This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Canadian Musician.
By Michael Raine
There is one source of grants that most Canadian musicians know, or have at least heard of, it’s the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings, better known as FACTOR. Receiving its funding from the federal government via the Canada Music Fund, as well as the country’s private radio broadcasters, the non-profit grants funding to commercially-viable recordings via artists and music companies to maintain the health of, and spur growth in, Canada’s music industry.
There are a number of FACTOR programs and components aimed at artists and companies depending on their histories and planned projects and goals, but the two programs most relevant to the majority of emerging and independent artists are the Artist Development and Juried Sound Recording programs.
On its website, www.factor.ca, FACTOR provides detailed step-by-step guides and video tutorials. In this article, we’re offering some practical insight and advice to keep in mind when creating an Artist Profile and Project Application to both save artists time and maximize their chances of success.
Before submitting a Project Application for the Artist Development and Juried Sound Recording programs, musicians must first create an Artist Profile on FACTOR’s website. It’s quite straightforward, simply telling FACTOR who you or your band are. “We ask for a bio, and you can be a brand-new artist, too, so it doesn’t really matter if you’ve done almost nothing or if you have a long history. We ask for what genre of music you play and, if you’re in a band, the names of the other members,” says Karina Moldovan, communications and stakeholder relations officer at FACTOR. “Honestly, that’s it.”
Based on their Artist Profile, FACTOR will assign a rating, with the vast majority of musicians receiving a General Artist designation. Those who have had considerable commercial success may receive an Artist 2 or Artist 3 rating, which grants access to more funding and additional programs.
In the Artist Profile, there is a section for Additional Information, which FACTOR reviews twice annually to determine if an artist’s rating should be upgraded (i.e., from General Artist to Artist 2, or Artist 2 to Artist 3). This additional information includes things like sales figures, streaming figures, tour revenue, social media metrics, radio chart performance, etc. On its website, ahead of the twice-annual reviews, FACTOR provides ballpark figures for each Additional Information
section on what will qualify for an Artist 2 or 3 rating.
“[Artists] can go there and say, ‘OK, I do have these similar streaming numbers and I do have this many sync licences and whatever else. Then they can decide, ‘OK, it’s worth it for me to put in the effort to update my Artist Profile to try to get that Artist 2 rating next time,’” says Moldovan. For artists whose numbers aren’t near those ballpark figures, then it’s likely not worth the time and effort to add that additional information to their Artist Profile since it won’t be considered during the Project Application phase in the juried programs.
As the name implies, a Project Application is what determines if an artist receives funding and how much. The Artist Development program provides a $2,000 subsidy toward artist development activities, including recording, touring and showcasing, video production, and marketing. The larger Juried Sound Recording program provides up to a maximum of $47,500 to record an album and for related costs like touring and showcasing, marketing, etc. FACTOR’s program guidelines break down how much of that can be spent on certain components.
In creating a Project Application, Moldovan advises “keeping in mind that the jurors only have so much time to look at an application. So, providing too much information, as much as people think, ‘Look at all this stuff I have!’, [jurors] don’t necessarily have time to read it all or go through it all, so then it ends up that you sort of wasted your time and they didn’t even get to it, meaning it didn’t affect your score.”
The point is, be concise and clear. “Just getting all of the most crucial information at the forefront is good. If you want to add additional stuff at the end, by all means and if they get to it, great, but understand that there’s a chance they won’t. So, I think that’s important,” says Moldovan. “We do provide a marketing plan template on our website for Juried Sound Recordings and that is a guide to help you along so you know what you should be including in a marketing plan. Anything extraneous to that is going to be extra, so maybe don’t bother.”
Included in the application are questions about what the project is about and its objectives and goals. “Make sure that you have goals that are really, really specific and that make sense for you. I think that it shows that you’re aware of the scope of your project and the industry and market and that you’re working within. I think it’s really important to not have these overly grandiose plans and ideas that don’t really make sense for you as an artist and where you are at the time. Keeping it realistic and achievable is going to show and prove that you know what you’re doing and that this money will be used in the best way possible,” Moldovan explains. “[Artists] can get sort of carried away and write a lot of information about big plans, but I think it’s better to keep it shorter and really specific.”
In applications for the Juried Sound Recording program, something that is not mandatory but can help an applicant’s chances, especially for newer artists, is letters of support. For example, if the artist plans to work with a specific, well-established recording engineer, the engineer can provide a letter saying, essentially, “I think this band has a lot of potential and I would love to work with them.”
As well, applications for the Artists Development and Juried Sound Recording programs must include assessment tracks. Obviously, they’re just demos, but they still need to be recorded well enough that jurors can hear and understand the songs’ potential and the artist’s style, musical ability, etc. “At the end of the day, the way that the scoring is broken down, your music does have to speak for itself a little bit and then your marketing plan, those are the two major components,” says Moldovan. “For your assessment tracks, submit a song that could be the most radio friendly. It doesn’t matter if it’s ever going to get on radio; that’s not many people’s goal and nor should it be, but, you know, don’t submit your weirdest and most experimental song off of the album to listen to because that may not be a great representation.”
Also related to the music itself, choose your genre wisely. An applicant can choose a different genre for their Project Application than they indicated in their Artist Profile. This is important because if, for example, a Project Application is labeled as punk, that application will only be seen by jurors who say their expertise is in punk music. “Think of that specific project and that specific song and the music you submitted and pick the genre based on which industry experts you want listening to it. That makes a really big difference.”
This gets at another of Moldovan’s points, which is to understand that FACTOR is not an arts council. For FACTOR, commercial viability is part of the criteria, not just artistic merit (though that’s also important).
But maybe Moldovan’s top advice is to begin compiling the application early, especially for first-time applicants, and leave some time for questions, clarifications, and advice. Related to that, stay in frequent contact with the assigned project coordinator. Every artist with a profile in FACTOR’s system is assigned to a project coordinator to be their go-to contact for everything. “They’re there to help you through the process before you’re applying, while you’re applying, and after you’re applying all the way to the payments and everything in between. When you call us, you’re not just calling a front desk and talking to whoever picks up; you have somebody who knows the history of your project and has worked with you before and has some context as to what you’re doing,” says Moldovan.
Lastly, after the application has been reviewed, and regardless of whether or not it was successful, ask for the jurors’ feedback. All jurors are encouraged to leave constructive criticism, which can be shared by the artist’s project coordinator. The reality is that FACTOR only has so much money to give out, and most applications do not get funding. But it is not uncommon for denied applicants to find success on their future attempts, especially if they’re mindful the jurors’ feedback from previous applications.
For more information and advice, watch Canadian Musician’s FACTOR 101 webinar.
Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Musician.