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Musicians, directors worried key funding for music videos will soon dry up

TORONTO — When the Darcys unveil their music video "Arizona Hwy" next week the Toronto pop-rock band hopes viewers realize it wouldn't have happened without MuchFact.

TORONTO — When the Darcys unveil their music video "Arizona Hwy" next week the Toronto pop-rock band hopes viewers realize it wouldn't have happened without MuchFact.

Even though the Canadian foundation's logo appears tacked at the end of some of their music videos, band member Wes Marskell doesn't think most fans understand how significant MuchFact funding is to burgeoning acts.

"We rely heavily on that," Marskell says.

That's why the band is feeling anxious on the heels of a decision this week that puts MuchFact's future into question. On Monday, the CRTC gave Bell Media approval to no longer pay into the fund, a change it requested from the regulator.

The move frees Bell Media to effectively kill MuchFact, leaving a financial void of about $2 million each year that artists use for their music videos.

Marskell says the Darcys would certainly suffer the impact, alongside countless other Canadian artists, directors and crew.

"In our world, there won't be a massive budget ... so it'll reduce the scope of the videos," he says. "I can also imagine not even doing one."

In a statement, Bell Media played down conclusions from music industry insiders that MuchFact is on its last legs, saying it's currently reviewing the program.

"No decisions have been made regarding (its) future at this time," the company said.

MuchFact has been a key component in Canada's music industry since its launch as VideoFact in 1984. The organization grants artists and their record labels chunks of money for their projects.

The funding can range from a couple of thousand dollars to a maximum of $50,000 for a "content package" that includes a music video and digital elements like websites, trailers and mobile apps.

In its early days, the program was a boon for rising talent like Celine Dion and k.d. lang who used the money to create flashy music videos that could compete with the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson on MuchMusic and MTV.

In the 1990s, Bran Van 3000 tapped into the fund for its "Drinking in L.A." music video, while the Barenaked Ladies used it for "Lovers In A Dangerous Time," their popular cover of Bruce Cockburn's song.

The grants were also a huge benefit to Canadian filmmakers looking to get a start.

Director X built his career on MuchFact videos like Maestro's "Stick to Your Vision" before going on to shoot Rihanna's "Work" video and direct his own film "Across the Line." Kevan Funk premiered his debut feature "Hello Destroyer" last year after working on music videos like A Tribe Called Red's "Stadium Pow Wow."

While MuchFact isn't the only funding option — government-assisted organizations like Factor and Quebec's Musicaction can also give productions a boost — it's certainly one of the most significant.

But as more viewers gravitated to YouTube over the last decade, Bell Media started to question why it should finance videos that were mostly seen outside of their broadcast networks.

Those sentiments where emphasized when Carly Rae Jepsen's 2012 video "Call Me Maybe," funded by MuchFact, became a global viral sensation (it's now nearing one billion views on YouTube).

Bell Media's only benefit from the grant came through airing the video on its TV channels and selling advertising space during the commercial breaks. Any money made on YouTube went to the streaming website's parent company Google, the record label, and the artist.

Cherie Sinclair, executive producer at Toronto production outlet The Field, says that's why it doesn't make sense for a broadcaster to be forced to pay for videos any more. Even though her company draws about 20 per cent of its business from projects funded by MuchFact, she believes artists should consider new ways to draw attention to their music.

"They can still put their tracks out on Soundcloud, they can make a lyric video. It needs to be redefined," she says.

"They need to be resourceful and find a friend who can possibly make a lyric video for them or find self-financing."

Those suggestions leave directors like Emma Higgins  — who helmed the video for the Darcys' "Arizona Hwy" — wondering how the next generation of filmmakers are supposed to thrive. She got her start working on MuchFact video sets and believes her career would've stumbled without those jobs.

"These are the opportunities for younger directors and producers to come in and cut their teeth," she says.

"I think they're going to be the ones affected the most."


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David Friend, The Canadian Press

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