Shrieking fans flock to MMVAs — but uncertainty over music video fund remains

A flash afternoon storm left behind a soggy pink carpet leading into the iHeart Radio Much Music Video Awards Sunday in Toronto. But spirits weren't dampened: the show's signature screaming fans were out in full force.

Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Arkells performed, picked up awards during Sunday's show

If there was a costume contest at the MMVAs, Marianas Trench would have won. The B.C. rock band had the most outlandish outfits at the award show's red carpet on Sunday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

A flash afternoon storm left behind one soggy pink carpet leading into the iHeart Radio Much Music Video Awards (MMVAs) Sunday in Toronto. But spirits weren't dampened: the show's signature screaming fans were out in full force, shrieking for stars like Lorde, Imagine Dragons and Arkells, who all performed and picked up awards — and the wet weather held off.

There was a cloud hanging over the Joe Jonas/Alessia Cara-hosted show, though: there are fears about what might happen to MuchFact, a Bell Media program that shells out about $2 million to make Canadian music videos every year. 

Bell Media is no longer required to fund the program. And though Much said that the program isn't done, many from the music industry (including one of MuchFact's founders) think they will kill it off soon.

The loudest cheers on the red carpet went to One Direction's Niall Horan, who had to dart through the crowd to get into the building and got mobbed by fans in the process. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

About half of the MMVAs' 19 awards are supposed to fete the best in Canadian music videos — there's even one award that honours the best MuchFact-funded video.

"It's kind of like looming over everything really ... you know what I mean?" said Wintersleep guitarist Tim D'eon, whose band has scored MuchFact funding several times, including for Spirit, nominated for two awards Sunday. "It's like, cool, we're here, but maybe this won't even exist."

The Electric Love singer-songwriter on following up a massive hit. 1:23

'A pretty huge deal if that disappears'

Toronto rapper Tasha the Amazon has also relied on the fund. It helped finance her video for Picasso Leaning, which scored best hip-hop video at the show (making her the first female to do so). 

"When we heard MuchFact was probably not going to [be around for] that much longer, a lot of people in this industry were super scared about that," she said backstage, adding it allows smaller musicians to contend with the "major players."

Colin G. Cooper, the video's director, said the funding program is "actually a really huge deal for middle-ground artists." He said it lets musicians like Tasha the Amazon make videos that look "like a real video."

Imagine Dragons' lead singer Dan Reynolds hoists a Canadian flag during the band's performance at the MMVAs. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

"It's...a pretty huge deal if that disappears."

Though musicians often get all the credit, their directors are typically the creative visionaries behind the videos. So on a night celebrating videos, it was fitting that several directors accompanied their musical counterparts down the carpet.

Kevan Funk, who was awarded best director for A Tribe Called Red's Stadium Pow Wow, said he had been thinking about MuchFact all day leading up to the show.

The MMVA winners have had several of their videos funded through MuchFact 1:23

"How much that program punches above its weight in terms of giving musical artists a chance to have videos, but also giving young filmmakers a chance to make work... that is one of the great talent incubators in this country in film and music," he said.

"I think protecting it is vital."

Lorde, right, reacts after being named iHeartRadio International Artist of the Year. She closed the show with two new songs: Green Light and Perfect Places. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Videos push the music forward, says Grimes

One of the CRTC's reasons for nixing the funding requirement was that Much had evolved and its programming no longer revolves totally around music videos — so why should they have to pay for them?

It's true — Much now plays far fewer music videos than it used to, replaced instead by reruns of shows like The Simpsons, Tosh.O and Parks and Recreation.

A few dump trucks, filled with sand, blocked several of the roads leading into the MMVAs to protect the fans against any attack. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

But many attending the MMVAs said music videos still matter.

Canadian electro-pop musician Claire Boucher, who goes by the stage name Grimes, directs many of her own videos.

She won best EDM/dance video for Venus Fly Sunday night at the MMVAs and took home video of the year for Kill v Maim at April's Juno Awards.

The singer-producer, burned by press in the past, explains her love-hate relationship with media 1:00

"I do feel like music videos right now are kind of pushing music forward. I feel like something like [Beyonce's] Lemonade for example is a new thing that people haven't seen before," she said on the carpet.

It was a crowded, upbeat, sweaty night — for fans and performers. Guests carried their drinks around in red plastic solo cups, stars lingered on the carpet to take selfies with fans and there were even puppies — who cuddled with several different celebrities in a puppy room back stage.

And for the throngs of fans who waited for hours, there was a mesmerizing music video-like quality to almost all of the night's performances, like dancers jumping on a bed (Julia Michaels), fancy 3D lighting (Iggy Azaela) and marching bands with confetti (Imagine Dragons).

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performed during the awards, backed by a fancy light show. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Here are some highlights of who won

  • Video of the year: A Tribe Called Red featuring Yasiin Bey, Narcy and Black Bear, R.E.D.
  • Best rock/alternative video: Tragically Hip, In A World Possessed By the Human Mind
  • Most buzzworthy Canadian: Drake
  • Fan fave video: Arkells, Knocking at the Door
  • Most buzzworthy international artist or group: Ed Sheeran
  • Best pop video: Shawn Mendes, Mercy
  • Best MuchFact video: River Tiber, Acid Test

About the Author

Haydn Watters

Haydn Watters is a Toronto-based journalist. He has worked for CBC News and CBC Radio in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and the entertainment unit. He also ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont.

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