Saturday, November 11, 2006

I Take Money from The Man, and There Ain't Nothin' Wrong with That

I rolled out of bed today and saw this photo of Figurines on The New York Times home page. The caption for the photo read: "The Figurines, in New York as part of a tour partly financed by the Danish government, in front of the United Nations last week." And the story blurb read: "Countries from Sweden to Australia are turning to an unlikely diplomatic tool: scruffy indie rockers."

The article discusses subsidies that various governments give to bands in the hopes that the success of the bands will boost the international profiles of their countries. One of those countries is Canada. I'd read before that bands like Broken Social Scene and Stars take advantage of grants from the Canadian government. I'd just assumed that the Canadian government was supporting art for art's sake. Silly me.

Heather Ostertag, chief executive of Factor, the public-private Canadian agency that oversees music funds, said it controls a budget of roughly $12.4 million and handed out awards to one-third or more of the 3,800 applicants who sought support last year. Broken Social Scene and its label, for example, have been offered more than $140,000, she said. The Arcade Fire and Stars were also beneficiaries.

Why does the government of the world’s second biggest land mass bother? “The government recognizes the importance of a cultural spend for a cultural identity,” Ms. Ostertag said. “I think that we struggle as Canadians for our own Canadian identity. American dominance is so prevalent wherever you go.” Part of maintaining the nation’s place on the cultural map, she added, “is happening through identifying ourselves through the success of other Canadians.”

Hey, if I'm a tool of the Canadian government, they can use me at will, because BSS, Stars and Arcade Fire are damn good. (I should extend a thank you to my Canadian co-worker for randomly lending me her copy of Stars' Set Yourself on Fire a couple of years back. I wonder if she receives grants from the Canadian government, too?)

Anyhow, I say it's money well-spent by those progressive governments. I'm headed to Sweden next year, in part because a good number of my favorite bands are Swedish. (Go here and go wild.) Now that I'm cognizant of the fact that Figurines and Mew are Danish, I'll be sure to swing by Denmark as well. (And maybe visit LEGOLAND.)