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.