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Yukon musician pushes for funding changes

A mainstay in the Yukon music industry is voicing her concerns about one of the territory's funding agencies.

A mainstay in the Yukon music industry is voicing her concerns about one of the territory’s funding agencies.

Kim Beggs said she wants to see changes made to the Yukon Film and Sound Commission’s policies after an unpleasant experience with them this year.

The issues began after Beggs’ latest solo album, Beauty and Breaking, was released a year ago.

She received funding for the album from FACTOR (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records) in the amount of $10,000 and also received $5,000 from YFSC.

Beggs said the album, which was recorded in Toronto, cost well over $20,000 to produce.

In order to qualify for the $5,000 award, which is meant to cover 50 per cent of Yukon costs, she had to demonstrate she faced $10,000 in costs.

The sound recording program at YFSC allows artists to determine a cash value for one part of the recording process, and Beggs chose studio costs.

She said YSFC awarded her $2,500 up front but changed their minds after Beggs’ final report was submitted.

“They were unhappy with the value I gave myself,” she said.

“They slashed it to a pittance. Rather than give me $5,000 they gave me $2,140 and asked that I pay them back $360. It puts me at a real standstill because I borrowed money to cover my costs, and now on top of that, I owe them money.”

In an email dated Jan. 31, Iris Merritt with the commission wrote to Beggs informing her that they were only able to accept her fees as a studio musician to the maximum of $80 per session or $1,200.

“We pulled your old files to double check and this is consistent with what was allowed under previous Yukon Sound Recording Fund funding,” Merritt wrote.

In June, Beggs’s album was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award in the category of Roots Solo Recording of the Year.

Brandon Isaak, with his album Here On Earth, is the only other Yukon musician nominated for an award.

Beggs applied for showcase funding to attend the event but was denied because she’s still in debt to YFSC.

She has received partial funding from Canada Council for the Arts, which covers airfare, but she doesn’t have the funds to put up the rest of the band and pay for their expenses.

She is raising funds on Kickstarter to cover those costs.

“Frankly I’m just not a rich person,” she said.

“I’m a really hard working person but I’m a solo artist and the financial model is very different. There are a lot of satisfying parts to being an artist but it’s quite a slap in the face to have your value diminished like that. They (YFSC) don’t have clear and transparent policies.”

Beggs appealed the decision on June 18 and received a reply from the deputy minister of Economic Development, Murray Arsenault, in a letter dated July 18.

She said she doesn’t understand the explanations given to her about why her funding was reduced.

In the letter, Arsenault states that the Yukon Sound Recording Program “allows studio musician fees, and only studio musician fees, to be calculated as eligible, cash expenses where the work is undertaken by the applicant.”

All other work by the applicant is calculated as an in-kind expense, which is why the sessions fees calculated by the commission were upheld, he said.

“The alternative would be to calculate the leader session fees as an in-kind expense, which would have reduced the amount of your reimbursement,” Arsenault wrote.

In the end, both parties could not reach an agreement on the total cash value of the album.

Beggs says this is all part of a bigger problem at YFSC, and she’s suggesting a major overhaul to the way they do business with artists.

She said she wants clear answers about policies for applicants and doesn’t want to be given the run-around when communicating with the agency, among other things.

“You can spend two weeks emailing them and you still won’t know what their policies are,” she said.

“It’s really put me in dire financial straits. I think they need to value people’s time more.”

Kieran Slobodin, senior business development advisor for Economic Development, said the agency’s policies haven’t changed.

He wouldn’t talk about the specific details of Beggs’s case but said the YFSC’s sound recording program matches up well with what’s offered across the country.

“If we were to change a policy it’s quite an involved process because cabinet has to approve the change,” he said.

“When we approve a change we post them on the website and, of course, we work with the industry associations and communication channels within the community to make sure people know. We haven’t made changes in the policy to the sound recording program.”

In terms of funding, things can change, Slobodin said.

When artists submit a budget for funding, the YFSC understands that it isn’t necessarily going to be to the dollar, he said.

“If you come in or over certain expenses, that can affect what the final sum is,” he said.

“Sometimes things change. A small business might have to change the consultant they’re working with halfway through, and that changes the ultimate cost in the project. In those situations we encourage them to talk to us because they need approval for that kind of thing.

Sometimes you’re making estimates, when you’re a musician on the road doing a tour you won’t exactly know to the dollar your gas costs.”

Another Yukon musician, Gordie Tentrees, said he’s sympathetic to Beggs’s issues.

He’s grateful for the existing funding programs in place for Yukon artists but disappointed that his friend and peer has to go through something like this, he said.

He proposed a solution to mitigate some of the issues between both parties.

“I’m open to any sort of discussion that leads to a forum where we can talk about making it better, not only for the people administering the money, but for the artists,” he said.

“There is a lot of knowledge that Kim, myself and other artists can share that would help. A lot of other organizations in Canada are more streamlined and more efficient than the YFSC, and they do a bang up job to emulate those. But a lot of work still needs to be done.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at