What is a music grant?
Once a music grant is awarded, it is paid out to and controlled by the artist. Grants can be spent on a number of activities around a project, ranging from production and recording to video production, touring 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: 1) they help the artist build a career and generate more income, while 2) 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?
Depending on the program, an artist that is awarded 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 it 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.
Remember – music grants must be spent within the local economy depending on where you are located and what the organization allows.
For example, FACTOR funds projects across Canada and allows for expenses to originate anywhere in Canada exclusively. Ontario Arts Council, however, only allows for expenses from Ontario. Therefore, with an OAC grant, I couldn’t hire someone in British Columbia to work on my project. However, if I used a FACTOR grant instead, I could.
In general, successful applicants can’t pay individuals or service providers that are non-Canadians with grant funding unless given permission by the organization (which is rare).
For example, you could hire and pay myself, a fellow Canadian, to produce your project – but you couldn’t hire an American producer to do the same using the grant funding.
You could still technically hire a non-Canadian – but organizations won’t recognize that expense as eligible and it would therefore have to come out of your own pocket.
Where do I find music grants?
Music grants are actually not hard to find – but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to win.
Your results will vary based on your location as some places have more funding available than others. Certain geographies also have pop-up grants – that 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.
If you win a grant, organizations will request your social insurance number before depositing the money into your account as a grant is considered taxable income. After being awarded one, you will receive a T4A document to file with your annual tax return.
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 may need to score 90% or higher to get funded. Other times you may only need a 75%. Much of it boils down to competition and how much funding is available for that deadline.
Can a music grant help improve my career?
Absolutely. It’s free money that has actually been created to invest in and help further your career.
Grant organizations want to fund creators and help them make better music while reaching more people. They ultimately 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.
Can I pay myself with a music grant?
Yes – I talk about some of these programs at length in a recent YouTube video called Grant Programs That Pay You To Make Music:
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 you have to pay back to the organization. That defeats the purpose of getting the grant in the first place – 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’ll turn in the materials you’ve created (album audio, photos, videos, artwork, branding), a written report and supporting financial documents of how you spent the money you were awarded. Financial documents are typically invoices and proof-of-payment receipts to service providers you used during the project.
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. But maybe not. Working with a grant writer does not guarantee you will get funded.
While grant writers are experienced with the grant writing process, they are also up against the fierce competition of other applications and the limitations of how many projects an organization will be able to fund in a given period.
Writing grant applications requires a number of skills such as copywriting, project management and meticulous organization, but still requires talent on the artist’s behalf as the music that’s submitted decides the fate of the application.
You can have an amazing grant application but a mediocre song will result in the application getting rejected. A good song with a mediocre application unfortunately wont fare much 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. It will likely be better that you learn how to apply on your own.
However, if you’re an established artist with a proven track record and a lot going on, a grant writer may be a worthy investment to save you time and win you money in the long run.
How To Apply To Canadian Music Grants
If you are a music creator in Canada, you should take advantage of this amazing funding opportunity that’s available to us.
If you want to learn how to apply to a Canadian music grant step-by-step while seeing a bunch of winning grant application examples from FACTOR and Ontario Arts Council, you should check out our online grant writing course.
In the course I walk you through the overall grant writing process, show you every possible example of support materials you’ll need, and even show you grant applications that won over $10,000 in funding as examples. There is nothing else like it on the market and I’m offering a money-back guarantee to prove it.
Taking the course once could get you funded for life. Click below to learn more or register today.