Government subsidies in music | “It’s a symptom of what’s happening in the industry.”

While the number of grant applications to provincial and federal arts councils is increasing dramatically, the Canada Council for the Arts’ budget is not keeping pace. Result: in the music industry, a record number of artists are being rejected and finding themselves without funding.

With an acceptance rate of more than 71% for his grant applications submitted to the Canada Council for the Arts in 2021, then 31% in 2022, Maxime Jarry, founder and president of the management and production agency of spectacles Bleu Carpetette, noted a drop in the acceptance percentage to 5.5% in 2023. There were 17 refusals out of 18 requests that year. Unheard of for him, whose house offers external help to artists (including Clay and Friends, Tire le coyote, Stéphanie Boulay and Flore Laurentienne) for their submissions.

So what is happening that so many artists are seeing their funding requests rejected?

“It’s a symptom of what’s happening in the industry: many artists are no longer able to carry out their projects without being supported by subsidies, because it is more difficult to monetize and repay themselves by being independent; therefore, there is an unprecedented quantity of people who are making requests,” relates Sandrine Quirion, cultural financing consultant.

However, the amounts allocated each year by the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) do not follow this trend.

The basis of the problem is there. The math doesn’t work. It’s a vice that is tightening.

Maxime Jarry, founder and president of the entertainment management and production agency Bleu Carpette

At the Canada Council for the Arts, the Explore and Create program (the federal agency’s largest program) supports the research, creation, development and production of artistic projects. For the last financial year, the organization says it observed a “low success rate” of 16.6% for applications in the country.

How do we explain this phenomenon on the CAC side? This is linked to “an unprecedented volume of requests and a return to the Council’s regular budget, following the end of one-off government funding for the pandemic, which was provided to the Council between 2020-2021 and 2022-2023”, indicates- do we have The Press by email.

In fact, between 2017 and 2023, the number of applications submitted to the Explore and Create program has tripled. For this program alone, requests for 2023-2024 were equivalent to almost $215 million, or more than two-thirds of the total annual grant budget of the Council, which has five other programs.

“This competition was very competitive,” acknowledges the CAC, “but we were still able to distribute $36.2 million to support 1,125 projects across Canada. »

The Explore and Create program (of the CAC) in 2023-2024

6750 eligible requests

1125 projects approved

The pandemic factor

Sandrine Quirion, who has been filling out grant applications for artists for 12 years, is closely observing the changes underway in the industry. For her, the pandemic brought great upheaval that was difficult to predict.


Sandrine Quirion, cultural financing consultant

During the pandemic, many people took up music, tried to put their passion forward. So they started applying for grants. This increased the number of artists tenfold in an already saturated Quebec market.

Sandrine Quirion, cultural financing consultant

Technological tools make it better and better to make albums yourself, she describes. This allows many artists to fulfill their ambitions. But to carry out their projects successfully in the current system in Quebec, funding mainly comes through grants.

“Everyone has the impression of being refused and the impression that the government is the big bad guy, but I often talk to the grantors and they do what they can,” adds Sandrine Quirion. It is certain that the programs are not yet necessarily adapted to today’s market. The envelope is simply not sufficient in a post-pandemic time when all budgets have returned to normal and inflation is still something. »

A better response in Quebec

To the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ), “with regard to the annual budget allocated […] it has not decreased, it has even seen a slight increase in recent years,” we indicate in an email to The Press.

We thus see, on the provincial side, that the number of requests is constantly growing. The CALQ seems to respond a little better to these environmental transformations than the CAC, according to the information obtained. Artists, however, agreed that the effort was not sufficient and requested an increase in the organization’s overall budget of 100 million to adjust to the needs of the community. Demonstrations have taken place in recent weeks, bringing together all cultural sectors, to demand from Quebec that the CALQ envelope be increased. “The total amount allocated to the CALQ following the last budget is 160.4 million,” we are told at the CALQ by email. This amount was recently increased for organizations, as announced Tuesday [dernier] The Minister [Mathieu] Lacombe. »

Regarding requests to the CAC, however, the situation is no longer the same: “I tell myself that if I copied and pasted files that were submitted a few years ago, they would not pass in 2023-2024 , observes Maxime Jarry. Solid files, with upcoming European tours, a team, labels, promotion. Usually, it’s fingers in the nose. »

“The Council recognizes the range of challenges facing artists and is closely monitoring the slow recovery of the arts sector,” says the CAC. The government body says it is committed to supporting a “sustainable rebuilding of the arts sector by working with federal partners, public funders across the country and other stakeholders.”

“I am not a great visionary, but there are people who are, who are capable of finding solutions. There have to be changes, expresses Sandrine Quirion. The subsidies are just symptomatic of everything that is happening in the industry. The government is working on the laws, things are happening, but not as fast as it should. »

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