now, her annual Trasimeno Music Festival in Italy's Umbria region is still going ahead, but she's got concerns. "The financial responsibility for the festival falls on my own shoulders," she posted on Facebook, "and I simply cannot risk losing a lot of money over it and I (and my staff) can't put in the huge amount of work and emotional involvement, only to have it all fall apart at the last moment. We depend on our audience who travel from all over the world, and at the moment that's not happening."
  • The National Youth Orchestra of Canada cancelled its upcoming concert tour to Germany, Slovenia and Croatia over concerns of the potential spread of coronavirus.
  • Canadian pop star Avril Lavigne was set to kick off the Asia leg of her world tour in Shenzhen, China, on April 23, but the singer has now cancelled that string of shows as well as her Europe leg due to concerns over the continued coronavirus outbreak. 

    "I am so sad to announce that we are unable to tour the Asian markets," Lavigne told fans in a social media post. "Please everybody take care of yourselves and stay healthy. You're in my thoughts and prayers and we are hoping to announce rescheduled shows soon." 
  • Montreal rock band Wolf Parade also posted a message online earlier this week informing fans that it would not move forward with its European tour. 

    "We feel strongly that it would be both globally irresponsible and potentially risky for the band to carry out the tour at this time," the band wrote. "The amount of major airports, international driving, and crowds of people we would be interacting with — they all combine to form what is ultimately a bad idea; a recipe for a potential worst-case-scenario in which we could end up being unknown carriers of the virus across multiple borders, or end up ill and/or quarantine ourselves overseas." 

    The band members assured fans that they are in the middle of rescheduling their shows, but since those aren't set yet fans should "get a refund for the cancelled dates now." 
  • Singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco has not publicly released a statement but has cancelled his upcoming Japan tour (including dates in Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka), which was originally scheduled for April. 

Internationally, the coronavirus has affected a number of other touring musicians including K-pop stars BTS, rock groups Green Day and Jimmy Eat World, U.K. rapper Stormzy, R&B artist Khalid and English rockers New Order. 

Big festivals and events that are following suit

  • On March 17, the East Coast Music Awards, which were to take place April 29 to May 3 in St. John's, announced the cancellation of its 2020 festival and conference due to concerns about COVID-19. In a statement, the ECMA board of directors wrote: "In the coming weeks and months, the ECMA will explore alternative ways to celebrate the accomplishments of our world-class regional talent and honour the winners of the 2020 East Coast Music Awards."
  • Toronto's Canadian Music Week was scheduled to take place from May 19 to 23, but has now been moved to September 8 to 13, according to a statement released on March 16. All badges and wristbands will be honoured for the new dates.
  • The 2020 SOCAN Awards were cancelled after Ontario's chief medical officer issued instructions to suspend gatherings of more than 250 people. It was originally scheduled to take place on March 30 in Toronto. 
  • Record Store Day 2020, a global music event where limited edition releases are made available at local record stores, has been moved from April 18 to June 20. In a statement, its organizers said, "RSD acknowledges the need to be good citizens of both the local and worldwide communities while still giving our participating stores around the world the best chance to have a profitable, successful Record Store Day." This year includes special releases from Mac DeMarco, k.d. lang, the Dead South and Tegan and Sara. 
  • In Toronto, concert venues Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall have suspended all events for the next two weeks. 
  • On March 12, FACTOR, a non-profit organization that provides funding for Canadian musicians and recording projects, announced that it would honour "all approved commitments at 100 per cent of the amount approved for funding in situations where the event or activity was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a statement on its website.

    The statement singles out the South by Southwest and Juno Award cancellations specifically, as well as "all other activities such as tours, showcases and certain collective events."
  • The city of Austin declared a "local disaster" on March 7 due to the spread of COVID-19, effectively cancelling the music, film and tech conference South by Southwest. Thousands of musical acts normally descend upon the capital of Texas to perform each March (March 16-22 this time around), and this year Canadian acts like Basia Bulat, Haviah Mighty, Dan Mangan, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and plenty more find themselves without showcases.

    The Canadian organization Side Door, which was co-founded by Mangan and Laura Simpson and matches artists with hosts (often house concerts) via, had organized a South by Southwest-specific tour route, with Canadian and American artists making their way to Austin by playing small-venue shows on their drive down. Some of those artists are going to continue to play select dates, including Ontario band Whoop-Szo, though Polaris Prize shortlister Partner is no longer on the list. (You can get a full update on that tour here.)
  • Ottawa's RBC Bluesfest has yet to cancel, but is instead "closely monitoring the situation and will carefully follow the recommendation of public health experts," according to a statement. Unlike many of the events that have been pushed, Bluesfest is slated later in the summer, taking place from July 9 to 19. 


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