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?


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? 


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. 


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.


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.

27 Jun 2019 | Press release

Warner Chappell Music signs Monique Lawz

Warner Chappell Music, the music publishing arm of Warner Music Group, has signed a worldwide deal with UK R&B and soul singer-songwriter Monique Lawz. Monique has been building a strong reputation in both the UK and the US, already securing a...more

27 Jun 2019 | Press release

Universal Music Publishing Group signs Idris Elba to global publishing deal

UMPG to sub-publish artists on Elba's record label, 7Wallace   Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), a leading global publishing company, today announced that multitalented artist Idris Elba has been signed to an exclusive, worldwide publishing agreement. A true creative master, Elba is an accomplished musician, songwriter,...more

26 Jun 2019 | Press release

Nile Rodgers to be crowned Artists’ Artist at the 2019 Artist & Manager Awards

The CHIC co-founder and music legend to receive the coveted award for extraordinary innovation and creativity The A&MAs return to the Bloomsbury Big Top on Thursday 14th November     The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) and Music Managers Forum (MMF) are delighted to announce...more

26 Jun 2019 | Press release

Kobalt Signs Pop Singer-Songwriter Hayley Kiyoko

Pop Icon & VMA and Billboard’s Rising Star Award Winner Inks Worldwide Publishing Deal   Kobalt today announced an exclusive worldwide agreement with Hayley Kiyoko. The partnership with Kiyoko includes publishing administration, creative services and synch for all of her catalogue...more

26 Jun 2019 | Press release

Artists United; The Featured Artists Coalition celebrates 10 years

For a decade, the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) has been fighting for equality, recognition, fairness and transparency for music makers. This week the FAC threw a mighty birthday celebration, showing that the only body run by artists, for artists, is...more

25 Jun 2019 | Press release

Pivotal Music Conference, Birmingham - Announces "Houses" and First Content for the Day

- Main Sponsors for 2019 include: ACM, WARM, The MPG, The BPI, ROTOR Videos, AIM, AWAL and Awesome Merchandise- Partners include: CD Baby, Spinnup, Believe,- One Day International Conference returning for second year taking place on the 27th September (09:30...more

25 Jun 2019 | Press release

Help Musicians’ 360-degree Do It Differently Fund supports more artists than ever in latest awardee announcement

57 musicians hailing from the breadth of the UK, performing an eclectic mix of genres, represent the diverse nature of DIY music   Help Musicians UK, the nearly 100-year-old independent charity, is incredibly proud to announce the second cohort of artists supported...more

25 Jun 2019 | Press release

Partisan Records Appoints Theresa Adebiyi as Creative Director

Label Celebrates Wins at Libera Awards   Partisan Records, the independent label with offices in New York, Los Angeles and London, has appointed Theresa Adebiyi as Creative Director. Theresa, whose appointment is effective immediately, joins the company from Ninja Tune, where she was...more

24 Jun 2019 | Press release

BMG Production Music partners with Sounds of Red Bull

BMG Production Music (BMGPM) - the world’s fastest-growing production music company, servicing the film, broadcast, games and advertising industries - has announced its partnership with Red Bull Media House in a deal that will see BMGPM represent its Sounds of...more

24 Jun 2019 | Press release

Latest BPI ‘Wisdom Wednesdays’ event focuses on the music business career paths ‘less travelled’

July 10th panel includes representatives from Warner Music UK, Abbey Road, Lewis Silkin & Kobalt, exploring music careers beyond the traditional roles   UK record labels association the BPI has announced the fifth edition of its popular “Wisdom Wednesdays” event, which returns to Gibson Brands, 61-62...more

21 Jun 2019 | Press release

a-ha's Take On Me video approaches one billion views

a-ha Is Celebrating The Milestone With A Contest That Lets Fans Predict The Exact Date And Time Of When The Iconic Video Will Reach One Billion Views On YouTubeThe Song Is Already The #2 Most-Viewed Video From The ’80s On...more

20 Jun 2019 | Press release

Iceland Airwaves announce 3rd wave of acts


20 Jun 2019 | Press release

Wireless Festival and MelodyVR join forces for live Virtual Reality broadcast

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20 Jun 2019 | Press release

Johnny Marr to Headline Inaugural AIM Awards Live Show & Receive Pioneer Award

BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne to host Roundhouse-based ceremony Award submissions extended until 24th June Iconic guitarist and former Smiths member Johnny Marr is set to showcase his legendary talents as the headliner for AIM Independent Music Awards’ first ever live show. Before...more

20 Jun 2019 | Press release

UK Music throws Summer Party at Southbank Centre

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright paid tribute to UK Music for a “fantastic year” supporting the music industry at our summer party.Speaking at the event attended by a host of senior politicians and music industry leaders at the Southbank Centre, Mr...more

19 Jun 2019 | Press release

Voisey attracts high profile investors ahead of planned US launch

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19 Jun 2019 | Press release

Deezer Launches lyric sharing on Instagram Stories

- New shareable feature allows fans to post favourite lyrics from Deezer- Deezer users can play the full song, direct from Instagram Stories Deezer, the global streaming service, now lets music fans express exactly how they feel through song lyrics on...more

19 Jun 2019 | Press release

The Kerrang! Awards

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18 Jun 2019 | Press release

Next deadline for Steve Reid Innovation Award announced

PRS Foundation and the Steve Reid Foundation today announce that the next deadline for theSTEVE REID INNOVATION AWARD is Thursday 8th August 2019. The initiative provides an opportunity for emerging artists that make outstanding music to receive support in the form of: a grant...more

