Monday, December 14, 2009

Canadian Conference of the Arts - Musical Diversity Funding: a pre-Holiday Discordant Report

CCA Bulletin 30/09
All issues available on the CCA web site.
Disponible en français au site web du CCA.

December 14, 2009

Musical Diversity Funding: a pre-Holiday Discordant Report
Just the facts

On December 9, the Standing Committee on Heritage presented its report on the three hearings on the abolition of the Musical Diversity Programs ($ 1.3m) administered by the Canada  Council of the Arts on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The programs abolished targeted the recording and distribution of so-called “specialized” music, i.e. “music whose intent or content is not shaped by the desire for wide market appeal – instead, it places creativity, self-expression or experimentation above the demands and format expectations of the mainstream recording industry. Specialized music has significance beyond being just entertainment.” (Report, p.2) Funding will be transferred to FACTOR/MusicAction to support digital market development and international market development.

The Report calls for a return of these funds to the Canada Council for the Arts, for distribution to the sector. The three specific recommendations include:

Recommendation 1

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage commends the work of FACTOR, MusicAction, the Canada Music Fund and the Canada Council of the Arts for promoting and developing Canadian talent.

Recommendation 2

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage restore, in its entirety, the Canadian Musical Diversity Component within the Canada Music Fund. In addition, the committee recommends that additional funding be allocated to the Canada Council for the Arts to further support the grants program for recording and distributing specialized music.

Recommendation 3

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage did not hear evidence from the witnesses or from the Evaluation of 2007 that justified the cuts to the Canadian Musical Diversity Component.  (Report, p.8)

This set of hearings was imposed by Opposition members of the Committee and the resulting report is illustrative of the atmosphere that reigned throughout the proceedings. Despite the attempt of several witnesses to portray a clear vision of the system without a political agenda, it was clear from the beginning that Committee members were set on staging the cuts in a political light.

One of the regrettable side-effects of this process is that it pitted FACTOR/MusicAction and the Canada Council for the Arts against each other. The result was that the issue at hand became muddled, digressing from the importance of funding experimentation and exploration from a non-commercial perspective in art and culture in general and in music in particular, just as in other sectors of activity.

This was the point made in the Canadian Conference of the Arts’ presentation to the Standing Committee which the Report summarizes this way:

“The Canadian Conference of the Arts was very pleased that the Canada Music Fund had been renewed for five years, but did not want this funding to come at the expense of other sectors of the music industry. Alain Pineau, the organization’s Director General, said he is very concerned about the elimination of the musical diversity component. Moreover, he stated that asking the Canada Council to use its own annual budget to compensate for the elimination of the program would ?in fact amount to some kind of cut.” (p.5)

It is worth nothing that FACTOR/MusicAction representatives have stated that they actually attach great importance to emerging artists and organizations that support their development - an assertion which apparently does not reassure a number of stakeholders. Time will tell.

Tell me more

On July 31, 2009, the Department of Canadian Heritage announced that the number of CMF components would be reduced from seven to five, with current support for the Canadian Musical Diversity Component and the Support to Sector Associations Component reallocated to the five remaining components. According to the Department’s news release, “this will result in the elimination of overlap in program delivery, a reduction of the administrative burden currently placed on a number of applicants, and better targeting of public funds to emerging priority activities.” The two emerging activities are digital market development and international market development.

One of purposes of the Committee’s study was to “determine how and why the Department of Canadian Heritage decided to make these cuts.” During the hearing, the NDP seriously challenged the value of the 2007 evaluation, which was put forward by Heritage officials to justify the decision.

This approach was taken also by the Bloc Québécois, both during the hearings and in the Bloc’s Complementary Opinion, where it accuses government officials of misreperesenting the evaluation report to cover what it calls an ideological decision by the government:

“Feeling the need to justify an unjustifiable decision after the fact, the Department quoted sentences from the 2007 report out of context and, when it could not find what it needed, it changed words and thereby the meaning and even contradicted statements in the report to justify the decision it had already made.” (p. 13)

The Bloc concludes its Opinion by asking once again that “negotiations be undertaken with the Government of Quebec towards an administrative agreement in order to transfer as soon as possible jurisdiction for the arts, culture and communications to the Government of Quebec, with the associated budgets.”

The government side of the Standing Committee voiced their stance by upholding the cuts. They say that they cannot agree that the summary of evidence presented in the Report provides a full enough picture of what was presented during the study, nor do they agree with the recommendations made in the Standing Committee report. They reiterate that the changes made to the Canada Music Fund were the results of a thorough and widespread consultation, contrary to what the report states.

The Dissenting Opinion repeats what had been a mantra throughout the hearings, namely a recitation of the actions taken by the government in renewing the Canada Music Fund, peppered with a series of selected quotes. One of those was from the CCA:

 “The CCA has publicly rejoiced in the fact that the government has committed to a five-year renewal of the Canada Music Fund. We welcome the fact that the Minister of Canadian Heritage has recognized the need to increase the money available for digital and international market development. Those two sectors of activity will certainly benefit from the increased money they will receive through FACTOR and MUSICACTION.” (p. 16)

While this absolutely exact, it overlooks the CCA’s stance that the most welcomed increases to support the excellent work of FACTOR/MusicAction should not have been made at the expense of investing in musical diversity in a non-commercial context.

The government members conclude with assurance that: “Our Conservative Government understands the value of arts and culture to our communities, our identity, and our economy. That is why we have made unparalleled investments in this sector – investing more dollars in arts and culture than any Government in history.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009


DECEMBER 9, 2009


Evidence clearly showed the program’s value to the Canadian music scene: Angus
OTTAWA – Government cuts to the Canada Council should not only be reversed but the council should receive a funding increase, says a report by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled yesterday in the House of Commons.

The cuts to the Canada Council's Grants for Specialized Music Sound Recording and Grants for Specialized Music Distribution had been previously announced by the Government.

The Committee heard in-person testimony from a wide range of witnesses, including representatives from the Heritage department; Canada Council for the Arts; FACTOR; Musicaction; Le Conseil québécois de la musique; and a host of independent musicians, producers and other stakeholders from a variety of disciplines.  The committee also received dozens of written submissions from those who weren’t able to appear in person during the committee’s brief study.

New Democrat critic for Heritage and Culture Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) said that the testimony heard by the committee clearly showed the need to reverse the damaging cuts.

“For whatever reason, the Conservatives made an awful decision here, and this committee’s report outlines, in detail, why the government should reverse these cuts,” said Angus. “The evidence we heard overwhelmingly illustrated how important these grants were, how little consultation there was with those who knew the most about the grants and how a relatively small amount of funding goes a long way with the Canada Council grants.”

The report reflects the testimony of the overwhelming majority of witnesses, who signalled their support for the Musical Diversity Program.  Angus said that the report gives the Conservatives an open field to make up for their reckless decision to axe the grants.

“The Committee went step-by-step through the benefits, costs, and impact of the Musical Diversity Program, and came to the conclusion that any reasonable person would: that this program is important to the future of Canadian music,” he said.  “The only reasonable explanation for inaction from the government at this point would be political considerations; it’s clear what the practical policy decision should be.”

The report also praised the work of FACTOR, Musicaction and the Canada Music Fund, and pointed out that there was no compelling justification found for the cuts to the diversity program in the first place.


For more information, please contact: Jeremy Huws – Office of Charlie Angus, 613-992-3165 or

John Oliver on music composition and performance Headline Animator