Music Business Canada
2009 Archive - Federal Government Cuts
Music groups assess cutbacks' damage
Music groups assess cutbacks' damage
Aug 26, 2008 04:30 AM Toronto Star
The Canadian music community, bewildered by the federal government's recent decisions to cut some $20 million in arts funding, is starting to assess the potentially devastating damage to their business.
"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."
Using grants of $60,000 to $70,000 from two cancelled programs, music industry organizations such as ECMA, Canadian Music Week and the Western Canadian Musical Alliance have paid up to half the travel expenses of international music industry representatives attending their annual showcases and awards presentations.
In the past decade, that small investment has helped hundreds of Canadian acts to sign foreign record deals, land contracts with overseas agents, and book 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 said. "That doesn't include incremental revenue from tours and record sales."
Halifax-based singer-songwriter Jill Barber said her participation in the ECMA's 2005 international program led to her being signed by a European booking agency and to three tours of Britain, with a fourth scheduled this fall.
Also, she said, "I'm doing a six-week tour of Australia in December. These are opportunities I would never have had without the federal funding programs."
Federal support through the cancelled $9 million cultural export program Trade Routes has helped Canadian music to enjoy unprecedented success overseas, said Neil Dixon, president of Canadian Music Week, the annual music trade conference staged in Toronto.
"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.
Bedouin Soundclash, based in Kingston, Ont., and Montreal's Arcade Fire are just two bands that have benefited directly from contracts secured through Trade Routes-funded international showcases at CMW, Dixon said – the former with festival appearances, tours and record deals in Japan, Britain and Australia, the latter with an international management contract and label deal in Britain.
CMW's 2008 International Marketplace, with Trade Routes funding, attracted 200 representatives and buyers from 20 countries, including Japan, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Taiwan, Netherlands, Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S., said the showcase's manager, Kathy Hahn.
"The number of international buyers increased by 39 per cent over 2007," Hahn said.
The event generated more than $8 million, including $5 million from one deal alone (for Toronto rock band Rush) plus future royalties.
"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."
The Western Canadian Music Alliance, producer of the annual WCMA Awards and music conference, said Trade Routes and ProMart, a $4.7 million artists' travel support fund operated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, have resulted in a demonstrable increase in export opportunities for Canadian musicians and industry over the past five years. Both federal programs are cancelled as of April 2009.
The WCMA, an umbrella organization for five western music industry associations, released a statement saying cancellation of the two federal 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."
The federal funding has helped to generate $40 billion in cultural business, said Duncan McKie, president of the Canadian Independent Record Production Association.
"Last year, 21 Canadian companies, with financial assistance from ProMart, the Ontario government and the Canadian consulate, went to a music trade mission in Tokyo. Most of them came away with significant deals. The federal investment was $80,000, and $1.4 million in recording, distribution and touring contracts were signed.
"Toronto singer-songwriter Justin Nozuka was a guest of the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles during Grammy week, and as a result ended up playing the Fuji Pop Festival in Japan and securing a label deal there. Every company has a story like that."
In addition, Trade Routes has been the sole financial supporter of Canadian acts at the annual CMJ new music conference in New York, the largest gathering in North America of college and university radio programmers, with an audience of four million listeners.
"After one showcase appearance, Canadian band Stars had the No. 1 most added song on American college/university playlists," McKie said.
© Toronto Star 2008