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The role of the Arts Council is once again in the headlines. This week, leading figures representing the music industry locked horns with senior opera figures over Arts Council funding. 

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher branded Arts Council England (ACE) “too posh for pop”, pointing out that 62% of ACE’s National Portfolio goes to opera and a further 23% goes to classical music. In contrast, only 8% goes to popular music and 7% to other genres (including jazz, folk, etc).

Hitting back in The Daily Telegraph, Michael Volpe General Director of Holland Park Opera, responded “I’ve been hearing the word ‘posh’ in relation to opera for 30 years. Very few people in opera are posh - certainly not the performers”, although Volpe conceded in the same piece “Opera companies get a lot of money, perhaps more than they ought to, and that’s an ongoing argument.” 

ACE has £1.45 billion of public funds and £860 million National Lottery funds to distribute over the next four years. Of the £368 million allocated to music, opera will receive £229 million, classical £85 million and pop £27 million.

The debate is especially timely because ACE has initiated a public conversation to help inform its strategy for the next 10 years. Given the music industry is only just returning to growth having suffered 15 years of decline, a lot is at stake. A barrier to that discussion is a fundamental misunderstanding between both sides. 

Some might argue the opera world, and the arts establishment as a whole, seem to look down on the music industry or, perhaps, hold the view that it is less deserving. Many in the music industry consider opera an irrelevance and an extravagance. 

The reality is the music industry is vastly more complex, diverse and challenging than is often understood. It is also a reality that opera is accessible through multi-tiered ticket pricing and many opera companies are addressing their own diversity issues.

What are the key issues? How can both sides better understand one another and what does a satisfactory outcome look like?

THE FUNDING IMBALANCE

Not only is there a huge imbalance towards opera, but there is also a disproportionate amount awarded to the Royal Opera House in London specifically. During 2016 alone, the ROH received £28 million in Arts Council funding, which represents 20% of the ROH’s total income for that year. The remainder is made up of box office receipts, commercial income and other fundraising. This includes various charitable trusts and corporate backers such as Goldman Sachs. 

By way of comparison, UK Sport fulfils a similar function to the Arts Council and also relies on a combination of public money and lottery funding. It is worth noting the spread of investment across the Olympic disciplines is much more even. Of the £265 million earmarked for the Tokyo Olympic cycle, rowing receives the most with £32 million, followed by athletics (£27m), sailing (£26m), cycling (£26) and swimming (£22m). Although medals success and underlying costs are a factor, the distribution of funds is far more even when compared to arts funding for music. Equestrian was further down the list with £15m, but imagine the uproar if Equestrian took 60% of available funding at the expense of other medal winning sports.

It is hard to see how the imbalance between opera, classical and other forms of music can be justified. Moreover, if funding were to be taken away from opera and distributed more broadly, how detrimental would that be? Supposing ACE funding for the Royal Opera House is cut in half, that would represent a 10% cut in its overall income. Can the ROH be challenged to go without or make up that funding elsewhere? 

MOMENTUM MUSIC FUND – A CASE FOR GRANT FUNDING 

In 2013, Arts Council England supported the launch of the Momentum Music Fund, administered by the PRS Foundation. Momentum was aimed at artists existing outside the major label system, unsigned or signed to an independent, and who could demonstrable a case for £5-15,000 worth of funding to give their careers tangible momentum at a crucial point.

The scheme has been a great success. Over 270 artists have been supported by Momentum and for every £1 invested £7.46 has been generated. Recipients are truly diverse covering a broad spread of genres with a strong BAME representation, making up 49% of grantees. 

Over 3,800 artists have applied for Momentum funding since its inception. Five years after its launch demand and impact has never been greater. The recently published outline of Government's creative industries sector deal, which encourages partnerships between government and industry, mentions the Momentum Fund as an example of good practice.

The frustration is that despite this clear proof of concept, including the quality and diversity of the artists supported and the match funding & income it has leveraged there appears to be little appetite from the Arts Council to continue its involvement in such schemes. 

ATTITUDES TO INVESTMENT NEED TO CHANGE 

A key challenge is how the music industry is perceived and how it perceives itself.

Culturally, a disproportionate level of attention is afforded to a tiny minority of major artists earning vast sums at the expense of the majority who do not. This contributes to long held assumptions within the arts establishment, government and the wider public that all paths through the music industry are paved with gold. They are not. 

Within the industry itself, there has been a tradition of self-reliance. Labels and publishers, especially, pride themselves on their investment in new music. This is very true, but that investment only comes at a certain stage. Leading up to that point, artists and their managers typically funded themselves. Prior to the launch of Momentum, grant type funding for artists was very rarely considered as an option. 

