Published Aug 27, 2008In the fallout of recent arts cuts, the Canadian music community is starting to assess the potential damages, and needless to say, isnt all that optimistic about the future. As we previously reported (here, here and here), the Conservatives have axed several arts programs, such as the PromArt and Trade Routes, and left many in the music community wondering how they will cope now that they are minus some $20 million in federal funding.
"The prospects beyond 2010 are disastrous," East Coast Music Association executive director Steve Horne told the Toronto Star. "Music industry conferences in Canada will yield less because showcases will be unattended by foreign music buyers, agents, label representatives and radio programmers whose travel and accommodation expenses were partly paid by these federal funds.
"And fewer Canadian acts will be able to take part in showcases in major foreign talent conferences. Hundreds of small businesses in the Canadian arts sector representing millions of dollars in cultural revenue will be affected."
Before the cuts, organizations such as ECMA, Canadian Music Week and the Western Canadian Musical Alliance used federal grants of $60,000 to $70,000 to help pay the travel expenses of international music industry representatives attending the annual events, the Star reported. Also, that money helped Canadian acts sign with foreign labels, ink deals with overseas agents and finance tours in Europe, Asia and Australia.
"The value of contracts directly negotiated as a result of ECMA's federal fund-supported international program during the four-day ECMA conferences in 2006 and 2007 is $1.1 million," Horne told the newspaper. "That doesn't include incremental revenue from tours and record sales."
In the past, the now-cancelled $9-million Trade Routes program, which helped cultural groups prepare to export and sell in international markets, was critical for Canadian artists gaining success overseas, said Neil Dixon, president of Canadian Music Week.
"Foreign buyers are looking for the next big thing in Canada. At CMW, we present 500 Canadian acts in dozens of showcases, and five or six are picked up every year by foreign labels, agents and managers," Dixon said. He pointed to Arcade Fire as just one example of a band that benefited from the program, with the Montreal group securing an international management contract and label deal in the UK through the help of the Trade Routes-funded international showcases at CMW.
CMW generated more than $8 million, including $5 million from one deal alone (for Rush), plus future royalties, in 2008. "That's all gone as of next year," Dixon said. "A huge rung is missing in the ladder of success because of these funding cuts."
On the West coast, groups are as equally pessimistic about a future without Trade Routes and PromArt, the $4.7 million that gave artists such as Toronto band Holy Fuck grants to go abroad to promote Canadian culture. Via a statement, the WCMA said the cancellation of the programs "will severely affect our ability to create and train artists and industry professionals to work on a global scale. Also, the addition of top international music buyers raises the bar of any event, attracting more top artists and professionals. The past has taught us that if you dismantle the cultural railroad it may become impossible to rebuild."
On top of all this, the future of Canadian bands at the CMJ new music conference in New York is now also in doubt. Trades Routes was the sole financial supporter of Canadian artists at the conference, which is North Americas largest gathering of college and university programmers. "After one showcase appearance, Canadian band Stars had the No. 1 most added song on American college/university playlists," Duncan McKie, president of the Canadian Independent Record Production Association, said. Now, bands are left wondering if they can even attend CMJ at all.
Both the PromArt and Trade Routes programs are set to end next year.