Yes We Can-ada: Resources for the Music Community

Catie Wilber

April 9, 2020

In this age of renewed appreciation for our communities at large, and recognition of available resources, we take the opportunity to spotlight some of the many organizations and support  available to musicians throughout Canada.

Notably, a $100,000 fund has been announced in a partnership between The National Arts Centre and Facebook.  The fund aims to “bankroll artists’ fees for home-based online performances,” providing direct aid to those impacted by venue closures and tour cancellations.  Facebook has also established a Group called “I Lost My Gig (Canada),” a “space for artists and other vulnerable freelance and gig workers in Canada and beyond to share stories and resources addressing the impacts of COVID-19 and growing income precarity more broadly.” 

Led by Graham Henderson (husband of Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, don’t ya know), Music Canada is a nonprofit trade association whose members include Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Inc., Universal Music Canada, Inc., and Warner Music Canada Co. 

Since 1964, Music Canada has forged strategic partnerships serving all aspects of the recording industry, from production to promotion and distribution of music. The association is among those to have posted COVID-19 related surveys, inviting participation via social media to “collect more input and advocate for an appropriate response.”  

With the volume of new information becoming available at a steady clip, Canadian Heritage is also serving as a go-to for official info and resources regarding COVID-19 within creative industries.  The umbrella organization stresses the magnitude of the arts’ economic role in the Canadian economy, accounting for $53 billion in revenue and 666,500 jobs across creative sectors including music publishing, performing arts, and festivals. 

Canadian Heritage itself offers financial assistance through grants to applicants from a number of areas: musicians, media, performing arts presenters, venues, and more.  As minister Steven Guilbeault shared, “Our government understands that our cultural and creative sectors are important drivers of both social inclusion and economic growth. These investments demonstrate our commitment to helping arts organizations express their creativity, strengthen our communities and create meaningful opportunities for engagement. We are proud to celebrate the richness and diversity of Victoria’s cultural scene.”   

Unison Benevolent Fund is a nonprofit charity which provides counselling and emergency relief to the Canadian music community.  They have committed $500,000 to their COVID-19 relief program, and have assembled a hub of online resources, including mental health as well as  online marketing tools.

Financial assistance is also available via the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, which seeks to help organizations that present arts festivals or performing arts series and organizations that offer support to arts presenters.  Artists themselves are also coming together and giving back. Said the Whale is offering a $2500 grant to BC-based artists aged 18 and under, making music in any genre or discipline.  

British Columbia’s Creative BC,  a “Creative Industry Catalyst,” provides travel support, delegation funding and distinct programs in support of “BC-based intellectual property.” is updated with extensive resources to inform the creative community regarding COVID-19. Creative BC has reassured members that the organization’s core funding is “secure,” allowing regular program streams to continue. Creative Industry Catalyst,” provides travel support, delegation funding and distinct programs in support of “BC-based intellectual property.” is updated with extensive resources to inform the creative community regarding COVID-19. Creative BC has reassured members that the organization’s core funding is “secure,” allowing regular program streams to continue.

CIMA (Canadian Independent Music Association) continues to provide updates regarding their own efforts and others’ in support of the arts.  In particular, they’ve showcased the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project which was launched to “amplify the efforts of organizations that focus on helping those most in need.” Spotify has committed to donating and matching donations up to a collective total of $10M. 

Creators may also explore resources available through Music BC, a robust nonprofit membership association offering an array of financial and educational services.  In previous climates, BC-based artists and companies have been invited to apply for travel grants as a part of their touring showcase initiatives, amounting to as much as $10,000 per year.  Born of the belief that Canada’s music creators are “responsible for a truly priceless source of…national pride and culture,” while generating an estimated billion dollars annually. The nation’s largest rights management organization connects creators (songwriters, composers, visual artists, music publishers) with more than 100,000 organizations licensed to play music throughout Canada. 

In addition, on the marketing front and in simpler times, artists have the opportunity to showcase through a number of annual events. Music BC has committed to being on site annually at Folk Alliance International, Upstream Music Festival, The Great Escape, and Reeperbahn.  Partnered with a number of music organizations, government, as well as those in the travel and media industries, Music BC operates under a Board of Directors which includes experts from the entertainment law, education, and label and marketing corners of the industry. As an organization, they have asked that members with any questions regarding grants, workshops, and seminars during these uncertain times reach out to  

The tabling of tours continues to create an inevitable ripple effect.  Nate Sabine is director of Blueprint Management, Ltd., which manages clubs and bars throughout Vancouver.  “It’s devastating,” he recently told Business Vancouver.  “What we’re seeing and hearing from the industry in general is everyone wants to do what’s right by public health…and the pushback’s been negligible, I’m happy to say. That doesn’t stop the economic hurt of all these people… It’s tough, man, but everyone’s banded together.”

As SOCAN, Canada’s largest rights management organization, describes, their members are “the lifeblood of the creative ecosystem,” and it’s an ecosystem reliant on services such as those provided by SOCAN.  (Facilitating reciprocal agreements and direct affiliations, licensing the performances and reproduction of music, royalties collection and distribution to over 150,000 members). In a statement following the cancellation of the 2020 SOCAN Awards, CEO Eric Baptiste said “We look forward to celebrating the incredible achievements of Canada’s most successful songwriters, composers and music publishers in an alternative way.”

Photo by Silvestri Matteo on Unsplash

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