Attitudes are very different when it comes to sport. Even world-class athletes such as Mo Farah continue to receive grant funding from Sport UK. In Farah’s case, this is despite considerable endorsement income and a personal net worth rumoured to be £4 million. Grant type funding in sport began in the late 90s. Twenty years later, Great Britain can look back on Olympic glory over the past three Olympic cycles in Beijing, London and Rio across a range of sports. This was no coincidence.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Leading up to the publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy (Creative Industries Sector Deal) earlier this year, there was much debate about funding. Early funding gaps were evident across the creative sector and especially so in music.

For a new artist, releasing music has never been easier: the major streaming platforms are readily accessible to any artist. The principle sources of investment remain labels and publishers although other self-release options such as Seed EIS are available. What has changed is the time it takes to reach that level. A new artist may take several years funding their own releases and live shows during that time. Few new artists have the means to do this, especially those from less affluent backgrounds. This has created very real roadblocks in the talent pipeline as the industry has shifted from CD to download to streaming. 

There is a clear deficiency in investment at the seed/ angel level. Unlike the tech world, there are very few mechanisms providing a return to the early stage investor while safeguarding the artist. An artist’s business structure, especially at an early stage, can be fluid and may not have all IP and activities sitting in one entity. Very few new artists could be considered “investment ready” in a traditional sense. 

This is why grant funding is so important. It does not require equity stakes or convertible loans. It is simple and when targeted correctly, as Momentum has proven, can be highly effective. Grant funding can play a central role in growing a sustainable talent pipeline that fits the streaming age that is now upon us and ensure the industry picks more winners. 

The disproportionate level of Arts Council funds devoted to opera does not seem fair or sustainable and it would seem this is recognized even within the world of opera. Meanwhile, the music industry has proven that grant funding can provide a significant boost to more popular genres and sustain a diverse pipeline of creative talent that works in tandem with existing commercial models. Making the numbers work is a bigger question, but there would seem to be a clear imperative to develop a fairer and more balanced approach to Arts Council funding for music.

22 Feb 2019 | Press release

New YouTube Music Studios to open at The BRIT School for emerging talent

State-of-the-art video production facility through YouTube Music’s partnership with the BRIT Awards in conjunction with The BRIT Trust Today leading music industry charity, The BRIT Trust, and YouTube Music are announcing a brand new YouTube Music Studio at The BRIT School...more

21 Feb 2019 | Press release

Universal Music Group named to Fast Company's annual list of the world's 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2019

 At No. 21, Universal Music achieves the highest rank ever for a major music company and becomes the first selected for the list's elite Top 25 most innovative companies   UMG also ranked No. 1 in the music category   Universal Music Group (UMG),...more

20 Feb 2019 | Press release

AIM announces new chair

Peter Quicke of Ninja Tune appointed The Association of Independent Music (AIM), which represents the UK’s independent music sector, has announced a new Chair. Peter Quicke, the Managing Director of Ninja Tune, takes up the position with immediate effect and replaces Tim Dellow...more

20 Feb 2019 | Press release

Annie Mac challenges the music industry to address gender equality in 2019

Annie Mac heads up the latest initiative from SMIRNOFF’s “Equalising Music” campaign – the ‘Equalising Music Pledge’ - challenging each and every person in the music industry to do one significant thing for gender equality in 2019 #EQUALISINGMUSIC Annie Mac announces the...more

19 Feb 2019 | Press release

The Tribes Launches to connect Music Influencers with Brands and Events

The Tribes is a new Music and Lifestyle network that connects brands with youth culture and relevant music markets in innovative ways, to an audience of over 12 million people. The brain child of two industry experts—namely Jukebox PR's CEO Alex...more

19 Feb 2019 | Press release

LoveMusicHateRacism launch new campaign, Beautiful Resistance

March 8th – March 22nd 2019https://www.lovemusichateracism.com/“Everyone can be the beautiful resistance”  LoveMusicHateRacism are to launch a new two-week campaign, ‘Beautiful Resistance’, on March 8th. Taking a stand against hatred, bigotry and division, the campaign aims to inspire, engage and empower people...more

19 Feb 2019 | Press release

Nile Rodgers & CHIC to bring Good Times to the Eden Sessions

Nile Rodgers & CHIC are the latest superstar headliners to be confirmed for the Eden Sessions this summer and will play a show on Friday June 21.  The legendary hit-makers will be returning to Eden after making their debut at the Sessions...more

19 Feb 2019 | Press release

NOW That’s What I Call a Chart Show

Greatest Hits Radio teams up with iconic compilation brand for retro countdown chartAND Pat Sharp joins the station for Saturday show In a radio first, new national commercial station Greatest Hits Radio have announced plans to partner with the iconic NOW...more

