Funding to Ontario Music Fund Cut in Half as Part of Government's Drive to 'Restore Accountability'

Getty Images
Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative (PC) government has done little to explain the significant cut in funding to The Ontario Music Fund from $15 million (USD $11.19M) to $7 million (USD $5.22M), other than political rhetoric.

The fund, administered through Ontario Creates (formerly the Ontario Media Development Corporation), gives out tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars through grants to Ontario-based music companies (labels, publishers, managers, artist entrepreneurs, promoters, presenters, and booking agents), and music industry trade, service, event and training organizations.

During the 2017-18 period, for example, Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc. received (CAD dollars) $400,000; Universal Music Canada Inc. $800,000; and Warner Music Canada Co. $550,000; Arts & Crafts Productions Inc, $470,000; Black Box Recordings $225,000; Coalition Music $100,000; Cowboy Junkies Inc. $25,000; Arkells Music Inc. $40,000; along with dozens more.

A prepared statement was emailed to Billboard after questions were sent to assistant deputy minister, Kevin Finnert, who forwarded the request on until it made its way to Brett Weltman, press secretary, Office of the Hon. Michael Tibollo Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

His response to whether the cuts were a budget necessity or based on analysis of the recipients that receive the funding, began in a politicaly partisan tone.

"After 15 years of a reckless, dishonest, and out of touch Liberal government, the people of Ontario voted for change," he said. "For the past nine months, we have worked to restore accountability, sustainably and trust in Ontario's finances. In our recent budget, we are keeping our promises to the people of Ontario, and putting the province back on a path to balance, so that we can protect what matters most to Ontarians.

"Our government for the people is working to strengthen Ontario's culture sector, including the recording and live music industries. For 2019/2020, we will be investing almost $100 million into Ontario's arts sector," it continued. "This investment will see the continuation of various grant programs that will support artists, musicians, and organizations in communities across the province.

"We are taking real action to make it easier for artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs to generate positive returns on investment, and create new opportunities for them to achieve success. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders in the culture sector, so we can continue to deliver on our promise to respect taxpayer dollars, and ensure that we are providing value for money in Ontario's culture sector."

Billboard responded with numerous questions, re-sent over several days, but received no response.  

Members of the Canadian Independent Music Association(CIMA) received a notice this month alerting them to the change in the budget.

"The Ontario Government released its annual Budget last week, and it has profound impacts on the Ontario Music Fund (OMF)," it read. "As a result of Ontario government cutbacks contained in the budget, the Ontario Music Fund will be reduced to $7 million per year, down from a $15 million annual fund.

"The Government and Ontario Creates will be organizing industry consultations in the coming weeks and months to obtain our collective input on how the OMF should be ‘modernized' going forward. CIMA will continue to be actively engaged with the government and Ontario Creates as these consultations unfold, to ensure that our members' voices will be heard and to help shape what the new program should look like. More information will be shared as the situation develops."

CIMA president Stuart Johnson told Billboard he received a phone call about the changes on April 12. "We have no information regarding the timing or the details of the consultations, which will be jointly conducted by Ontario Creates and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. We are awaiting those details so we know how and when we will be engaging with OC and the ministry. I wish we did have more information."