Culture cash keeps climbing, says survey

Consumer spending on culture surges to $22.8 billion Canadians pay primarily for home music, TV and video

June 1, 2021
Toronto Star
By Murray Shyte

The amount of money Canadians spend on culture recently has increased at more than double the rate of spending on all goods, according to a report released yesterday.

The report, commissioned by the federal government's Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, indicates consumer spending on cultural goods and services grew 36 per cent from 1997 to 2003. Over the same period, the Consumer Price Index, which gauges all spending, increased 14 per cent.

The 2003 amount, pegged at $22.8 billion, was more than Canadians spent on alcohol, tobacco and gambling ($20.8 billion) or RRSP contributions ($16.3 billion). Consumer spending on culture was more than triple government contributions to culture nationwide, which topped out at $7.4 billion.

More than half of that $22.8 billion was spent on a category described as "home entertainment equipment and services," including cable and satellite TV subscriptions, music, stereo systems, video rental, and DVD and VHS players. Canadians spent $11.8 billion, or 52 per cent of the total, in this category.

The next largest was reading material — books, magazines and newspapers — at $4.6 billion, or 20 per cent. Nine per cent, or 2.1 billion, went to photography.

Surprisingly, perhaps, movie ticket sales, at $1.3 billion, was significantly less than the amount spent on art works and events, equal to photography at $2.1 billion. Canadians also spent $980 million on live performance events, compared with $530 million on live sporting events.

The report, commissioned from Hill Strategies, a Hamilton-based research firm, provides the government agencies with a sense of how their cultural development policies are working.

"From the consumer aspect, it tells them if cultural spending is a growing or shrinking market," said Kelly Hill, president of Hill Strategies. "If it's growing, they can address how to foster that growth, and if it's shrinking, they can consider what to do to combat that."

The data, which is broken down by province and 15 major metropolitan centres, is also an indicator of cultural market segments in certain areas, Hill said. According to the data, which was compiled using Statistics Canada's annual Survey of Household spending, Ottawa had the highest per capita expenditure on culture in 2003, at $957 per person. Saint John was the lowest, at $654.

Toronto ranked 10th, behind Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Victoria and St. John's at $783 per person, but ahead of Montreal, at 12th. Toronto's total cultural spending of $3.9 billion was 17 per cent of the Canadian total. Ontario was second in per capita culture spending, at $802. Alberta, at $838, was first.

According to the report, Vancouver has the highest "bohemian index" of any Canadian city. The index is a measure of a city's concentration of workers in cultural fields. Victoria was second; Toronto ranked third.