19 Feb 2019 | Press release

Entertainment One strikes exclusive partnership with Nashville-based, Grammy award-winning producer/songwriter, Aaron Pearce

 Partnership to nurture Pearce’s stable of new songwriters and producers under newly-formed publishing venture Vintern Songs   Entertainment One (“eOne”) has signed an exclusive music publishing agreement with Nashville-based, Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter, Aaron Pearce. Under the partnership, Pearce will bring his impressive song...more

18 Feb 2019 | Press release

UK Music unveils expert panel of senior MPs and business leaders to discuss post-Brexit music industry at SXSW 2019

UK Music today unveiled a stellar line up of senior MPs and music business leaders for SXSW 2019 to discuss how to maintain the UK’s world-leading music industry after Brexit.  Chaired by UK Music CEO Michael Dugher, the high-level panel is...more

18 Feb 2019 | Press release

Yinka Ilori brings an explosion of colour to his innovative collaboration with Universal Music

Universal Music, the UK’s leading music company have revealed an exciting collaboration with British artist and designer Yinka Ilori for this week’s BRIT Awards. As part of the commission, Ilori has created a special edition print titled ‘Love in a line’,...more

18 Feb 2019 | Press release

LyricFind Increases its Global Reach, Expanding Services in Southeast Asia and the Middle East

LyricFind has opened offices in two key regions for the global music business: Morocco and Vietnam.These new offices are the latest in several moves to grow the company’s global footprint, as the leading source of licensed lyrics. “LyricFind’s goal has...more

18 Feb 2019 | Press release

KISS & Hits Radio networks partner for special BRIT Awards live show, sponsored by YouTube Music

Bauer Media’s Absolute Radio, Magic and heat Radio also join to cover the biggest night in British music Bauer Media have announced plans to unite their KISS and Hits Radio networks for a special BRIT Awards live programme. The collaborative show...more

15 Feb 2019 | Press release

EU copyright text agreed, now requires final approval

After much debate and further changes to the text of the copyright directive, an agreement was reached in Strasbourg last night and the directive can now move to the final stages of the European legislative process. Member states now need...more

14 Feb 2019 | Press release

Clint Mansell signs with Decca Publishing

ACCLAIMED COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN SIGNS LONG-TERM WORLDWIDE PUBLISHING DEAL WITH DECCA PUBLISHINGDEAL BRINGS CAREER WORKS TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME ALONGSIDE FUTURE CREATIVE PROJECTS Decca Publishing today announces the signing of acclaimed Grammy, Ivor Novello and Golden Globe nominated composer and...more

14 Feb 2019 | Press release

All-star talent recruited to drive BRITs 2019 social conversation

Todrick Hall, Jamie Laing, Yasmin Evans, Vick Hope, Michael Whitehall, Montana Brown, Mark Ferris and The Slumflower will bring The BRIT Awards 2019 to a worldwide audience from every angle including YouTube Music, the official Music App of BRITs 2019...more

13 Feb 2019 | Press release

AIM announces brand-new, flagship conference AIM Connected

  The Association of Independent Music (AIM) has announced its largest ever conference, AIM Connected. The flagship, three-day event will take place from 1-3 April at Studio Spaces, London, combining AIM's Indie-Con, Music Connected and Women in Music events into one...more

13 Feb 2019 | Press release

ie:music proudly welcome Neck Deep, As It Is and Frost Koffin to their management roster

Each represented by Leander Gloversmith who joins the renowned management company Global artist management company, ie:music, famed for their varied range of artists including Robbie Williams, Passenger, Cher Lloyd and Ladyhawke are diversifying their roster further with the recruitment of Leander...more

13 Feb 2019 | Press release

BMG signs worldwide deal with new label Trojan Jamaica

BMG is delighted to announce the launch of Trojan Jamaica, a new frontline label working directly with BMG to bring newly produced, Jamaican-made music to the world.  Trojan Jamaica is the result of a partnership with renowned musician/producer Zak Starkey and...more

13 Feb 2019 | Press release

Brighton Music Conference (BMC19) announces 180 artists and speakers, including David Morales, Defected, Irvine Welsh, & more

Brighton Music Conference has announced 180 artists and speakers, including David Morales, Ultra Music, Defected, Irvine Welsh and more from across the music, nightlife, tech and digital industries for BMC19 at British Airways i360 beachfront centre on Thursday 25th and...more

13 Feb 2019 | Press release

Sam Fender and Lewis Capaldi Selected as New 'Deezer NEXT' 2019 Global Priority Acts

Lewis Capaldi is the first artist ever to take the step up from a local to a global Deezer NEXT priority act The Deezer NEXT 2019 programme includes emerging global and local talent from France, Germany, Brazil, LATAM and more Last year’s...more

