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Music money to dry up

The Canadian Music Fund will be infused with new cash come April 2010. But it will also be pruned of the Canadian Musical Diversity program.

The restructuring, announced in July, will include an extra $9.85 million a year, bumping the fund’s budget to $27.6 million until 2014. But it eliminates funding to the Canadian Musical Diversity program.

This program has helped pay for the production and distribution of specialized non-commercial music, like jazz, folk and classical.

The Government of Canada said the changes will protect the financial stability and digital shift of Canada’s arts and culture sector.

Eligible recipients are Canadian artists, ensembles or bands, independent record producers, incorporated record companies and record distribution companies.

Heritage Canada said the changes will make more money available to commercial artists with international recognition.

The money will help increase the visibility of Canadian music on the Internet and in international markets, James Moore, minister of Canadian heritage and official languages said in July, when he announced the decision.

“The music industry generates billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity every year. Our government is proud to offer greater stability in these uncertain economic times by stabilizing resources dedicated to Canadian music, while helping maintain thousands of jobs,” Moore said.

But local industry leaders are not confident that the changes will be for the best.

“The council is supposed to take care of people that are valuable to the culture, hugely valuable, like classical and jazz,” said Kasia Morrison, communications director at JazzEast, the non-profit group that organizes the Atlantic Jazz Festival.

“By removing money for specialized records, they’ve given up whatsoever on any kind of way for local musicians to get their music out.”

Nova Scotia is well known for its diverse music industry. Contemporary folk artists in the province still borrow liberally from Celtic and Scottish musical traditions.

The province has produced major commercial artists such as the Rita McNeil, the Rankin Family and Joel Plaskett. The large student population and concentration of bars in Halifax also supports a vibrant independent scene.

“It’s probably one of the most important fundamental programs we have in Canada for Music,” said Ken MacKay, president of the Atlantic Federation of Musicians, about the Diversity Fund.

“If you’re a growing band, you go for anything you can get, and a lot of those bands could use that money when they’re trying to make a name for themselves,” said MacKay.

Moore said the changes to the fund were made in consultation with musicians and producers.

But Adam Fine, the former executive director of JazzEast, said the musicians he knows were in unanimous opposition to cutting the program.

“I can’t imagine any musician would be in support of that decision,” he said.

Fine doesn’t think the cuts will end any careers but said it will make things harder for independent musicians.

“Budgets are going to be considerably smaller,” Fine said. “You’re not going to see people spending $10,000 on a record.”

“You’re going to see musicians taking more risks on themselves,” he said. “Musicians always have ways of getting projects made.”

Halifax musician Paul Cram has applied for and received money from the program.

“I can’t apply any more,” he says. “I usually apply to make records.”

His group, the Paul Cram Quintet, made a record in 2001 and played the Jazz Agosto Festival in Lisbon. They also toured Canada.

“Without that record that would have been rather difficult,” he says.

“That particular program is very valuable in terms of creating a Canadian profile abroad.”

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