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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.

30 Jan 2023 | Press release

Shirin David signs deal with Warner Chappell Music

Shirin David, one of the most successful female hip-hop musicians in Germany, has signed a worldwide deal with Warner Chappell Music, the music publishing arm of Warner Music Group.  The 27-year-old singer-songwriter and rapper has five German Number One singles to...more

28 Jan 2023 | Press release

Concord Music Publishing acquires catalog of country songwriter and producer Corey Crowder

Concord Will Also Publish Crowder's Future Works   Today, Concord Music Publishing announced the signing and catalog acquisition of top country music songwriter and producer Corey Crowder. The worldwide co-publishing deal, effective immediately, includes a majority of Crowder's catalog and all future works. Corey Crowder is...more

27 Jan 2023 | Press release

UK Americana Music Awards 2023 Winners

Allison Russell and Elles Bailey lead the way with two awards each Nods for Alison Krauss & Robert Plant, Ferris & Sylvester, Hannah White and Holly Carter Special Awards for Judy Collins, Mike Scott of The Waterboys, Nickel Creek, The Hanging Stars,...more

27 Jan 2023 | Press release

The Return of The Young Music Boss Awards 2023: Nominations Announced!

A unique awards programme celebrating the outstanding achievements of the music industry’s unsung heroes.   Young Music Boss (YMB) welcomes the new year by announcing the return of the YMB Awards (YMBA). Taking place on 20 April at Woolwich Works in London, this remarkable...more

27 Jan 2023 | Press release

So.co Music Photographer of the Year Awards

THE BRAND-NEW INAUGURAL AWARDS CELEBRATING THE EXCELLENCE OF MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHERS AROUND THE WORLD ENTRY IS FREE AND OPEN NOW    Featuring six categories including the prestigious ‘Photographer of the Year Award’ Winners revealed at awards ceremony taking place at London’s 21 SOHO on 27th March...more

27 Jan 2023 | Press release

Warner Music Group releases 2022 annual ESG report

2022 report reaffirms commitment to ESG, including through new targets on People, Workplace, and DEI agendas, and the announcement of a partnership for more sustainable records   Warner Music Group (Nasdaq: WMG) today released its 2022 Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) report. Last year,...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

One House and Aerial Launch World's First Emissions Reduction Platform for Touring Artists and DJs

One House, the world's fastest growing talent development company and Aerial, the sustainable living platform, are announcing a tool for measuring, reducing, and offsetting the carbon emissions of artists and creators globally. This product  launch follows One House’s recent new manifesto...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

The Sandbox and Warner Music Group announce virtual release party for Spinnin’ Records’ World’s Biggest Demo Drop DJ contest

Major DJ talent contest will celebrate two “firsts” with online party in The Sandbox and winning demo releases as NFTs through LGND Music as well as label releases on Spinnin’ Records   The Sandbox, a leading decentralized gaming virtual world and subsidiary of Animoca Brands,...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

In 2022 PPL paid out £244.9m to 165,000 performers and recording rightsholders

Today UK music licensing company PPL announces that, in 2022, it paid out £244.9 million (7.1% increase from £228.7 million in 2021) to 165,000 performers and recording rightsholders (12.2% increase from 147,000 in 2021), either as direct members of PPL...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

+1 Records And Exceleration Music Forge Strategic Partnership

Exceleration Invests In +1’s Catalog And The Companies Form A Partnership For Future Releases 2023 Releases Will Include Music From Rejjie Snow, Nate Husser, Lo Village, Anna Shoemaker, And More   Visionary independent label +1 Records has announced a strategic, global partnership with...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

BBC Radio 1 DJ &TV presenter Jordan North has been announced as the host for Stand Up To Cancer at Union Chapel

BBC Radio 1 DJ &TV presenter Jordan North has today been announced as the host for Stand Up To Cancer at Union Chapel, taking place Monday February 6th 2023 (just days after World Cancer Day Feb 4th). The inimitable Lancashire...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

Stormzy confirmed to perform at The BRIT Awards 2023 with Mastercard

Saturday 11th February, The O2 arena Exclusively broadcast on ITV1 and ITVX   The BRIT Awards 2023 with Mastercard today announce that acclaimed British musician Stormzy will perform live at the BRITs ceremony taking place Saturday 11th February live from The O2 arena...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

Amazon Music app arrives on Sky Glass, Sky Stream and Sky Q

Amazon and Sky deepen existing partnership with the arrival of the Amazon Music app   The Amazon Music app has arrived on Sky Glass, Sky Stream and Sky Q today with millions of songs and albums, thousands of playlists, and latest releases...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

Alika, Pupil Slicer and Shygirl among the latest artists to receive PPL Momentum Music Fund support

8 talented UK-based artists to receive the ground-breaking PPL Momentum Music Fund in its latest round Next deadline: 6th March 2023 at 6pm    PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development, together withPPL, Creative Wales, Arts Council of...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

Reservoir announces new deal with rock and roll icon Dion

Reservoir Media, Inc. (NASDAQ: RSVR) (“Reservoir” or the “Company”), an award-winning independent music company, today announced a new deal with Rock and Roll and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee Dion Francis DiMucci, professionally known as Dion. The deal includes Dion’s...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

MIDƐM+23: the successful beginnings of a new generation MIDEM

This prequel and collaborative edition of the new MIDƐM+, held from January 19 to 21, 2023 in Cannes, assembled artists and the general public alongside with key players in the music industry gathered to work together on the future of...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

Sas Metcalfe To Step Down As Chief Creative Officer of Kobalt Music

Kobalt announced that its Chief Creative Officer, Sas Metcalfe, will be stepping down effective February 28, 2023. Metcalfe was Kobalt’s first employee when joining the company in 2001. As a true pioneer in the music industry, Metcalfe has not only spearheaded...more

