Published Aug 21, 2010Compared to the great lumbering Horton that is the American music business, we might as well be Whos up here. With one-tenth the population of our southern neighbour, the Canadian music business lives on a dust mote, so minimal is our impact, generally, on the economics of the business worldwide. (I exclude, of course, the occasional Nickelback Who or Celine Who who most definitely gets heard.) Anywho, that's why, when American popular culture took over the world during the last century, successive Canadian governments have constructed legislative and cultural policy dikes to help our cultural identity and content producers hold up against the American tide. Since the 1950s, broadcast media and content production industries have developed within a framework of Canadian content regulations and other government-sponsored initiatives that hope to encourage the indigenous creation and ownership of films, television, new media and music. A culture's a culture, no matter how small!
The Broadcasting Act, the CRTC, the Copyright Act, the CBC and other laws and institutions each contribute to Canada's mandate to develop and support Canadian music. At the federal level, funding for music creation, production and distribution is largely a mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada Music Fund. Via several components, the CMF doles out money to organizations like SOCAN, the Canada Council for the Arts, Musicaction and FACTOR, which in turn have their own series of grants and loans that little ole you can apply for. The CMF's Creators Assistance Component is directed at organizations that support composers and lyricists, and is administered by SOCAN. The Canadian Musical Diversity Component supports more specialized, dare we say "arty" endeavours and is administered through the Canada Council for the Arts. The New Musical Works Component supports both music creators and entrepreneurs involved in making music, while the Collective Initiatives Component is directed at showcases, festivals, awards shows and wider market development; both are administered by FACTOR and Musicaction. The Support to Sector Associations Component helps fund not-for-profit associations representing music creation/sound recording, while funding under the Canadian Music Memories Component goes straight to Library and Archives Canada to help keep their Fucked Up collection up to date. Finally, under the CMF's Music Entrepreneurship Program (MEP), labels with a proven track record can apply for money to help develop both their rosters and their business strategies domestically and internationally.
Like its Québec counterpart Musicaction, FACTOR supports all levels and sectors of music creation and marketing; it also provides grants to labels and other music businesses for export market and other corporate development activities. According to its website, FACTOR shells out over $14 million annually across all its programs. That's everything from tiny baby-artist demo grants to considerably bigger bucks going to labels for album production and marketing campaigns. While CMF and other federally-mandated money comprises the lion's share of FACTOR's annual budget, it also receives a significant contribution from Canada's private broadcasters, who are required to contribute as a condition of license by the CRTC. Although it dispenses funding derived largely from public dollars, FACTOR is constituted as a private non-profit corporation.
The provinces and territories also fund music creation and export, some more aggressively than others. Provincial/territorial music associations in Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, BC and the Yukon provide funding directly to artists for things like composing, demos, travel and production. These associations get their funding in turn from provincial/territorial culture budgets and from sources like the Canada Music Fund, FACTOR and SOCAN. In addition to funding music, they offer education, resources, and advocacy for the musicians they work with. Also, they throw parties. (Try not to miss the pierogies at Manitoba Music's annual NXNE bash.)
Ontario, somewhat oddly, doesn't have a provincial music association. However, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, through its Music Fund, offers funding for music businesses (not artists directly) to travel, export and market their products, while Music and Film in Motion promotes music production and development in Northern Ontario, and the Ontario Arts Council offers a range of professional development, music creation and other grants for musicians.
We Canadians tend to take all of this for granted ― to the point of occasionally showing the appalling symptoms of entitlementitis ― but to Americans and business folk from other nations, our system of federal and provincial grants and loans for creating and distributing music seems unthinkably generous. So the least we can do, as good musical citizens, is make an effort to understand where the money comes from and how it's meant to benefit us. It's our tax dollars at work.
A note to artists applying for one of the many, many piles of free money available: when your application is denied (and it happens to the best of us), please resist the temptation to attack and denigrate the organization as the steaming, corrupt pile of tone-deaf hierophants that you just totally know it is. It doesn't do you, or anyone, any good. Better to get involved and get active within the industry. Better to give a bigger damn. Because as shitty as it is to not get the money, it would be even shittier to not even have the chance to be rejected, right?
After all, there's always next deadline.