For many music lovers, finding success as a recording artist would be a dream come true. For Erin Benjamin, that was simply the launching point for an extraordinary career path.
It started out with a dream—quite literally. At the age of five, Erin woke up from a vision of performing with a guitar, compelling her to follow the path to rock and roll stardom. Her dream became a reality, and for years, she made a living as a touring musician, performing to live audiences and recording two albums. Throughout her journey, she came to understand the profound impact of live music, and how these experiences can shape who we are.
Today, Erin is the president and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association. Her belief in the power of live music has led her to create opportunities for a new generation of Canadian performers—and life-changing moments for the thousands of people gathering together to share them.
When asked if she loves what she does, Erin Benjamin, President and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA), says, “I don’t love what I do, I adore what I do.” Music has been fundamental in Erin’s life since the age of five, and her holistic experience in the music industry has made her an expert who applies her skills every day to facilitate understanding and connection.
Living the Dream
When Erin Benjamin was five years old, she woke up with a mission. She wanted to make the vivid dream of her career as a guitarist a reality. She begged her mother for a guitar, and quickly began learning and writing songs. That initial dream was realized and soon grew as Erin shifted from working as a performing musician, to working behind the curtain running performance associations in the early 2000s.
Erin says those experiences on stage and behind the scenes were fundamental, allowing her to see the connections, opportunities, and potential of the live music industry.
From Centre Stage to the National Stage
Currently, she works as the President and CEO of the CLMA, the organization that represents the industry side of live music, including concert promoters, venues, festivals, and the people who are behind the scenes at live music events. The CLMA provides services, education, and training to live music companies and organizations and works to demonstrate the economic, cultural, and social importance of live music to policymakers.
“You can picture an electric current running between the artists and the fans that you don’t get anywhere else,” Erin says. “You only get it standing in front of your favourite artist at an incredible show. That arc of energy feeds us in ways that we need and are hard to articulate. It’s that sort of deep connection that we get with music that we love; it’s essential to make us better human beings.”
She notes that Western cultures have been conditioned to treat mental health as less important or impactful than physical health, and while she understands that putting food on the table comes first, she stresses the importance of access to art, and its impact on mental and emotional health.
“I think that access to things like live music is just as essential as drinking water to our health. And I will stand by that.”
More than Just Music
The music industry is a gateway to so many other opportunities in the tourism space. When asked about what we lose when we lose live music, she says, “We lose all the activity not just in live music, but when you go to a restaurant before a show, when you take an airplane to fly to a show, when you stay in a hotel. We lose all the direct and indirect economic benefit from that space.”
Erin believes that the COVID-19 pandemic brought the tourism sector closer together. It made it necessary to connect with people from other tourism industries to build a mutual resilience that came from shared learnings.
“In this sector you can be anything you want to be,” Erin remarks. “You can be the boss, you can run your own company, you can work for someone else, but the gamut of cool stuff that you can do is exponential.”
Erin also stresses the fact that you don’t need to be born loving music to enter the industry. A large portion of the people who work for her have no prior experience in live music, and she notes that it’s less about the music and more about having a direct ability to change lives.
Few people in this world are more passionate about their career than Erin, and when asked about the tourism sector, she says, “If you want to be a part of changing the lives of every single Canadian who has the opportunity to experience live music, tourism can take you there.”
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