MuchFact’s fu­ture is in ques­tion

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

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - DAVID FRIEND

TORONTO — When the Dar­cys un­veil their mu­sic video “Ari­zona Hwy” next week the Toronto poprock 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 pre­mièred 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 past 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.”

MAYA FUHR, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Dar­cys, Wes Marskell, left, and Ja­son Couse. Maskell says the band will suf­fer if MuchFact, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that grants fund­ing to artists and their record la­bels, is killed.

NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

MuchFact funded early mu­sic videos by young film­mak­ers in­clud­ing Di­rec­tor X, who went on to shoot videos for Ri­hanna, Drake and Ciara.

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