There was an article published in the The Toronto Star yesterday calling out the Ontario Music Fund (administered through the OMDC – Ontario Media Development Corporation) for secrecy and questioning if the money was properly allocated. I then saw it be shared with all kinds of quick comments about how all arts funding is corrupt, or negative things said about the people who work so hard to administer the funds. I’m opening a can of worms here, but I can’t stay silent on this issue.
As one of the recipients, I feel like it’s my responsibility to speak up and caution you to read beyond the headlines. If you’ve been paying attention to my career over the past year (and the previous 10+ years), you’ll have noticed a significant increase in my business activity and the quality of product and support materials that I’ve been able to bring to market. My album ‘We Are The Reckoning’, the music videos for ‘Brother’, ‘We Are The Reckoning’ and ‘Lay It On Me’, the full band tour, the marketing and publicity initiatives, the recent show I did at Revolution Recording studios. ALL of these activities were made possible with the support of that fund and from The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings (FACTOR). Let me be clear, I had to also make a significant investment of my own, it’s not a free lunch. In fact, I spent MORE of my own money than I would have spent if I DIDN’T get the funding so that I could dream big and try to make a meaningful impact on my career its longterm longevity. If there were no funding in place, I just wouldn’t have been able to do the things I did, they wouldn’t exist as they do.
I also want you to know that in order to secure that funding (for which the application was first due on January 6th, 2014) I strapped myself to a computer for a month, missed out on time with family and friends over the holidays, spent over $1000 getting my materials properly designed, getting my finances detailed by an accountant, etc. The grant was a monster to put together, it was a full time job for a month. And once the money had been spent, I had to account for every single penny in extreme detail, had to submit exhaustive analysis reports, it also took me another several weeks to complete all that reporting, with long days and nights working on it, well over 100 hours. (I’m not complaining about how much reporting I had to do, it SHOULD be that way, it’s public money, it needs to be respected). None of that money ended up in my pocket, it went to pay my band, my engineer and mixer and co-producer, my graphic designers, my publicity and marketing team, video directors and editors, crew, and so on and so forth. It allowed dozens of Ontario residents to have meaningful work in their chosen field, and it allowed me to release an album and put on a show that I’d like to think (and I’ve been told) was meaningful to many people’s lives. My art is no more important than anyone else’s, but if it has meaning to you, then you have to understand what it took to actually bring it to you if you’re going to take that headline at face value. It also needs to be said that all of this is occurring in the ever changing music industry where people want their music for free, or every recorded album in history for $9.99 a month, which on the other end means a guy like me gets a cheque for $42 for 10,000 streams of my song. Art needs funding. Artists are NOT surviving without support. If artists don’t have support, then they’re forced to consider the commercial viability too strongly and the art is compromised. You can’t say ‘well if people liked it, they would buy it and you wouldn’t need grants’. Not true, not fair. Artists need a chance to be developed, the product has to have a chance to be made, it needs to find a way into people’s ears, some art is ahead of its time, or out of sync with the latest trend and goes unnoticed for a long period of time, it’s complicated. There’s no direct route, it takes time, energy, luck, money, relentless determination and vision. There are exceptions to every rule, but I don’t need to tell you that there’s a LONG list of incredible artists who died in poverty and obscurity. I know many artists personally, who have given everything of themselves, including their mental and physical health, to try to bring their incredible work out into the world, and they’ve been forced to give up because it’s just not possible. We are losing out as a society because of that.
Funding organizations live and die by public support when they’re funded by tax dollars. Same goes for things like the CBC and many other vital cultural institutions. Is it a perfect system? No. I’m sure it isn’t. But before you go sharing an easy headline and making quick judgment in a comment without having a sense of the full picture, think about the potential impact you’re having. If this fund gets cut, then other artists like me won’t have the same opportunities I had. As a direct result of this funding, my music found an exponentially larger audience, we sold-out places that I had been trying to fill for years, I was able to take what I do and give it a chance. I didn’t all of a sudden get way better, I was given support and opportunity. I also invested everything I had into it, I still have no money in the bank, but I get to make art, so it’s worth it. Also, as self serving or arrogant as it may seem to be to say so, I need to stand up and say that what I do, or what we do as artists, is a service to society and that it has real value. The market alone doesn’t quite support it, so if you want it to continue to exist, it has to come from somewhere. I also CREATED JOBS. I created a lot of work for a lot of people as a direct result of my artistic activities. Ask Tim Abraham and Royal Wood and Michelle Willis and Benjamin Rollo and Mark Mcintyre and Matt Myer and Joao Carvalho Mastering and Christopher Mills and Justin Broadbent and Revolution Recording and Southern Souls and Charlotte Thompson and Sari Delmar and Brandon Keen and Shelby Burnell (and the list goes on) if that money allowed them to put food on their tables, develop their craft, make meaningful work and live to fight another day. I also got people out of their homes, thousands of people, and brought them out to venues, they ate out at restaurants before my shows, they engaged in the economy because I created an opportunity for them to do so. Ask yourself what keeps you company in your house, in your ears on your way to work, in your time of need, what energizes you and calms you down and underscores your life. Music does that, art does that, so be careful with it. I feel the same way about it, I love music so much, I’m on the same side as you, we have to stand up for it together.
Alright, that’s me uncensored. As always, sending love out there, don’t believe the headlines, they’re just trying to get you to click on them. Dig deeper. Love P