13 Feb 2019 | Press release

Dua Lipa announced for International Women’s Day keynote at Futures Forum

Double Grammy-winning artist completes gender-balanced conference programme alongside Steve Lamacq, The Brits and 30+ speakers Organisers of the inaugural Futures Forum – the one-day event for young live music professionals which takes place as part of this year’s International Live Music...more

12 Feb 2019 | Press release

Joint statement of creators and rightholders on the Copyright Directive

Time to improve and adopt the Copyright Directive Distinguished trilogue negotiators, We, the undersigned organisations representing authors, performers, and others working in all artistic fields, news agencies, book, press and independent music publishers urge you to work constructively toimprove and to adopt...more

12 Feb 2019 | Press release

The Great Escape Conference

THE GREAT ESCAPE CONFERENCE ANNOUNCES INITIAL SPEAKERS AND MORE FOR 2019  TAKING PLACE UNDER ONE ROOF AT ITS NEW HOME JURY'S INN BRIGHTON WATERFONT   FIRST 40 SPEAKERS // THREE PIECES OF ORIGINAL RESEARCH // DAY-BY-DAY BREAKDOWN // FIRST WAVE OF PARTNERS // CHARITY BIKE RIDE FROM...more

12 Feb 2019 | Press release

Michael Lynton joins Warner Music Group Board of Directors as Chairman

  Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG) today announced that Michael Lynton has been elected non-executive Chairman of the Board, effective February 7th. Lynton is currently Chairman of Snap Inc. and was previously CEO of Sony Entertainment, which included overseeing Sony Pictures,...more

11 Feb 2019 | Press release

Urban Development continues to champion next generation British urban talent with its annual Industry Take Over All Dayer at Kings Place

Industry partners include AIM, BPI, FAC, MMF PPL, PRS, UK Music, Polydor Records/Universal Music, media partners Complex UK, Reprezent Radio, CMU:DIY & funders PRS Foundation, Arts Council England, Vivendi Create Joy and Help Musicians UK   Music talent development organisation, talent incubator,...more

11 Feb 2019 | Press release

Southbank Centre announces Nile Rodgers as curator of Meltdown 2019

Southbank Centre today reveals that the curator of Meltdown festival 2019 will be three-time Grammy Award-winning American composer, producer, arranger, guitarist, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Abbey Road Studios’ first...more

11 Feb 2019 | Press release

The British Music Embassy returns to SXSW 2019

Six showcases of hotly-tipped British music will return to the festival in Austin, Texas, 11 – 16 March 2019. The British Music Embassy returns to SXSW in 2019 for its 12th year with six night time official SXSW showcases...more

11 Feb 2019 | Press release

Suzanne Smith steps down from PPL PRS Ltd

PPL and PRS for Music have announced that Suzanne Smith, Managing Director of their public performance joint venture PPL PRS Ltd., has decided to step down from the business. Suzanne joined the company in April 2017, overseeing its initial launch...more

08 Feb 2019 | Press release

An open letter from the UK Council of Music Makers: The REAL creators speak out #notinourname

The UK Council of Music Makers (CMM) - comprising BASCA, FAC, MMF, MPG and the MU - call on negotiators to proceed with the Copyright Directive.   We are the voice of UK songwriters, music producers, performing artists, musicians and music managers....more

22 Feb 2019

  • Music bodies call on European Parliament to approve Copyright Directive. (see News)

21 Feb 2019

  • BRIT Awards (see News, Comment, Features, Showbiz)

20 Feb 2019

  • Copyright Directive consolidated text released. (see News)

  • Ninja Tune MD Peter Quicke named Chair of AIM. (see News)

  • SoundCloud to distribute music to other streaming services. (see Digital)

19 Feb 2019

  • Media analyst rates Universal Music Group as fair value at €44bn. (see Business)

18 Feb 2019

  • Ariana Grande album breaks UK and US chart records. (see News, Analysis)

15 Feb 2019

  • Universal Music Group report strong figures for 2018. (see Business)

14 Feb 2019

  • European copyright directive text finalised. (see News)

13 Feb 2019

  • Universal acquires Ingrooves. (see Business)

12 Feb 2019

  • Suzanne Smith steps down from PPL PRS. (see Business)

  • Article 13 moving ahead, but many dissatisfied. (see News)

  • Nile Rodgers to curate Meltdown festival. (see News)

11 Feb 2019

  • Grammys: Childish Gambino wins four; Dua Lipa wins two. (see News)

  • HMV hopes to save stores that have closed. (see Business)

  • UK Council of Music Makers call on negotiators to proceed with the Copyright Directive. (see News)