26 Jan 2023 | Press release

Universal Music Group elevates Roey Hershkovitz to Vice President of Sound & Picture

Hershkovitz Named Head of West Coast Studios and Member of UMG’s Audio Leadership Team   Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, today appointed Roey Hershkovitz, a widely respected television producer and recording industry executive, to Vice President of...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

‘Taking Music Business Education Out Of The Classroom’

MUBUTV Is Set To Relaunch February 28, 2023A Variety of New Content Slated Including The Debut of the ‘MUBUTV: Insider Podcast’ Featuring Some of the Biggest Names in the IndustryMUBUTV (Music Business Television) is set to return and relaunch the...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

TuneCore has appointed rapper Papoose as Head of Hip Hop

TuneCore, the leading development partner for self-releasing artists—owned by Believe, one of the world’s leading digital music companies—has announced a new partnership with legendary rapper Papoose, naming him Head of Hip-Hop for the company. In his new role, Papoose...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

Sam Tompkins has signed a worldwide (excluding AZ and NZ) publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music

British singer-songwriter and musician, Sam Tompkins has signed a worldwide (excluding AZ and NZ) publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music, the music publishing arm of Warner Music Group. Through the release of a number of singles and EPs, Sam has earned...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

Former Burberry Director of Music launches LSTNR

With a focus on Helping Brands Sound Better   LSTNR is a creative music studio, led by former Burberry Director of Music, Dave Chase with the simple aim of Helping Brands Sound Better. LSTNR is a music supervisor, curator, deal-maker and creative director. Hear our work...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

Adam Gardiner joins Concord Music Publishing as Senior Vice President of International Sync

  Concord Music Publishing today announces the appointment of Adam Gardiner as Senior Vice President, International Sync with immediate effect. Gardiner joins from Universal Music’s creative division, Globe, where he was Head of Film & TV. Adam spent ten years at UMG working his...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

Cyanite launches technology that can find music based on full text for the first time

AI-powered music tagging and search firm Cyanite launches Free Text Search which provides users with a completely new and intuitive way of searching for music   Cyanite, a tech company with various software solutions in AI-powered music tagging and search, has launched...more

25 Jan 2023 | Press release

Sanderson Rasjid ‘Top’ Topham

3rd July 1947 – 23rd January 2023 Sanderson Rasjid, born Anthony ‘Top’ Topham passed away peacefully on Monday January 23rd surrounded by his family. Born in London on July 3rd 1947, he was 75 years old and had been fighting dementia...more

24 Jan 2023 | Press release

PRS for Music publishes 2022 Gender and Ethnicity Pay Gap Report

PRS for Music has today published its Gender and Ethnicity Pay Gap Report, covering data from 2022. This is the second edition of the report, which highlights the journey to change and the organisation’s commitment to championing diversity and inclusion. Read...more

24 Jan 2023 | Press release

Hipgnosis Song Management acquires Justin Bieber song catalogue

Hipgnosis Song Management (‘Hipgnosis’ or the ‘Company’), which offers investors a pure-play exposure to songs and associated intellectual property rights, is pleased to announce the company’s acquisition of a song catalogue from superstar artist and songwriter Justin Bieber whose songs...more

24 Jan 2023 | Press release

Warner Chappell Production Music expands to Brazil

Renato Moraes joins to launch the new operation   Warner Chappell Production Music (WCPM) today announced its expansion into Brazil with a new team based in São Paulo. Headed by Renato Moraes, the move significantly adds to the company’s international presence. In...more

24 Jan 2023 | Press release

Sparks return to Island Records for release of 26th studio album

Most other musicians, when they've been working for over half a century, are resting on their laurels, basking in the warm glow of their heritage, accepting the odd Lifetime Achievement Award, playing the odd Greatest Hits tour and concentrating on...more

24 Jan 2023 | Press release

Lizzo, David Guetta & Becky Hill & Ella Henderson confirmed to perform at The BRIT Awards 2023 with Mastercard

Saturday 11th February, The O2 arena Exclusively broadcast on ITV1 and ITVX   The BRIT Awards 2023 with Mastercard today announce two more performances for the live show on Saturday 11th February.  US pop phenomenon Lizzo will return to the BRITs stage following her incendiary performance in...more

30 Jan 2023

27 Jan 2023

  • Why streaming algorithms keep getting better (see Features)

26 Jan 2023

  • Why artists are ditching major labels to go independent (see Features)

25 Jan 2023

  • Clouty seeks to launch futures market to let streaming companies and rights owners manage risks (see Business)

  • What do we mean by ‘artist-centric’ music streaming models? (see Comment)

24 Jan 2023

  • Spotify cuts 6% of its workforce (see Business)

23 Jan 2023

  • Sam Smith: It’s a shame about the BRIT Awards, there’s so much female talent (see Features)

20 Jan 2023

  • Spotify needs to profit from a music revolution (see Comment)

19 Jan 2023

  • Spotify and Deezer join media firms to urge EU action against Apple's 'unfair' practices (see News)

  • The BBC propose alternative plan to reshape and network local BBC Radio stations (see Media)

  • More reports from the NY:LON conference (see Features)

18 Jan 2023

  • Trade bodies call for BBC Introducing to be saved (see Media)

  • Reports from the NY:LON conference (see Features)

  • Whistleblower claims security guards at Brixton O2 Academy took bribes to let people in without tickets (see News)

17 Jan 2023

  • Nick Cave expresses thoughts on AI songwriting (see Opinion)

  • Publishing company North West Songs launches (see Business)