To mark the publication of Musicaction’s annual report, Paroles & Musique took a look at the over-arching orientation of an organization that, since 1985, has been devoted to the development and promotion of Canada’s Francophone music.  To better understand how Musicaction is adapting to the economic and social changes that are affecting society as a whole and their impact on the music business, we met with General Manager, Louise Chenail.

Louise Chenail, Musicaction

Louise Chenail of Musicaction

From the get-go, Chenail describes herself as an octopus, able to juggle with several ideas at once. This intellectual agility comes as no surprise, from a woman who’s worked for Musicaction since 1997, in various roles, before heading it (since 2011). If she generally keeps a low profile in the media, it’s not out of modesty, but rather out of respect for the work of a team whose passion and skills she never hesitates to praise.

“There’s a reason why we decided to present our org chart as a circle,” says Chenail. “Imagine it’s like a solar system where the recipient is at the centre, surrounded by front-line people, the analysts, who carry out the brunt of the work. Administrative people like myself are there to support them, but now more than ever, our goal is to have boots on the ground to directly address the needs of those recipients. I’m obsessed with making our programs accessible to as many people as possible, and I want us to deploy strategies that directly serve the creative process.”

After a couple of turbulent years during which it was called upon to distribute emergency and recovery funds in the exceptional context of the pandemic, Musicaction intends to continue the modernization drive that it began in 2020. It was a necessary step, especially since falling revenues have forced the organization to cut 10 percent of its program commitments for the year 2023.

Musicaction is still able to fulfill its primary mandate of supporting artists, and the music industry, while continuing to contribute to society as a whole. In the opening remarks of the recent annual report, the organization’s Chairman of the Board, Pierre Rodrigue, describes it as a “driver of change,” capable of taking part in major social movements. Ambitious? On the contrary, Louise Chenail firmly believes that by embracing this committed approach, Musicaction can better serve creators.

An good example of this kind of commitment is the parental support measures introduced a few years ago. Initially designed for female artists, the program was extended to fathers, and then to all professionals in the field, whether musicians or corporate employees.

“Our desire to provide the best possible representation for all our users has led us to ponder such major issues. That’s what led us to gender parity on our juries, for example,” says Chenail. This isn’t just window-dressing to make the organization look good, but rather, the culmination of in-depth reflection, informed by the realities of the business. “That’s why we got involved in the report on women in the French-Canadian music industry, led by Joëlle Bissonette,” adds the executive. “It was an important step for us, because not only did it highlight specific hurdles faced by women, the report also proposed possible solutions.”

Musication, Project CrescendoObviously, without concrete action, such noble intentions would simply drown in rhetoric. That’s why Chenail enthusiastically mentions the Crescendo project that supports women entrepreneurs, by pairing them up with established mentors in the music industry. It was based on ideas tested by Musicaction in a program designed for Indigenous communities – one that had excellent results.

“One of the most beautiful examples is Makusham,” says Chenail. “Initially, it was a studio, but now it’s the most important record label established in an Indigenous community. It’s positive for those communities, but it’s beneficial for the whole industry, because it’s enriched by a better dissemination of the work of these creators.”

Fully conscious, it would be futile to blindly sprinkle dollars left and right. Chenail constantly stresses the importance of being on the ground to take into account the real needs of the community. “It goes beyond simple support: it’s a real dialogue between us and the recipients,” she explains. “Before we did anything, we talked with the people in those communities, and evaluated what their needs were. After that, our staff and program mentors received training in Indigenous entrepreneurship, to help us tailor our interventions.”

Kanen, Musicaction


Among the artists who’ve benefitted from this commitment and support is Kanen, whose star has been on the rise over 2023, notably by being named the Révélation Radio-Canada, among other accolades. The Innu artist, originally from the community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, is a perfect example of Musicaction’s multi-faceted approach. Not only has she benefited from individual support as an artist, but her label, Musique Nomade, is also supported by the organization through collective programs.

“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but these are just the first steps,” says Chenail. “We’re aware of the specifics of our various clienteles, and if we want to continue to move forward and do more, we need to listen to them and learn from their experiences.”

Beyond its support for the creation of new music, Musicaction also contributes to the development of an ecosystem that fosters the emergence of new talent. After all, versatility is in its DNA, since its founders – broadcasters, ADISQ, and SPACQ – all represent different segments of the music industry, from creators to entrepreneurs.

