Arts·List

Without MuchFact, these classic Canadian music videos wouldn't exist

From Carly Rae Jepsen to Bran Van 3000: these breakthrough videos were all backed by MuchFact. Bell Media axed the grant program last week.

From Carly Rae Jepsen to Bran Van 3000, these breakthrough videos were all backed by the now defunct program

We don't want to imagine a world without "Call Me Maybe." (YouTube)

Is this the end of Canadian music videos? Bell Media axed MuchFact last week, a music video grant program that backed more than 9,000 projects since it launched in 1984 as VideoFact. And while it wasn't the only way for a Canadian musician to fund their latest project (FACTOR is still kicking) MuchFact's disappearance leaves the future unclear.

Over its 33-year history, more than $100 million went to homegrown artists, helping to build the careers of musicians and filmmakers alike — and many in the industry are now appealing to Heritage Minister Mélanie Jolie, urging for the creation of a new fund for "visual content."

A MuchFact grant was never a guarantee of fame. It wasn't even a guarantee that your clip would surface on MuchMusic. But the fact remains: MuchFact was there for several Canadian superstars, right from the start. It also backed some of the music videos that would come to define Canadian pop culture of the '80s, '90s and 2000s.

Depending on your vintage, imagine growing up without half the stuff on the MuchMusic Countdown — or never discovering "Call Me Maybe" on YouTube. Without MuchFact, the videos on this list probably wouldn't exist.

k.d. lang, "Hanky Panky" (1984)

It'll never appear on a list of the most influential videos of the '80s — and, in fact, the song never even surfaced on the charts — but this is the very earliest example of a future Canadian superstar getting a boost from the program. In October 1984, the first ever round of funding was announced, and of all the names on the list (The Arrows, Eva Everything, Nash the Slash, etc.), it's k.d. lang who quickly rose to stardom, becoming the country music icon she is today. This video for "Hanky Panky" is a twisted two-stepper from her debut album, A Truly Western Experience.

Barenaked Ladies, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (1992)

Like a Tim Hortons commercial shot on your dad's VHS camcorder, this early video from the Barenaked Ladies is basically the definition of DIY Canadiana. Kids playing street hockey? Check. Cameos from Canadian bands (Rheostatics, Skydiggers)? Check and check. The production values might be rough, and the concept — a weekend drive through Scarberia — is so basic you can probably find the same thing on Instagram Stories every second of the day. But this MuchFact video helped break the band to the Canadian public. The Bruce Cockburn cover earned BNL their first Canadian Top 40 hit, and the video ultimately won the VideoFact Award at the MuchMusic VideoAwards in 1992.

Bran Van 3000, "Drinking in L.A." (1997)

Five years later, it was Bran Van 3000 who won the VideoFact award at the MMVAs, and "Drinking in L.A." is that rarest of one-hit-wonders — a totally guilt-free pleasure. They clearly didn't blow their funding by raiding Value Village for their sets and wardrobe, and yet, this one is a perfect neon time capsule of the Big Shiny Tunes era.

Matthew Good, "Indestructible" (1997)

Back in the '90s, you could use the word "alternative" to describe, say, the trip hop/pop fusion of something like a Bran Van 3000 — or the school you had to go to after stealing your mom's Geo Metro. But more often than not, "alternative" sounded like this. In 1997, the Matthew Good Band were on the rise. Their second album Underdogs went platinum that year, and between this track and other singles — "Everything is Automatic," "Apparitions" and "Rico" — grungy man-rock was inescapable on radio and TV, where videos like this one were in regular rotation on Much.

Treble Charger, "Hundred Million" (2002)

We are a country of suburban shopping malls, so of course Canada led the way during the pop punk wave of the early 2000s. And all the biggest names of the era (plus Swollen Members) turn up in Treble Charger's "Hundred Million," so named for the number of cameos smashed into its three-minute runtime. Sum 41! Gob! Avril Lavigne! — who was, technically, a total newbie to the scene when this video premiered in the pre-"Complicated" days of spring 2002. They're all here on stage with lead singer Greig Nori, headbanging their way into heavy rotation.

Sam Roberts, "Brother Down" (2003)

Before he was Canadian-famous — even before the beard — Sam Roberts got a MuchFact grant to make a video for his first single, "Brother Down." Surely that sweet grant money could have bought the guy a bigger boat.

Arcade Fire, "Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)" (2004)

They've won Grammys, toured the world. Hell, even David Bowie was a fan. Arcade Fire are one of the biggest rock bands in the world, never mind Canada. To some, the fact they scored funding for recent-ish videos like "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" might be a point of contention, but they also received MuchFact's support at the very beginning of their career. The band's first ever video, for "Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)," was the recipient of MuchFact funding. Directed by Josh Deu, a founding member of the band who left the group in late 2003, it's a dark, stop motion fantasy.

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe" (2011)

Music videos still matter, and the story of Carly Rae Jepsen proves there's no maybe about it. When she landed MuchFact funding to make this video, Jepsen might have been a known entity to the country's most hardcore pop fanatics — thanks to her career-launching stint on Canadian Idol and a handful of singles including "Tug of War" — but she hadn't broken internationally. It took some famous fans (Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez) to discover the track — on radio, granted, not YouTube — but as the song exploded, becoming the best-selling single of 2012 worldwide, the video blew up along with it. Five years later, that MuchFact video is approaching 1 billion views on YouTube.

Kaytranada, "Lite Spots" (2016)

But what has MuchFact been supporting lately? Only the best music video of the year.

The Prism Prize honours the country's top music videos based on artistic merit alone, and this video for Kaytranada's "Lite Spots" won the 2017 prize this spring. The clip has more than 6.7 million views on YouTube, and that's a lot of smiles. Even the bitchiest resting face has got to grin while watching this one, the story of Kaytranada — and, crucially, a dancing robot — on a grand day out.

And plenty of this year's Prism nominees were MuchFact recipients, as well: "Stadium Pow Wow" from A Tribe Called Red, "Picturing Love" by July Talk and "Amerika" by Wintersleep. Watch those videos below.

About the Author

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.

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