What is a music grant?
A music grant is a source of funding, usually from the government and other corporate businesses, which is made available to artists and creators in order to help them further their career.
Once a grant is awarded, it is controlled by the artist and may be invested into a number of projects and activities, ranging from production and recording to video creation and marketing.
The main goal of a music grant is to stimulate the arts sector that they fund. Music grants often have to be spent in the geography they originate from which has the benefit of stimulating the local economy as well. For example, a FACTOR Artist Development grant may only be spent on expenses originating from Canada.
Grants therefore have a double benefit. They help the artist build a career and generate more income, while also distributing the money back into the local economy.
Which organizations fund music grants?
Grants vary at every level – ranging from local, to provincial, to national.
For example, some cities have their own governments that give away grants at a local level. I’m based in Toronto – so an example of that would be the Toronto Arts Council. Only Torontonians may apply to grants from this organization.
A step up from that would be provincial grants. Many provinces in Canada have their own agencies that reward grants to creators. An example of this is the Ontario Arts Council.
As both a Torontonian, and therefore an Ontarian, I can apply to this grant organization’s funding programs, as can others from across the province in places like Ottawa and Thunder Bay. Someone from British Columbia, however, is not eligible to apply for funding from the OAC.
Another level up is the national grants. This is funding available to creators across the whole country, regardless of their exact location. Only a handful of organizations do this, such as FACTOR and Canada Council for the Arts. Because these grants fund an entire nation, getting the funding can be more competitive.
What types of projects do music grants fund?
Grants can fund a number of projects and relevant activities such as:
- EP & Full Album Recording Projects
- Music Video Projects
- Marketing a Single, EP or Album Project
- Tour Support
- Artist Development
What types of activities can I pay for using a grant?
An artist that is rewarded a music grant can use the funding to:
- Pay for recording studio rental
- Hire an engineer for recording, mixing and mastering
- Pay a producer for instrumental production and beats
- Pay a session musician for music services
- Hire a marketing and PR firm to oversee a release
- Pay for physical and digital advertising campaigns
- Hire a director and team to shoot and edit a music video or film
- Attend a conference
- Partake in an artist residency abroad
- And much more
Before spending any money on a project, confirm what you are eligible to spend the funding on based on the grant program. Some grants are particular and may not allow for spending related to certain activities such as production/recording, or travel.
Where do I find music grants?
Your results will vary based on your location as some places have more funding available than others. Certain geographies also have pop-up grants – this is funding that isn’t consistently or regularly available.
I generally spend time doing online research before applying to grants, especially around search terms such as:
[YOUR CITY] MUSIC GRANTS
[YOUR STATE/PROVINCE] MUSIC GRANTS
[YOUR COUNTRY] MUSIC GRANTS
By doing your own research around the above, you can compile a list of grant organizations and potential funding programs that you are qualified for.
Once you have brainstormed a master list, you can dig deeper and begin applying to each funding program.
How much funding can I get from a music grant?
Some grants can provide a few hundred dollars to attend a songwriting workshop, while others can go into well over $100,000 if you are a more established artist looking for additional support. Average recording project grants range from $2,000 to $25,000 depending on album length.
Do I have to contribute anything to keep the grant?
Sometimes, yes. Many grant organizations want the artists they are funding to contribute a certain percentage of a grant’s total in order to reward them with funding.
For example, FACTOR’s Artist Development program will fund up to 75% of a project, up to a total of $2,000.
This means FACTOR will give you a maximum of $2,000 which represents 75% of a project’s budget, leaving the other 25% (or $667 according to FACTOR) to be spent out of an artist’s own pocket. This is to ensure the artist is also invested in their own project and will see it through to the end.
Keeping the above example – a project’s total spend should be at least $2,667- with $2,000 coming from FACTOR, the other $667 coming from the artist. You would display this during the completion part of a grant (more on completing grants later).
How do I apply for a music grant?