“The diversity of our clientele is fundamental to us,” says Chenail. “We support emerging artists, but also emerging entrepreneurs. Obviously, artists are at the heart of what we do, and I’m extremely proud of the direct support provided to songwriters (almost $900,000 over the past year), because it’s a recognition of the raw material of our industry.”

This is good news for artists, who, in an all-too-often uncertain economic climate, will continue to benefit from the financial support of an organization that sees itself as a partner rather than an ATM. “We’re constantly surveying our clientele and adapting our practices to remain as relevant as we need to be,” says Chenail. “Modernization isn’t something we work on sporadically: it’s an ongoing process.”

The 2023 edition of the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival took place under a radiant sun over three days of festivities, from Aug. 4 to 6, at Montréal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau. This year’s 16th annual event broke attendance records, with 155,000 revelers turning out to sing, dance, and be wowed but the star-studded lineup, one that included a strong contingent of SOCAN members from Québec and Canada. SOCAN proudly hosted the opening cocktail party on Aug. 3, and was on hand all weekend to cheer on its members, and capture their stellar performances in pictures. Here’s a selection of some of the best images by our photographer 

Meg Symsyk is on a mission.

Since she came aboard as the President and CEO of FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings) during the pandemic, Symsyk has strived to ensure that the supportive programs her organization subsidizes are accompanied by a new mandate: flexibility.

“Couldn’t have done it without FACTOR”

There’s  certainly no shortage of SOCAN members who’ve been assisted by FACTOR, including  Charlotte Cardin, A Tribe called Red, Alvvays, Cadence Weapon, Charlotte Day Wilson, and countless more. As part of its #FACTORfunded campaign – to show the successes of artists and groups whom the organization has supported – FACTOR transparently shares a list of grant recipients for the past two years. FACTOR has proven invaluable to many SOCAN members,  who can testify to how important it’s been, and continues to be, to their careers.



For example, PUP singer and guitarist Stefan Babcock says FACTOR has been an indispensable ally, especially during the band’s formative years. “They’ve been a massive help, especially when we were starting out,” says Babcock. “We did our first record without the help of a label, and there’s no way we could have made the record that we made without FACTOR money. The tour support was  also massive for us. We’ve always been a band that tours a ton. Visits to the U.S. and Australia, and all of those early tours, wouldn’t have been feasible without FACTOR’s help. All those markets are now profitable for us.”

Neon Dreams

Neon Dreams

For another example, Neon Dreams drummer Adrian Morris echoes Babcock’s sentiment. “FACTOR has given us the ability to do a lot of the things we might not have been able to without their support,” he explains. “We had a lot of success in South Africa, and I don’t think we would have been able to get over there without the support from FACTOR, and everything they do for us.  When we’ve gone to radio and done proper PR campaigns, FACTOR has been able to support and fund us.”

“The last three years have really changed from what FACTOR was doing,” Symsyk explains. “We’ve been evolving and modernizing.”

That’s especially good news for SOCAN member songwriters and music publishers. Programs on the table include one for Songwriter Development, which offers 75 percent of a maximum $2,000 toward covering expenses for songwriting initiatives, such as domestic or international travel involving co-writing sessions, songwriting camps, workshops, trips and eligible trips.

Some programs for music companies cover publishers, who can receive 50 percent of the total eligible budget, to a maximum of $7,500 for Level 2,  and $20,000 for Level 3  and Level 4 applicant companies, for business travel and songwriter support. There’s financial help available for the qualified.

“When it comes to the songwriters,” says Symsyk, “there’s a great line that publishers like to use – and I’d reiterate it to the [FACTOR] staff – that ‘songs travel around the world, and they can be written by Canadians, and we want to support those, too.’ So, whether it’s a Canadian artist who wrote that song and somebody else was covering it,  or they’re doing it themselves, these are the programs that I want to make sure that we have for Canadian songwriters: the money, or the resources, to go to that songwriting camp in L.A.,  and write that next song for a name, A-List artist.”

She admits that because the Songwriter Development program was launched the year the pandemic hit, it’s been somewhat under-subscribed since its inception. However, it’s growing again, now that travel restrictions have loosened. Because of the changes in travel, while some FACTOR programs have somewhat concrete submission cut-offs, the Songwriter Development Program offers a rolling deadline: one can apply for the subsidy even the day before they travel.

