Friday, May 24, 2024

Ottawa to boost Canada Music Fund after industry warnings

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The federal government says it will spend an additional $32-million on the Canada Music Fund over two years, after industry warnings that supporting artists would become more difficult without such a subsidy boost.

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge made the prebudget funding announcement Sunday in Halifax ahead of the 2024 Juno Awards broadcast, bringing the total CMF funding to about $43-million for the next two fiscal years.

“At a time when revenues are uncertain and artists are competing globally, our government believes that stepping up to support Canadian musicians was timely, necessary and helps us grow the sector,” Ms. St-Onge said in a statement to The Globe and Mail. “The music sector is vital for our culture and our economic success.”

Money from the CMF is managed by the English-language Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings, better known as FACTOR, and the francophone market association, Musicaction. Pooling this with money from private radio broadcasters, these organizations distribute funding across the Canadian music industry, assisting with matters such as recording, promoting and touring.

It is a financially challenging time for many artists and cultural organizations. Save for the world’s highest-profile artists, royalties from streaming-music services such as Spotify rarely amount to what CD sales once brought musicians, and the costs of touring have shot up dramatically in recent years.

In an e-mailed statement, Meg Symsyk, FACTOR’s chief executive, said the new CMF funding “bolsters the modernization of our programs to support diverse talent and ensures Canadian rights holders remain a priority of the cultural economy going forward. There is so much amazing emerging Canadian talent that deserves to be connecting with audiences everywhere.”

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The CMF has a baseline of about $27-million, which Ottawa has boosted by $10-million annually since 2019. That annual boost was scheduled to end in April.

But earlier this month, many of Canada’s most prominent music trade associations, including the Canadian Live Music Association, Music Publishers Canada and SOCAN, sent a letter to Ms. St-Onge and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland warning that they would not be able to sufficiently support Canadian musicians without sustaining or augmenting that $10-million.

They cautioned that FACTOR and Musicaction are also receiving smaller contributions from private radio broadcasters – which are tied to revenue from the sector, and which they warned is declining.

“If the Canada Music Fund were to also decline simultaneously, the effects would be catastrophic,” the associations wrote.

The total funding for the next two years falls short of what the industry associations asked for – a permanent allocation of $60-million to the fund – as well as the $50-million the Liberals promised in their 2021 platform.

Erin Benjamin, chief executive of the Canadian Live Music Association, called the new funding “a good start,” but said she’d hoped for more details on how the concert sector would benefit.

“We also hope the April budget will go further in addressing Canada’s live music infrastructure, to help ensure it can continue to do what it does best – putting incredible artists on stage, helping to build careers and develop audiences,” she said in an e-mail Sunday.

Live music venues and festivals “must be acknowledged for the pivotal role they play in increasing opportunities for artists, while creating jobs and economic impact, from coast to coast to coast.”

Longtime musician and former New Democrat MP Andrew Cash runs the Canadian Independent Music Association and signed the open letter. He said that the new funds were welcome news despite the smaller-than-hoped-for total.

“Do we have more ground to cover? There’s no question about that,” he said in an interview. “I think the announcement today signifies the government’s commitment to making that happen.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is currently developing the regulatory shape of Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act – which is expected to force global streaming platforms to help fund Canadian content, possibly through the augmentation of funds such as the CMF.

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