Catherine Benainous: “We must multiply the sources of funding for the arts”

Catherine Benainous, management of Ray Lema
Geneva, May 2020

Catherine Benanouis

“It is clear that the digital economy represents a shortfall for artists and those around them. We are obliged to stream and manage 60-page bills to earn maybe 120 €…. In these conditions, income from the stage has become much more important. It now represents 90% of the income of the artist and his entourage. The question that arises is what can one do if one is confined or banned from concerts? And I don’t see any viable alternative. For me, live streaming concerts only represents a desacralization of the live concert. I lived in Brazil from 1985 to 1999, I wasn’t yet Ray Lema’s manager and I worked in

the events business. That’s where I experimented with a totally new system set up by the Brazilian state in the 90s. It was called the Rouanet Law, a law which was designed to help creation in all artistic fields. This law provided that the state would decide to waive part of the taxes collected from companies if they invested in culture. In other words, a company could decide to allocate 10% of its taxes to artistic projects of its choice. The arrangement was as follows. The Ministry of Culture had set up a special commission that received projects from cultural actors. The three evaluation criteria were the relevance of the budget, the reliability of the show producer and the need to present cultural content. If the project was selected, it received a number. Armed with this number, the cultural entrepreneur could go out and approach businesses. Initially, the system worked very well. Some companies began to specialise in a particular branch. The oil company Petrobras, for example, positioned itself in the film industry. Thanks to Petrobras, Brazilian cinema experienced a real revival.

If I compare this sponsorship-oriented system with the French system, which is almost exclusively based on subsidies, it seems to me that the advantages are as follows:

  • Companies benefit from media visibility that doesn’t cost them anything (in each of the advertising actions of the cultural projects supported, the sponsor was mentioned).
  • The system prevents favouritism and lobbying. With public funding, there is often the impression that the same actors always receive the funds.
  • The possibility of creating new jobs in the industry, jobs as sponsor hunters. In Brazil, little by little, agencies specializing in the search for cultural funding have been set up. It should also be mentioned, however, that quite soon after the law came into force, kickbacks became commonplace. Nevertheless, I find it interesting to multiply the sources of funding for art. In France, the 2003 law on patronage stipulates that by financially supporting artistic activities a company can deduct the amount of its support from its income. However, the deduction is made on the turnover and not directly on the amount of tax. The Brazilian state’s waiver of a tax share is a stronger gesture in favour of culture and this is what we need now. »

Still A-live! During this unprecedented period of confinement, the Show-me team has gone to meet musicians and cultural players to question them and take the pulse of what they’re thinking. What is or should be the status of the artist? What are possible remunerations? What evolution is possible after the crisis?

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