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.
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."
'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."
"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.
"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."
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.
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.
"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).
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