Paul Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s Concerts & Events, wants to return the experience of live music and concerts to the region. With Ontario in Stage 3 of reopening, live music is finally preparing for a comeback, albeit with some restrictions.
“We have a lot to look forward to in the future. I think there’s going to be a renaissance of the return to live music events where the floodgates are open, and just about anybody that’s still somewhat active as a band or [artist] will be coming out to tour,” Maxwell said.
Capacity limits and lack of guidance on vaccination requirements have delayed the reopenings of larger venues like Maxwell’s Concerts & Events, Centre in the Square and the Kitchener Auditorium for concerts. Still, Maxwell was able to keep the lights on with support from the community and government support programs.
“The government took a long time to figure out just how bad it would be on venues, then eventually they started releasing to help with the lack of options for concert venues to generate any revenue,” Maxwell said.
The move to stage 3 had music fans excited to see live music again, but Maxwell said that excitement was premature. He said that the capacity restrictions and other rules, such as requiring concert attendees to be seated during performances, do not enable him to generate enough revenue from shows to cover operating costs.
“Trying to generate a revenue model that makes sense, because right now, operating at 50 per cent seated capacity — how do you make that work? How do you make that enjoyable for the customers?”
Besides the capacity issues, Maxwell said he and other venue owners are struggling to find insurance companies that will issue policies.
“There’s only a few underwriters in Canada that will even look at it, and they still don’t even have pricing available. [The reopening] is so vague and foggy right now that insurers are taking time as things adjust. I’m talking to my broker every week and asking for updates. That’s been something that’s an industry-wide issue that I think a lot of folks aren’t really privy to at this moment,” Maxwell said.
The Canadian Live Music Association is lobbying for venues across Canada to help manage issues blocking them from reopening, including the lack of insurance options and confusion around vaccination requirements for staff and customers.
Beyond government programs, Maxwell said community support has been instrumental in keeping the lights on and keeping his spirits as a business owner up. Community support has also been instrumental in maintaining his staff’s morale.
“I definitely feel the level of support has been so strong in our fundraisers. We’ve had a tremendous amount of support come through for the vinyl record decal fundraiser for the Maxwell’s Recovery Fundraiser and that’s been amazing,” Maxwell said. “The regular messages we get from people are very uplifting. We want to deliver in the future and be able to operate.”
“It’s important for people driving down University Ave. to see that to provide some hope. I had people message me saying they had tears in their eyes when they saw that sign and gave them hope which is super important for me that I can help people provide that in their lives right now,” Maxwell said.
As for the future, Maxwell said he’s eagerly awaiting the word for when his doors can reopen permanently.
“I think we’re going to be inundated with concert announcements in the future once we get the green light. I’d say as a positive thing. Expect once those restrictions are lifted, to see an incredible amount of concerts coming to the region,” he said.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.