Grant funds are available to Canadian musicians to support a variety of activities: from songwriting to recording, and from marketing plans to tour or showcase support. These grant programs can come from Federal, Provincial, Municipal or private sources. Most of these funds help artists to cover expenses relating to their musical career (travel, recording expenses, hiring other musicians, marketing or tour support) or to enable activities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to undertake.
Most grants, unfortunately, do not allow for artists to pay themselves or cover rent & subsistence. As well, most only allow a certain % of the overall costs of recording, or of a project, to be funded through the grant. In other words, in a lot of cases, you have to be willing and able to spend money to be granted money.
While it’s impossible to document all possible granting opportunities available to Canadian musicians, I’ll focus on some of the major ones that emerging Canadian musicians are eligible for. Some of the larger grant streams are only available to artists who have reached certain sales milestones or are on a recognized label who has met the required metrics, so those ones will be absent from this section.
Tip: If at first you don’t success, dust yourself off, apply again. It can often take multiple applications before a project is successfully funded. Each subsequent application becomes easier and less time-consuming, as you can pull from your previous application. As well, funding bodies often provide feedback on your application, allowing you to improve upon it for the next intake.
At the bottom of this page are examples of successful funding requests to help to give you a starting point.
FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings)
FACTOR assigns ratings to artists which determine which grant streams they can apply to, and determines the maximum amount they can apply to. 95% of all applicants are rated “General Artist,” which can apply for the following programs:
° Artist Development (emerging artists will be applying for up to $2,000, representing 75% of the costs)
° Juried Sound Recording (emerging artists will be applying for up to $10,000 for sound recording, representing up to 75% of the cost of recording)
° Live Performance (emerging artists will be applying for up to $5,000 for domestic and up to $7,500 in international showcase support)
° Marketing & Promotion for Non-Factor Funded Sound Recordings (this program covers 50-100% of the costs up to a maximum of $25,000)
° Songwriter Development (up to $2,000, representing up to 75% of the costs)
SOCAN Foundation (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada)
° Professional Development Assistance Program (up to $1,500 to attend conferences, courses, seminars or workshops)
° Travel Assistance Program (up to $1,000 for important performances, showcases, workshops, etc.)
Canada Council For The Arts
° Professional Development For Artists (up to $10,000 for mentorships, specialized training, workshops, conferences, etc.)
° Travel Grant: Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples (up to $30,000 to travel to share art, build professional or artistic networks or develop markets)
Alberta Foundation For The Arts
The Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) is a great source of funding for Alberta musicians. The Music Individual Project Funding stream covers applicants looking to cover either the recording of their album, the marketing of it, or travel and subsistence related to projects stemming from it. While still a highly competitive grant stream, the geographic specificity allows for a lot of artists who are unsuccessful at FACTOR funding to have a shot of having their releases supported. Importantly, it allows for up to 100% of eligible expenses to be covered.
Provincial Arts Service Organizations
Provincial arts service organizations, many of which are focused specifically on music, aim to educate, empower, champion and support their local music communities. Some of these have their own grant streams, but all will support artists in other ways including notifying them of upcoming grant deadlines and showcase opportunities, hosting workshops and panel discussions, consultations and advice.
I’d suggest signing up to your province’s newsletter, follow their socials, and engage with them to learn about all of the opportunities available to you in a timely manner.
As well, the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA), provides many of the same services, but targets Canada as a whole.
GRANT WRITING TIPS
While many funders have been trying to make their grant application processes more accessible to musicians, grant writing remains a process that requires excellent writing skills, organization of a lot of the most tedious aspects of being a musician, and, I would argue, a high-level of stubbornness and patience.
A lot of what was covered in press & publicity and campus & community radio applies here: essentially, you will be trying to sell your project to a group of jurors that otherwise might not already know your music, or worse, might not understand it. “Let the music do the talking?” Unfortunately, not here.
Some universally applicable tips I’d suggest for any grant you write:
° Be realistic: first and foremost, know your own band and its current position. If you’re releasing your first album, and haven’t yet toured across Canada, its not realistic to suggest that your aim is to sell 20,000 copies of it, that your marketing plan will include radio & tv ads, and that you plan to tour Japan for 2 months. Find out what you need to make your album work, think about realistic marketing opportunities and showcasing opportunities, focus on realistic markets (nearby cities) and make that the focus of your application. Similarly, the same mentality can be applied to your artistic goals. First time applicant? Might not be realistic to suggest you’re going to hire a Symphony to accompany your rock album. However, suggesting that taking an extra week in the studio to work on harmony vocals and better tones from your demos with an engineer with a proven track record? That’ll read way better.