18 Jun 2019 | Press release

Merlin reveals record revenue distributions in new 2019 Membership Report

Since opening for business, Merlin has paid in excess of $2bn to thousands of independent labels and distributors worldwide. While it took 9 years to distribute our first billion dollars, it has taken only 18 months to distribute our second...more

18 Jun 2019 | Press release

The Shires sign to BMG

UK country phenomenon The Shires have chosen BMG to release their next album. The duo’s first three albums not only garnered near universal critical acclaim, but all three reached the Top 10 Official UK Albums Chart, an unprecedented feat for...more

18 Jun 2019 | Press release

Important update to labels and suppliers on Record Store Day 2020

Ahead of April 2020, Record Store Day UK are making important changes to the submission timeline for labels and suppliers.As RSD approaches its 13th year the organisers have had to consider the most practical and efficient way of coordinating over...more

18 Jun 2019 | Press release

Charles Caldas to step down as Merlin CEO

Charles Caldas has announced that he will step down as CEO of Merlin at the end of 2019 after more than 12 years at the helm of the global digital rights agency. Continuing his current duties until then, Charles is working with the...more

17 Jun 2019 | Press release

Rumer signs to Cooking Vinyl for special Nashville album project

Having already added four artists to their roster earlier this year, Cooking Vinyl’s A&R team are continuing to make big moves, signing a deal with award-winning British singer-songwriter Rumer for a worldwide royalty deal. Dubbed the “heir to Dusty Springfield” by...more

17 Jun 2019 | Press release

KISS switch-up the schedule in time for Summer

KISS have today launched a refreshed daytime schedule, which sees some presenters move into new roles on the station. Alex and Andrea, who have previously teamed up to host ‘Live@KISS’ from 3-7pm on weekdays, now host their own individual shows. Andrea...more

14 Jun 2019 | Press release

Music and Millennials helping to fuel the podcasting boom

New BPI Insight Session report explores dynamics & trends shaping the popularity of podcasts   A new report produced for record labels association the BPI highlights the scale of the current podcasting phenomenon and the extent to which this boom is being driven by...more

13 Jun 2019 | Press release

Jaxsta launches public beta of its pioneering music database

PLATFORM CONTAINS MORE THAN 100 MILLION MUSIC CREDITS ACROSS 25 MILLION WEBPAGES   Jaxsta Limited (ASX: JXT) has launched an open beta of its groundbreaking music database platform (    Founded in 2015 by Jacqui Louez Schoorl and Louis Schoorl, Jaxsta is positioned to...more

13 Jun 2019 | Press release

Concord expands classical and European interests by acquiring Sikorski Music Publishing

Sikorski Music Publishing will be combined with Concord Music Publishing's venerable Boosey & Hawkes division, bringing together two giants of Russian classical copyrights Concord is pleased to announce the acquisition of the esteemed classical music publisher, The Sikorski Music Publishing Group,...more

12 Jun 2019 | Press release

Hipgnosis acquires Sam Hollander catalogue

Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited (“Hipgnosis” or the “Company”) Acquisition of Music Catalogue The Board of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited and its Investment Adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, are pleased to announce that the Company has acquired a music catalogue from Sam Hollander,...more

12 Jun 2019 | Press release

IMRO choose ICE

Irish collecting society appoint ICE for Online Licensing   ICE and IMRO, the Irish Music Rights Organisation, are delighted to announce IMRO has become a direct customer of ICE’s Core Licence. Under the terms of the new agreement, ICE will provide a...more

27 Jun 2019

  • Speculation Vivendi's part sale of UMG may be delayed; plus US may block deal. Post-fire artist outreach plan announced. (see Business, News)

26 Jun 2019

  • 700 additional artists who lost recordings in the Universal Studios fire named. (see News)

25 Jun 2019

  • Hipgnosis reports first annual results. (see Business)

  • Universal Music's 'quiet revolution' to neurodiversity. (see Features)

  • Apple may earn as little as £1m per year from Spotify via 'app tax'. (see Digital)

  • Warner Music UK reports strong profit increase. (see Business)

24 Jun 2019

  • Universal Music Group sued over the fire that destroyed archived recordings. (see News)

  • Spotify wants money back from 'overpayment' to songwriters and publishers. (see News)

21 Jun 2019

  • Industry aims to combat streaming manipulation. (see News)

20 Jun 2019

  • Vivendi in no rush for Universal Music Group sale. (see Business)

  • Wireless Festival to be broadcast live on MelodyVR mobile app. (see Digital)

19 Jun 2019

  • Charles Caldas to step down as CEO of Merlin. (see News)

  • Merlin reports record revenue distributions. (see News)

  • Spotify backs Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency. (see Digital)

18 Jun 2019

  • Physical: Sony proposes closure of distribution site, HMV set to close two city stores. (see Business)

  • Universal's archivist says fire damage 'surprisingly overstated'. (see News)

17 Jun 2019

  • Universal likely to face legal action over 2008 fire losses. (see News)

  • Summer European festival market reported as 'slow'. (see Analysis)

14 Jun 2019

  • Spotify rolls out redesigned app for Premium users - with an increased emphasis on podcasts. (see Digital)