Attendees of Dropping Gems 2 “Navigating Music & Non-Profits” were left with a wide breadth of knowledge on grants and funding in the music industry after listening to Shans Ashley’s advice.
Ashley has been in the non-profit sector of the music industry for over 10 years and currently works for Manifesto Community Projects, “a non-profit organization working to unite, inspire and empower diverse communities of young people through arts & culture,” per Linked-In.
Ashley’s lecture is the first of three taking place in the near future. You can look forward to “How to Maneuver the Industry” with Bianca Horne on November 24, 2022, and “Show Me the Money” with Tessa Balaz on December 3, 2022.
“Navigating Music and Non-Profits” began with some context on the music industry in Canada today. As it stands, three major record labels represent the vast majority of artists and four artists (The Weeknd, Drake, Justin Beiber and Shawn Mendes) represent the vast majority of total Canadian streams. As such, there is certainly a need for more diverse representation and opportunity in this industry.
Ashley then laid out what it takes to start a non-profit music organization:
- Build your brand
- Build a community around yourself
- Grants and Donations
- Network as a priority
The first point Ashley mentioned is creating an identity for your organization. “Your brand has to stand out for it to even make any type of noise,” said Ashley, adding that the primary way to establish this is through a mission statement. Once you can summarize what your organization is all about, people can see who you are.
Secondly, Ashley emphasized the importance of building a community around yourself as you establish your organization. Creating meaningful connections is essential and this can be done by “staying true to yourself” as well as finding a reputable mentor. But above all, Ashley strived to do everything with the best interests of the community in mind.
Next, she provided some information on how non-profits like Manifesto are funded: grants and donations. Because non-profit organizations are so community-centred, anything gained financially is put straight into the community and those they serve. As such, non-profits can only survive through grants (mostly from the government) and donations. To build off of the previous point, if you stay true to yourself, you are more likely to receive donations. Furthermore, ensuring you know each and every grant you are eligible for is essential as well. The city of Toronto has a website outlining all the grants Ontarians are eligible for.
Lastly, Ashley said “creating meaningful, organic and mutually beneficial relationships with people” is a great way to help your organization along. Attending community events, staying up to date with what the youth are interested in and nurturing professional relationships over time are all ways that were mentioned to help achieve this.
Ashley credits her trajectory through the music industry’s non-profit sector to her love of music since she was young. She loves what she does and says “knowing that at least one artist feels valued as a creative is what gets me out the bed in the morning.”
When asked about some great local talent that she likes, Ashley shouted out Dylan Sinclair, Benita and TOBi as some of her favourites.