Vol 2, Issue 6: The Truth About Canada`s Grant Programs, and How They Actually Serve to Reproduce the Industry, Rather than Foster New Talent

For an ambitious indie rock band, there is nothing more like “music to the ears” (pardon the pun) than hearing about the artistic grant programs that the Canadian government has put in effect in order to “provide assistance toward the growth and development of the Canadian independent recording industry.” In theory, this goal of FACTOR, (The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records) seems quite noble as it’s based on the premise of need and merit. Further, it provides a sense of hope to independent musicians who greatly require financial assistance in order to take their career(s) to the next level through recording, and touring endeavours. However, from both personal experience and observation, I can tell you that neither FACTOR nor Videofact, the two central grants programs so crucial and intertwined with successful exposure in Canada's music industry do anything, BUT help new and independent bands who are not only worthy of such help, but as well, sincerely need it.

With impossible and even sometimes ridiculous grant application requirements (such as the stipulation for touring grants that denotes you must have sold at least 2000 copies of your album within your desired touring territory, or the recording grant condition that states you must have obtained a FACTOR-recognized distributor prior to the recording of the album for which you want funding), along with the favouring of applications submitted by record labels, the common allocation of funds into the hands of artists whom have held professional status in Canada's industry for, in some cases, over 15 years, and the lack of a restriction measure in place which would discourage the granting of funds towards artists who have already been past recipients of said monies, it would seem to me that the goal of FACTOR, and VideoFact seems rather focused on perpetuating a cycle of the same artists maintaining chart-topping success, rather than giving new talent a fighting chance as their so-called mandates would claim.

Additionally, rather than providing independent artists with advice on how they can better their chances of obtaining grants, standard form letters are issued to artists who are declined funding which in many cases outline “steps to improve one's application” that are completely irrelevant to the given case. I remember receiving one of these “advice” letters in which my band was instructed to work on obtaining media exposure and booking tour dates in order to add legitimacy to our Videofact grant application. Anyone who has followed my band’s history or has visited our website would be well aware of how extensive our media and booking portfolios are. Furthermore, enclosed alongside our Videofact application was a detailed copy of our press kit which outlined all of our career highlights and accomplishments –perhaps they just missed that (it was only in a big red folder marked ANTI-HERO). Might I also add that in another application, we hired a professional firm to outline our music video synopsis, budget, and storyboard to give our application even more edge, yet still, we were rejected.

What this suggests to me is the following about these programs: grant-issuing agencies do NOT review applications from artists who are not already established at a professional level and/or are not backed by a label to some degree. Evidence for this rather problematic finding can be seen in the grant recipient lists (available on FACTOR's & VideoFact's websites) that rarely (and I mean RARELY) contain artists of whom you've never heard (I encourage you to check out the charts for yourself if you do not believe me)! Further, the eligibility requirements of both FACTOR and Videofact’s programs reinforce this point as the reason as to why artists are applying for these loans in the first place is so that they can essentially garner more attention, establish a larger fanbase, and improve sales. Thus, the likelihood of an independent artist (with absolutely no label support) obtaining the goal of 2000 album sales within 18 months of its release, is, unfortunately in today’s industry, highly unlikely.

Again, as referenced in one of my first articles of the year, if Bon Jovi, an artist that’s been around for decades, was holding the top Soundscan slot with only 7,000 in cd sales, how can the record industry possibly expect a band without a well-established reputation, and without necessary promotional/marketing funds to sell that many discs in that allotted time period? It’s not impossible, but HIGHLY unlikely.

On the similar notion, in terms of the recording grants’ requirement of having a reputable distributor in place prior to the recording of one’s album: what I’m wondering about this, is first off, does the Canadian music industry sincerely believe that a distributor will just slap their name (and reputation) onto a record they’ve never heard or for that matter support an artist who’s never released a previous album, and so there is no way to judge their sell-ability? Not a chance.

So, what does this all mean for independent artists? Firstly, this biased selection process adds credence to my rantings about how truly difficult and unfair this industry is. Secondly, as an independent artist, it would seem that the Canadian music industry is fairly adamant in stating that you can only get so far on your own before encountering a situation in which you need an “inside man”. Thirdly and most importantly, the favouring of established artists indicates to me that the Canadian music industry is not as willing to take risks on new talent as it is a safer bet to invest in artists whom they know are able to generate money, which once again reaffirms the fact that business trumps talent in the music biz.

While there have been some recent developments in terms of trying to alleviate this major dilemma such as the offering of seminars by FACTOR that provide tips on how to prepare successful applications, along with the growth of independent firms that assist artists in undergoing the grant application process (as it can be rather hectic, time consuming, and confusing), this issue of course still remains.

I hope that in the future these grant agencies will begin living up to their mission statements, and start giving underdogs a chance. Who knows they may even be surprised by how much undiscovered talent there is out there? And perhaps, the monotony of mainstream radio will be alleviated as well.

By writing all of this, I do not mean to imply that these agencies have not benefited many artists in the Canadian music industry as they most certainly have, and I’m happy for the hard working well-deserving artists who have been grant recipients. The point I’m trying to make here is that there is an unequal treatment of signed/unsigned bands going on within this selection process, and I truly feel that independent artists need to be aware of this situation. Similarly, I hope that by writing this perhaps I can inspire a change in policy.

About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/