Future of Calgary’s Live Experience Economy

Originally published on June 25, 2020
pdated on August 24, 2020, November 20, 2020 & January 29, 2021

Community organizations in the arts, culture, sports, recreation, tourism, and hospitality sectors, all who rely on live group experiences, are grappling with a new reality. Uncertainty is the only thing that is certain right now and organizations need to be prepared for a change in audience behavior. The question is what that will look like.

If you are in the business of bringing people together for any reason, you need good information to help you make decisions about the viability of future events, strategies for bringing people back, and hard facts about how people are going to feel as restrictions are slowly lifted and new economic realities set in.

Stone-Olafson, in collaboration with community partners, is conducting a longitudinal study with Albertan audiences to deliver reliable and relevant data about how Albertans are reacting to what’s happening around us.

The New Experience Economy

Stone-Olafson is supporting experience-based organizations with timely research about how audiences will engage in a post-pandemic environment. This research is being conducted in six waves over the course of the next year with the first wave of results (based on surveys conducted between May 21 and June 2, 2020) now available.

The second wave of results was released on August 24, 2020 followed by the third wave on November 20, 2020 and fourth wave on January 29, 2021.

The initiative is being funded by leaders who see an opportunity to support organizations which bring remarkable experiences to life in communities across Alberta. These include Calgary Arts Development, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Edmonton Arts Council, Edmonton Community Foundation, Calgary Foundation, Rozsa Foundation, ATB, Stone-Olafson, ActiveCITY Collective, Travel Alberta, and Angus Reid.

Thanks to their generous support, there will be free access to research outcomes, workshops, and sharing events to help you put the research to work for your teams.

This is a community resource and results from three waves of research are available. Download the reports:

First Wave (Released June 25, 2020)

Alberta Report
Calgary Report
Edmonton Report

Second Wave (Released August 24, 2020)

Alberta Report
Calgary Report
Edmonton Report

Third Wave (Released November 20, 2020)

Alberta Report
Calgary Report
Edmonton Report

Fourth Wave (Released January 29, 2021)

Alberta Report
Calgary Report
Edmonton Report

If you have not done so already, sign up at stone-olafson.com to receive notifications about information sharing workshops and when future reports become available.

Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 on Calgary’s Live Experience Economy

The spread of COVID-19 resulted in the closing of all non-essential organizations. One of the hardest hit sectors was the collocated live experience economy. Collocated live experiences are those sectors where a minimum of 50% of products or services revenue is dependent on both the live experience producer and their customers being collocated in the same physical space. The collocated live experience economy incorporates nine sectors, including organized sport, active recreation, arts and culture, food services, retail and personal care services. In pre-COVID-19 Calgary, this included almost 15,000 organizations employing 152,000 people.

The consequences of COVID-19 mitigation measures have been not only the forced closure of many collocated live experiences, but also the explosion of innovations, as organizations sought to engage their customers through alternative means. At a global level, examples of innovations include Michelin Star restaurants offering food delivery, museums providing robotic tours, NASCAR hosting virtual races with their drivers, and musicians live streaming concerts.

There remains a fundamental question of whether entire sectors of our city have pathways to sustainability. The many innovations sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic also triggered a strategic reorientation for these organizations. Those who can develop innovations that are authentic and still generate revenue may then be in a position to further leverage these innovations for sustained growth. The discussion paper considers three questions:

  1. Can innovative business models developed, tested, and implemented during the pandemic trigger a structural change in live experiences?
  2. Will these innovations offer comparative, superior, or inferior value to customers?
  3. Can a more stable and sustained live experience business model be developed?

In this paper, we examine the factors that influence a customer’s decision to adopt or reject innovations in live experiences and the impact this will have on the financial sustainability of specific sectors. No LX producer could have prepared for the unprecedented impact of a global pandemic. Nor could they have anticipated the devastation that COVID-19 would have on the CLX industry. However, these same entrepreneurs and small business owners do control the decisions that will influence their future.

To support these organizations, we provide a diagnostic framework for live experience organizations to evaluate their future. Finally, we use this framework to map a series of potential innovation pathways for diverse sub-sectors of the live experience economy, from film festivals, to fitness centres, to restaurants and retail.

Download the Discussion Paper as a PDF