NAC and Facebook fund online music performances

Jim Cuddy will kick off the CanadaPerforms online performance series.

The National Arts Centre and Facebook Canada have announced a $100,000 fund to bankroll artists fees for home-based online performances. 

The aim of the funding is to ease the financial strain faced by performers affected by closed venues and cancelled tours in Canada caused by the COVID-19 panedemic.

Facebook Canada will supply the cash and the NAC will select and co-ordinated the online performances. 

“As Canadians make profound and rapid shifts in how we live our lives, we recognize the challenges that come with distancing and isolation. Music, dance and theatre have an enduring power to comfort, to inspire, to lift our spirits. Equally, performers thrive on their relationship with audiences. In this challenging time, artist and audience, indeed all of us, need each other more than ever. The National Arts Centre, in partnership with Facebook, hopes this initiative helps,” said Christopher Deacon, president and CEO of the National Arts Centre in a media release.

Starting today the NAC will receive and administer applications from artists. NAC staff will select about 100 artists who will then stream a 45 to 60 minute online performance. The program will run until March 31. Selected performances will also be shared on the NAC’s Facebook page discoverable by searching #CanadaPerforms.

“We believe Facebook Canada has to do something to directly support artists at this difficult time. We hope the Facebook-National Arts Centre COVID-19 Fund for Performing Artists will do just that. We can’t wait to watch artists offer those live performances online to Canadians,” said Kevin Chan, who is the global director and head of public policy for Facebook Canada, in the release.

The first performance at #CanadaPerforms will happen at 2 p.m. ET March 19 and feature Blue Rodeo star Jim Cuddy with his sons Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley and Blue Rodeo guitarist Colin Cripps. The four will perform in a studio and stay 1.5 metres apart. In the coming days, Canadian artists such as Serena Ryder, William Prince, Irish Mythen, Erin Costelo, and Whitehorse will share online performances. Other performances will be announced as they are selected and confirmed to perform, the NAC says.

“We hope #CanadaPerforms will amplify a movement already started with more and more artists turning to online platforms to find audiences, and provide those artists some much needed financial support until they can get up again on stage in front of a live audience,” said Heather Gibson, the NAC’s executive producer of variety and popular music.

Gibson told ARTSFILE the NAC and Facebook are taking a wait and see attitude on the program running past March 31.

“We’ll work with Facebook, but we would love to see it extended if it’s well received and gets traction,” she said in an email.

She said she believed “100 professional touring artists receiving $1000 quickly is a great start to help release some of the immediate pressure they are feeling.  I hope that number can grow but we will deal with that in the coming days.”

Facebook made the approach to the NAC, “and said they wanted to get money into the hands of artists, quickly, and could we help,” Gibson said. “They had seen stories in the media about the strain and effect COVID was having on touring, festivals, performances, and concerts. We’ve worked together to develop this in about 48 hours.”

To apply performing artists alone or as an ensemble (less than 10 people) should write the NAC at CanadaPerforms@nac-cna.ca, provide their name, a description of their performance, when they wish to share or livestream and on what platform. The NAC will select fund recipients in consultation with industry leaders. The NAC will announce online performances on its Facebook page.

“Any Canadian professional touring artist is encouraged to apply regardless of genre or discipline. If they have a live performance from their home they would like to stream, we will consider it,” Gibson said.

The NAC says it will share daily content, including NAC podcasts, past NAC Orchestra recordings and videos and suggested online theatre, dance and music performances on social media. NAC Orchestra musicians will also offer individual performances daily.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.