Roadmap to the Music Industry:
Five Things Musicians Should Know About Music Grant Applications by Nat Jay
As a recording artist in Canada, you are fortunate to have strong financial support from a number of funding bodies to help further your recording, marketing, and touring efforts. But what do you need to know before spending time filling in every application you see?
Recording artist and multi-grant recipient Nat Jay outlines five things everyone should do before applying for a music grant….
1. READ UP
The first thing to do when starting a grant application is READ THE GUIDELINES. It tells you about the grant, who is eligible, what costs are eligible, what to include in your application, how much you can ask for, when to expect your results, how your application is being evaluated, etc. It basically tells you everything you need to know to create a strong (and hopefully successful) application. It’s also great to refer back to throughout the application process to make sure you’re on the right track. This is a great habit to develop right off the bat as it becomes even more vital if you receive the grant and have to adhere to the very specific completion guidelines.
a. A band I work with wanted to apply for a travel grant, but 5 minutes of reading the guidelines revealed they were not eligible, as they had already received this grant within the fiscal year. This saved a lot of time and effort for no reason and saved them a grant writer fee.
b. A band I wrote an application for received the grant, but they failed to read the completion guidelines about how much they could pay themselves, and ended up having to pay back the majority of the grant after the money was already spent.
2. PLAN TO PLAN
Grant writing is time consuming, especially good grant writing. Whether you’re going it alone or working with a grant writer, make sure you allow lots of time to get a good understanding of the requirements of the application and get everything together with some time to spare. If you’re a grant virgin, give yourself even more time, as you’ll be creating all the supporting documents from scratch. Depending on the complexity of the grant, allow 1-2 months in advance of the deadline. Grant writers may need even more notice (2-3 months) so they can meet the needs of several different clients for the same deadline.
3. SUPPORT YOUR CAUSE
The most important part of your application is, well, every part. That means you need to put real effort into your supporting documents. Making sure you have an understanding of what supporting documents are required by doing #1 (Reading the Guidelines), will also help you do #2 (Planning). Funny how that works, isn’t it? While each application may vary slightly, some of the most common supporting documents include: artist bio, professional photo, comprehensive marketing plan, press quotes, awards and achievements, 1-2 letters of support from significant industry pros, goals statement, videos, 1-2 demos. Recording grants may also ask for a producer bio and travel grants will want show confirmations and an itinerary. Many applications require you to complete a budget as well. Sound like lots of work? It is! But it’s completely manageable with the right info and timeline.
4. SAVE UP
Most grants in Canada are meant to support artists who are already putting some capital into their project. This means the grant is considered a contribution to your project and you are expected to contribute a percentage as well in order to receive those funds. For example, FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings) will contribute a maximum of 75% to your project, so if they give you $1,500, you are required to contribute $500 as well. And they will check this, as you’ll be required to submit both an invoice and proof of payment for every transaction you make in relation to the project.
5. GET ONLINE
One of the first things jurors do when reviewing an application is look at an artist’s website, as it can immediately demonstrate several things: Does the artist take their career seriously? Are they an active artist? Do they have interesting things going on? Do they have a release history? With myriad site building tools out there (Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, Wordpress, etc.), and some even specifically for musicians (Bandzoogle), there really isn’t an excuse for someone not to have even the simplest of websites. If you feel like you don’t have enough of the basic info to fill a website (bio, photos, demos, live video), the reality is you likely aren’t ready to apply for a grant. But if you do have the info, go forth and build! And if you’re applying for a grant, make sure to include links to your social media and keep all info on the site up-to-date, especially during those evaluation months where jurors will be nosing around.
In addition to these five tips from Nat Jay, make sure that you’re a member of your provincial Music Industry Association! Not only do they facilitate a number of funding programs within your province, but are also your resource to answer questions and provide knowledge to help you achieve success.
Nat Jay is a Canadian singer/songwriter, recording artist, and consultant who has written many successful grant applications for herself and other artists in Sound Recording, Touring, Showcasing, and Marketing.