“There are many pathways to success in music, and our programs need to be more flexible and reactive, so that the opportunities are there for which people can apply, without having to worry about deadlines,” says Symsyk. “If a rule exists that doesn’t make sense, I go to the board and get the rule changed.”

She credits her industry experience – Symsyk has worked for both major and indie labels, in publicity, in management, and as a global tour manager – for her ability to see things from a creator and performer perspective. “When people come to me with programs and issues, I’m looking at it from their point of view,” she says.

“We also have a new program we just launched, called the Juried Sound Recording: Single/EP program, which used to be just for albums. That was our No. 1 most subscribed program, but only 10% of applicants were really getting through.  Now, some genres are very single-driven,  and so, evolving with the way people are currently consuming music, we now have album and single programs. So, if you’re in hip-hop or electronic dance, and you’re not looking for full album support, you’re just looking for a song or an EP, now there’s a program for you that works.”

Symsyk says the good news about the $10 million allotted for these juried programs, is that the recipient  can re-direct some of those dollars into marketing support or other expenses. “We have this program that’s $25K for a single EP, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend all of it,” she says.  “If you only want to spend $10K, then we’ll meet with you the 75 percent of your eligible expenses for that. And if you were a hip-hop artist and you decided you wanted to  spend the majority of your money on a feature, and then some Instagram/TikTok/Spotify marquee items for marketing, that’s what you can use your money on.

How Bill C-11 will help FACTOR fund Canadian music

Meg Symsyk, FACTOR

Meg Symsyk of FACTOR

Meg Symsyk thinks the passage of Bill C-11– the Online Streaming Act, which ensures that for digital media will contribute a small percentage of their Canadian revenues to help support and develop Canadian talent – will be rewarding for Canadian culture.

“Currently, the Private Broadcasters pay as part of their CRTC licenses, and a small percentage goes into Canadian Heritage, and that flows through different programs,” says Symsyk. “One of them happens to be music, towards the creation of, and sponsoring of, emerging talent.

“So, when you look at the principles of why that was set up, for over 40 years that money has flowed that way. And when you think about how the music industry has evolved, it used to be that that money would flow to FACTOR. We’d make new records that were Canadian, so radio stations could play them for CanCon, and the marketing dollars that [the grant recipients] got were predominantly used to buy advertising, in places like NOW magazine or a CFNY ad or something.

“Now, people are buying ads on Facebook, YouTube – and the money’s leaving the [music] ecosystem. They’re still part of the system; they’re just not contributing into it. We’re looking at percentages of their revenues generated – a small sliver going back into supporting Canadian talent that they’re promoting here – so this is just flowing all the way around to support the Canadian talent, which we want on the media outlets.

“I think it’s a positive, and while there’s been some resistance, when people start seeing the results, [that resistance] isn’t going to be seen on the ground.”

“If you’re an electronic artist and you don’t want to use any of your own money on recording because you have a home studio, you can use your money to put all of your focus on the marketing. Or, if you’re a folk artist and you need to put all your money into tour support for travel, accommodation, gas, and inflation, then you can use your money there.

“By opening this up, we’re going to see much more success from genres that traditionally haven’t been supported, like hip-hop and R&B. Traditionally, the metrics that were used to adjudicate a lot of these applications was based on radio airplay and touring. We want to make sure… that we’re not limiting success in certain genres because of the way we run the program.”

Since the focus of the industry has shifted from sales to streaming, FACTOR’s mandate has evolved from systemic grants to career investment, with the financial terms heavily favouring the approved recipient, be they a songwriter or an artist.

“The physical market is almost at a place where it’s vinyl and merch for bands – more of a branding exercise,” Symsyk explains. “The only thing you have to pay back is, if we advance you something and you don’t come back with enough eligible expensesWe’re only greenlighting projects that traditionally and continually  are showing growth.  So, if somebody applied for a JSR [Juried Sound Recording] this year,  got it, and then tried to apply again in two years but did not have the metrics from the funding that we gave, we’d be asking questions, just like any investor: Was it a  good investment? Did they connect with their audience?

“We’re investing, along with the rights owner – whether that’s the artist themselves, the company, the manager, the label, or the publisher.”

So, that mission? It’s continuously being accomplished, every day.