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FACTOR: 2015 and Beyond

Last year was remarkable for FACTOR in many respects.  For the first time in the history of the Foundation, program spending hit $17 million.  Much of that was due to a number of coalescent dynamics. These included a peak in funding from broadcaster sources as we entered the final year of two major tangible benefits (contributions to Canadian Content Development that are triggered by transactions in the radio business),  just as several new benefits began. We also saw a higher than anticipated demand for funding — particularly in the area of touring which was oversubscribed and resulted in FACTOR paying out almost a half a million more than the year before (a sign no doubt of things to come).  Fortunately, to support unanticipated spikes in demand, FACTOR has managed to accumulate a substantial surplus, partly due to a financial management plan that includes setting aside and prudently investing excess broadcaster contributions for the inevitable days to come when CCD contributions are less robust.

With the very important renewal of the Canada Music Fund in April of 2015, we have achieved a measure of predictability for 5 years that is quite welcome. Our current plan sees us supporting a minimum of $16.5 million in projects between now and 2020 with revenue from the Government of Canada and private broadcasters, as well as investment revenue. That’s over 2,000 projects a year between April 2015 and the expiration of the Government of Canada commitment.

The last year saw some major success for Canadian artists both at home and abroad.  Although it may be popular in some quarters to disparage the funding systems that support the creative economy, the fact remains that many of our most successful artists have received critical support from these funds, especially early in their careers. This year’s Canadian international success story, The Weeknd, is one of those artists who received early support from FACTOR, in this case through CP Music.

FACTOR-supported acts are perennial finalists or winners in adjudicated industry events.  After receiving FACTOR funding, Tanya Tagaq won the Polaris Prize for Animism in 2014 as well as a Juno and a Western Canadian Music Award. In 2015, 4 of the albums that were chosen as finalists for the Polaris Prize were FACTOR-funded.  With new entries this year from an unprecedented variety of acts across genres, we are anticipating similar success, not only there but at the Juno Awards, the WCMAs, the ECMAs and the CCMAs.

We know that the system is not without flaws, but the evidence suggests that it does work to identify and promote artists with great promise who go on to achieve remarkable success. 

In an industry where change is constant, we have to continually adjust our programs to meet the needs of the business and to do so properly, we must anticipate where it is heading. That’s not easy. But we do know now that in most cases, in addition to making great sound recordings, Canadian artists must have access to performance opportunities in foreign markets and do well there to sustain their careers.  It’s an expensive proposition to take on a multi-date and multi-country tour. We know that. But despite the challenges, FACTOR’s programs will continue to evolve to support touring acts who have commercial potential outside of Canada, and have the team and assets in place to take advantage of the funding we offer. At the same time, we know that an array of digital marketing tools must also be at their disposal to make a success of those live appearances and to capitalize on new opportunities. In the virtual world, music is the ultimate commodity and our artists’ works must be available ubiquitously, and on multiple platforms, whether that means in streaming services, in screen-based productions, or in video games. Our funding will be directed at activities that maximize this potential and give emerging acts the hand-up that they need to compete worldwide.

Finally, our programs are available to Canadians in all genres, in all parts of the country and in all languages but French. Nurturing and celebrating diversity is part of our mandate and we will continue to reach out to all communities to ensure that they understand and take full advantage of the support we offer, whether they live in Victoria, St. John’s or Yellowknife, or farther afield. In Canada, our diversity and our music define us, and FACTOR takes great pride in helping to foster that identity now and into the future.