° Make connections to other artists: as an Albertan musician, and a small one at that, it has been very common for folks in Ontario to have never heard of my projects. Whether you’re releasing your first album or have been at this for years, it’s always smart to highlight your connections to other projects in every aspect of the making of your album. For example, in Self-Cut Bangs, we made sure to reference our other projects, Napalmpom and Dark Time, in case that helped to give us a bit of a foundation we didn’t already have. However, beyond that, we made sure to mention alongside our recording engineer and producer, Lorrie Matheson, that he had recorded albums by Rae Spoon, Samantha Savage Smith, Art Bergmann and Ghostkeeper; musicians of a certain renown amount different circles. That instantly gives the project a bit more credibility.
° Talk about your accomplishments: many funding agencies want to be sure that they are funding musicians who will take the support of their album seriously. Even if this is for your first record, including press clippings, accomplishments, a past show history highlighting prestigious festival appearances, etc. can also act as a shortcut to establishing your credibility with the reader.
° Be aspirational: in many cases, you’ll be applying for grants before you have a team in place (manager, agent, publicist, radio tracker, etc.). It’s 100% okay to talk to a publicist or radio tracker in advance and ask if they would consider working on your record if you get funding. Include these names as tentatively confirmed, and ideally, get them to write you a letter of support saying that they are excited to work with you.
° …but also give yourself credit: on the other hand, if you don’t have plans to hire these folks, even with funding, then your job is to establish your own credibility as manager/booker/radio tracker/publicist, etc. In any section asking for your team, make the case for why you have the skillset to fill these roles. Examples include a history of booking cross-Canadian tours, any radio or chart history, any examples of press/media you got on your own, or examples of having helped other bands achieve the same things.
° Cause & effect: it’s not simply enough to write something like “we’re applying for funding to play shows in Ontario in Quebec,” assuming that jurors will understand why that’s important to your band (no matter how obvious that may seem to you). Be explicit about your potential outcomes. For example, instead saying “we’re applying to book our first tour in Ontario in Quebec; our record has received substantial play on CJRU (Toronto) and CKUT (Montreal), and this tour, with bands with established crowds, would represent both an ability to build off of our momentum, and to play to new audiences so that we can establish important connections for future bookings” fills in all of the possible blanks, and makes the case why this isn’t just paying for a fun little trip (but hopefully it is that too!).
° Include support material: including a one sheet, press highlights, a show history, etc. can, like many of the other things mentioned here, establish your credibility.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICATIONS
Ultimately, every project is going to be different, and so will every jury assessing your application, so there’s no sure fire way to write a successful grant. My advice would be to look at successful grants (below, but also provided by many granting agencies upon request), take inspiration from them, make yours as strong as possible by including connections to other artists/professionals in each section, and to be persistent. Often times it’ll take 2-3 tries for even the most seasoned musicians to be funded.
Real world example: Napalmpom applied for the Juried Sound Recording program three times, receiving $8,750 in funding on the last attempt. Very little had changed from application to application, though our scores fluctuated by 12% – one time, not even coming close to being funded, one time being literally 0.2% away from funding, and the last time, comfortably hitting the threshold for funding. This highlights a couple of things: first, that you never know who will be in the room assessing your application, and that that has a big impact on your scores. Second, that it’s worth trying again, as while a lot of work went into the first application, the second and third attempts represented less than an hour of work each. And lastly, that applying, getting feedback, and making small adjustments can ultimately be the difference maker.
Successful Grant Example: Juried Sound Recording – FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) – $8,750 for studio time, engineer, producer, mixing
Example: Napalmpom – Juried Sound Recording – Goals
Example: Napalmpom – Juried Sound Recording – Marketing Plan
Example: Napalmpom – Juried Sound Recording – Press Highlights (Supplemental)
Example: Napalmpom – Juried Sound Recording – Show History
Tip: One of the best pieces of advice I ever received is that when applying to FACTOR, choose only the genre(s) that most closely align with your band’s sound. If you’re a rock & roll band and think your songs are catchy, don’t click “pop” to be a completionist – you may be assessed by jurors more accustomed to slick radio pop if so.
Successful Grant Example: Individual Project Grant – Alberta Foundation For The Arts – $5,000 for additional recording (harmony vocals, overdubs), mixing & mastering
Example: Self-Cut Bangs – AFA Individual Music Project Grant – Project Description
Successful Grant Example: Calgary Arts Development – Individual Artists Grant – $5,000 for creating Trickle Down Music
Example: Trickle Down Music – Complete Grant
Successful Grant Example: Alberta Music Tour Grant (no longer offered)
Example: Napalmpom – Alberta Music Tour Grant – Marketing Plan
Example: Napalmpom – Alberta Music Tour Grant – One Sheet