It’s been nearly a year with virtually no live music and musicians are hurting for revenue sources. Here’s a new one you might not have expected: cannabis.
LOOP/POOL is a new Canadian cannabis brand that has a specific motto: support creators.
It’s a bit of a strange idea on paper. Cannabis has been fuelling music for generations, of course, but not in such an official capacity and, until recently, not legally.
In the summer leading up to legalization, cannabis sponsors briefly took over the music scene despite a legal grey area around advertising and promotion. Musicians and celebrities can’t actually endorse cannabis products unless they’re a shareholder in the company, and there’s still murkiness around events and sponsorships.
LOOP/POOL (pronounced like “loophole”) is actually co-owned by founder Ian Kwechansky and a collective of members of seven Canadian musical acts: Our Lady Peace, Stars, Roy Woods, dvsn, Blue Rodeo, Felix Cartal, and Kiesza. The company got funding on an episode of Dragon’s Den late last year. Former Dragon Michael Wekerle (now the owner of the El Mocambo) is an investor, as is music radio guy Alan Cross.
All seven musicians are equal shareholders, while Kwechansky is CEO and Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida is a co-founder and director.
LOOP/POOL is the cannabis brand. Five percent of proceeds from sales will automatically go into a separate music fund called POOL/FUND, a philanthropic arts fund that Kwechansky compares to MuchFACT or a corporate-brand funded “artist accelerator” like Red Bull Sound Select. Technically, the two entities are separate, but one seeds the other.
“I know how hard a time it is for artists right now,” says Kwechansky, who comes from the music industry having worked at Arts and Crafts, Warner Music Canada, and the music marketing agency X1 Creative. “Grant programs are oversubscribed, and it’s hard for new people to access the funds that already exist. And I also know in times of crisis, arts funds are the first things to get slashed. What we want to do is provide funding for the future even though the future is unknown.”
The specifics of what the POOL/FUND will actually do is still up in the air.
The first step is to get LOOP/POOL products in stores, and the company aims to have that goal achieved is June. Right away, Kwechansky says, they’ll be putting money into the fund. The eventual goal is to put $1 million into the hands of Canadian artists.
He hopes to put together an advisory board soon to help determine the parameters for funding. Like FACTOR and other arts organizations, it could be help with touring, but with touring off the table right now it’s more likely POOL/FUND will go towards creative projects like recording, music videos, virtual concerts, and other digital content.
It’s hard to ignore that Black and other marginalized groups have been prosecuted exponentially more for cannabis-related offenses before legalization and they’re often not the ones profiting off corporate cannabis. Kwechansky says he does have that in mind.
“We want to able to help independent artists and artists who are underrepresented,” he says. “[It’s about] helping to put fuel in the car for those who haven’t been able to get to the gas station.”
The owner collective includes artists making hip-hop, rock, pop, and country, and the breadth of genres is on purpose. Kwechansky says it’s not about funding “country club artists” who tend to get most of the funding in Canada, but representing the country in all its diversity.
It will be interesting to see how LOOP/POOL translates his idea into practice.