A Grant-Writer Responds

Zack Leighton wrote me yesterday to address some of the items I brought up in the FACTOR post. Worth a read for sure.

“For the sake of all those questions, I pointed out a few things that I didn’t entirely agree with. Not at all as a jab but more to ease some minds and perhaps give a new angle. To be honest, I am actually one of the grant writers behind some of those top success stories until I left my last employer.”

Zack posted the following on his Facebook wall:

Anyone interested in what’s happening on the FACTOR frontier should read this but there are a few things to consider:

1. FACTOR has drastically changed their entire system including new portals, new program guidelines, changes to eligibility and a complete cut to some of their largest programs including DBA (The Direct Board Approval Sound Recording Program) status. A program that arguably was swayed in the favour of major artists and labels.

2. You do not need to match the most of FACTOR’s grants in order to have a successful budget. Typically these grants supplement 75% of total budget up to a certain amount.

3. This article largely discounts that many of the labels and artists it is pointing fingers at continuously apply after disapproval. It also does not present non-approval ratings in a clear variance.

4. This article only refers to FACTOR and does in some ways allude to the idea that it is Canada’s only and main granting organization. We have arts councils, MIAs, Starmaker, OMDC, travel and tourism boards, SOCAN – the list goes on. FACTORs mandate IS to support independent musicians as much as it is to support major artist and companies. Largely their focus is to stimulate commercially viable artistic growth for economic value.

5. FACTOR puts heavy emphasis on sales, distribution, soundscan numbers etc because they are indeed funding mainly commercially viable artists and active for profit companies. That being said, FACTOR recognized distribution is not at all unattainable for independent artists. Indie Pool offers it and many artists have been successful using IPs service for FACTOR

6. The main FACTOR board may be made of executives that in the past have been incredibly successful with FACTOR but the jury process remains open to the public. Conflict of interest is taken seriously and without DBA it makes matters even more clean cut. Using the geographical distance basis as a signal of corruption is a moot point given that a large portion of Canada’s industry is based in Toronto. CCA is based in Ottawa and hands out a ton of money to Toronto artists.

7. Like all of the granting agencies, FACTOR is a difficult process and while the new rating system is also convoluted, it’s still necessary. Under the flashy exterior, these are in essence government documents leading to a potential investment in art, culture and the economy. It takes time and serious consideration on behalf of the applicant. All requirements are stated and if there is any confusion, I’ve personally never had an issue that can’t be resolved or at least addressed.

Some of the solutions in this article are notable. I think there is room for serious revision within FACTOR. This article is fairly well laid out and written and I believe the writer has done his research but there are still many holes. Musicians and business owners alike can definitely learn from this – worth a read.


I’ve been pouring over the new FACTOR program requirements to follow up the number one critique of my FACTOR post, namely “FACTOR just changed, so all of this is a waste of time. Things will be 100% better now.” Which I think will be highly unlikely.

Thanks for the thoughtful response Zack!

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