Options for music grants plentiful in Alberta

Getting handed a $25,000 cheque seems like a dream come true for most bands.

Each year, Calgary radio station X92.9 does just that as part of a license requirement to support Canadian content development.

But unlike other funding bodies, X92.9 continues to run their annual Xposure competition with no regulation as to how the money is spent. The station says regulating winnings would be difficult to do and could disadvantage artists with a sea of red tape.

Even though the station takes this stance, most funding bodies take a different approach.

Grants through organizations

The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR) and the MusicAction Foundation have the majority of grant money available to Canadian musicians. They also have strict guidelines as to how the money is spent.

Radio stations across the country — such as X92.9 — have 60 per cent of their Canadian content development money go to these two organizations.

The other 40 per cent can go towards anything designated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as an eligible initiative. That includes music industry associations, music education, and competitions like Xposure.

Carly Klassen, program director for the Alberta Music Industry Association, says many of the opportunities for band funding require a budget — similar to FACTOR and MusicAction — from the artists detailing how the money will be spent.

According to Klassen, this budget must include everything from hotels, flights and food costs for touring grants, to marketing promotion and production if the grant is for making an album.

The requirements musicians have to meet also vary.

“I know that a lot of organizations, their final report process is different,” says Klassen. “Edmonton Arts Council just wants to see a report, whereas Alberta Music, for ourFrom left to right: Rory Redwood, Nigel Porahn, Wil Moralda and Jordie Potekal of local band Rockets and Dinosaurs weren’t left totally in the dark when they won Xposure because they had prepared budgets for other grants.

Photo courtesy of Paige Woodbury Harvard grant, we want to see your budget, your final report, and we want to see your receipts backing up those expenses.”

The reason Klassen says many of the funding bodies have these requirements is because “every funding body receives so many applications for each grant per deadline, and there’s just not enough money in the pot to give to every artist.”

Radio station competitions

Despite all of this red tape, Klassen says she doesn’t know of anyone that just provides money upfront to artists. Since X92.9 does, the artists shoulder the weight of spending the money responsibly.

This is not simply ignorance on the part of X92.9.

“One of the reasons we wanted to keep it just to the money is because there’s so many bands at different levels,” says Malissa Dunphy, the station’s former Canadian content development coordinator.

“The first year, for example, we had Jain Vain and the Dark Matter, who had never recorded an album,” elaborated Dunphy. “Then, we had Hot Little Rocket, who had just come back from recording with Steve Albini. So, if we were to determine how they should spend their money, it wouldn’t necessarily benefit every band because everyone’s at different levels.”

One of the more controversial topics of regulating grants is determining what actually qualifies as a legitimate expense for a band.

“Things like rent for their space where they practice, where they live, is a musician expense,” says Dunphy says.

“We run into those debates all the time in juries for grants,” she added.

X92.9’s system gets around that problem by not making a judgment on what constitutes a legitimate expense.

Consequences of no rules

But, there are also downsides of having no strings attached.

“You think you’re invincible once you have this money, but you’re really not,” says frontman Jordie Potekal of Rockets and Dinosaurs, one of the lucky bands to win Xposure in 2012. “So, you have to try really hard to keep your head about yourself, and I know bands that [have] done that just imploded.

“People can be dumb about it. You just got to be disciplined,” says Potekal. “If you’re determined to actually making it in music, you’ll be very disciplined with your money.”

tborstmayer@cjournal.ca