Every grant organization handles applications differently. Some are as simple as creating a profile and applying instantly – others may require multiple profiles, organization approval and longer wait-times before applying.
Every grant organization will require proof of citizenship or residency to ensure they are funding the projects that they’re supposed to be geographically.
Read the eligibility of a grant program before applying to better understand what you need in order to proceed with the application.
How do organizations review my grant application?
Most grant organizations operate with a jury system.
This means there are many people from the music industry who work with the organization to review and grade grant applications. They listen to the music, they read the plan, and if they like what you show them, they’ll give you a good rating.
After an application has been reviewed multiple times by a number of jurors, a grant will be awarded an average score. Once all grants are reviewed, the top percentile of grants will be funded based on how much money is available.
The number of grants, and the necessary score to be funded varies based on the season. Sometimes you need to get a 90% or higher to get funded. Sometimes you only need a 75%. Much of it boils down to competition and how much funding is available.
Can a music grant help improve my career?
Absolutely. It’s “free” money that has actually been created to help you further your career.
Grant organizations want to fund creators and help them make better music while reaching more people. They want success stories to come from their funding.
Furthermore, a grant can help so many different areas of your career based on what you need.
Have a lot of music but no music videos? Get funding for a music video.
Have a lot of songs written and demos recorded but finally need to track the whole album properly? Get funding to record an album.
Recorded a whole album but can’t afford the mixing and mastering yet? Apply for funding to hire a dope mixing and mastering engineer.
Project done but need some marketing dollars to push it out to the masses? Get a grant and get those ads out there.
Plus- if you have this opportunity, you should seize it. Many countries don’t even have running water, let alone free funding for the arts.
If my application is successful, how does the grant organization know I spent the money properly?
Getting a grant is a two-part process.
The first part is applying and actually securing the funding. This is what we tend to focus on when it comes to getting grants. During this step, you would outline how you’d spend the money if your application is successful.
The second part is completing the grant and actually being able to keep it.
If you fail to do the second part, your grant becomes a loan. That defeats the purpose of getting the grant – we could’ve just gone to the bank if we wanted to pay interest.
Completing a grant happens after you’ve done everything you set out to do in your project. During this stage you turn in the materials you’ve created (album audio, videos, artwork), a written reportand supporting financial documents of how you spent the money you were awarded. Financial documents are typically invoices and proof-of-payment receipts.
If you didn’t spend the money like you said you would during the first part, and don’t properly account for it with proof– you can be in trouble. It’s important to be organized and responsible throughout the entire process for that reason.
Should I hire a grant writer to apply for a grant on my behalf?
Maybe. Working with a grant writer does not guarantee you will get funded. While they are experienced with the grant writing process and systems, they are also up against fierce competition of other application and the limitations of a grant organization’s budget.
In spite of that, a grant writer may be more likely to win a grant for you, especially if you aren’t a strong writer or don’t want to learn about the application process.
Writing grant applications requires a number of skills such as copywriting and sales, but still requires talent on the artist’s behalf as the music ultimately helps decide the fate of the application.
You can have an amazing grant application but a horrible song will result in the application getting rejected. A good song with a horrible application unfortunately wont fare any better.
You need both the application and music to be strong in order to secure funding.
Another consideration is that a grant writer will want to be compensated up-front regardless of the outcome. If the application is rejected, the money you paid to the grant writer doesn’t magically come back. They put time and energy into your application so it’s understandable that they would keep it.
It’s more important to manage personal expectations when working with a grant writer. First time applicants who are early on in their career should tread very carefully.
If you are in Canada, or another country that offers grant programs to its citizens – take advantage of this funding opportunity.
Music grants provide you with the resources you need to create a compelling project that you can leverage to generate income for yourself later.
The only prerequisite is your time and effort spent researching and applying to the program. A few hours of that may equal enough funding to bring your ideas to life, and turn you into a superstar.