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Canada’s independent music artists want a bigger slice of the apple pie.

By Devan Marr on June 7, 2014

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is in the middle of a review of the Canadian music industry. On December 5, 2013, the committee moved to undertake the review in order to:

a) inform Committee members of the details and impacts of the government support on Canadian music, as well as the creators and entrepreneurs who create and distribute music in Canada;
b) determine how funding is allocated;
c) to establish whether the government support is meeting the objectives laid out for it, and to make recommendations to the government on how it might strengthen support for Canadian music, and report its findings to the House.

Their mandate is to review the current status of the Canadian music industry and draft a report on their findings for publication. In doing so, various music associations have submitted their recommendations to the committee. Most recently, the Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association (CIRAA) has walked into the fray with a three page letter to the Committee. The letter, which can be found here, outlines the problems CIRAA sees with the current status quo of funding in Canada. Specifically, CIRAA takes aim at the Canadian Music Fund (CMF) and the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings (FACTOR). Through the metaphor of seeds blossoming into trees, CIRAA’s submissions outline that something is in fact quite rotten with Canada’s music industry.

Lets Talk Numbers

CIRAA represents over 9,200 artists across Canada out of an approximately 19,000 active independent artists. According to CIRAA that number is down from over 28,000 in 2006. They point to unequal distribution of funding as a contributing factor. Of the 19,000 who remain, 78% consider themselves professional musicians. They collectively perform 750,000 shows annually. That’s 2,000 daily. CIRAA believes that this large section of the Canadian music industry is going unheard and underfunded.

The Canadian Music Fund is a program provided through the Canadian Government and administered by FACTOR. It can provide significant funding to Canadian artists who are eligible. CIRAA’s submissions point out what they see to be a fatal flaw in the system. Of the $105 million that FACTOR distributed last year, 93% of the funding went to artists and music businesses that were already signed to labels, rather than independent artists. CIRAA succinctly puts it that 93% of the funding is going to 1.5% of the artists.

FACTOR is the organization which administers the funds from the CMF. Its mandate is to help sustain and grow the Canadian independent music industry. Despite this mandate, CIRAA points out that FACTOR membership consists of only 3,400 independent artists and that fewer are registering “due to widespread apathy.”

What’s the solution?

Citing institutional gridlock, CIRAAs submissions propose the following adjustments.

1. The CMF distribution is split on an equal basis with independent artists, signed artists, and music businesses all receiving 1/3 of the funding.
2. A new funding organization for independent artists would be set up to invest and distribute the 1/3 funding allocated to independent artists.

In doing so, CIRAA hopes to fuel the independent artist industry, create greater opportunities for artistic and business innovation, and generally create a stronger music industry across Canada.

The committee’s review is still ongoing. A draft report has been tabled as of June 3, 2014 but the review is not yet complete. Whether CIRAA’s recommendations will bear fruit remain to be seen.