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.

19 Dec 2018 | Press release

Centtrip Music bolsters senior management team

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19 Dec 2018 | Press release

PPL announces quarter four payment details

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18 Dec 2018 | Press release

Callum Caulfield promoted to Marketing Director, Atlantic Records UK

Atlantic Records UK has announced the promotion of Callum Caulfield to Marketing Director, effective immediately. In this role, he will be responsible for leading the strategic development and execution of campaigns for Atlantic’s rich and diverse roster, home to some...more

18 Dec 2018 | Press release

Michelle Escoffery joins PRS Board as Writer Director

Award-winning British singer, songwriter and vocal producer, Michelle Escoffery, has joined the PRS Board as Writer Director. Michelle is celebrated as one of the UK’s most respected songwriters. A member of singing family group, The Escoffery’s, she signed to Atlantic Records...more

18 Dec 2018 | Press release

Universal Music Publishing Group signs HRVY to global publishing deal

Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), a leading global publishing company, today announced that rising British pop sensation HRVY has been signed to an exclusive publishing deal. In 2017, HRVY’s debut EP 'Holiday' featuring Redfoo and Stylo G reached No. 2 on...more

18 Dec 2018 | Press release

The FAC is delighted to announce a very exciting partnership with legendary music instrument maker Roland

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18 Dec 2018 | Press release

BASCA announces new senior hires, new strategy and rebrand in 2019

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17 Dec 2018 | Press release

BASCA announces CEO Vick Bain stepping down

The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) has announced that Chief Executive Officer Vick Bain is stepping down. In her thirteen years at BASCA Vick held several positions before being appointed CEO in 2012.  Following a period of serious ill-health...more

17 Dec 2018 | Press release

Warner/Chappell signs deal with Celeste

Celeste, one of the most exciting young soul songwriters in Britain, has signed a worldwide deal with Warner/Chappell Music, the music publishing arm of Warner Music Group.   The deal comes after news of Celeste’s recent signing to Polydor Records.  The...more

17 Dec 2018 | Press release

New survey reveals boost to diversity among British music industry workforce – but leaders warn more must be done

UK Music today published the results of its 2018 Music Industry Workforce Diversity Survey.    UK Music, the umbrella body representing the UK's commercial music industry, today revealed survey findings that show the changing face of Britain's world-leading music business. The survey, which...more

17 Dec 2018 | Press release

Moira Stuart joins Classic FM

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17 Dec 2018 | Press release

Brit starlet and America's Got Talent finalist Courtney Hadwin signs recording and publishing deal with Syco Music and Arista Records

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16 Dec 2018 | Press release

LyricFind and CAPASSO Launch the World's First Lyric Licensing Agreement Across Sub-Saharan Africa

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16 Dec 2018 | Press release

Joint statement from IFPI and RIAJ on the EU-Japan FTA

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16 Dec 2018 | Press release

Bauer Media signs Dawn French to the Greatest Hits Radio Network

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14 Dec 2018 | Press release

BPI and South Wales Police close down fake Northern Soul vinyl & CD operation

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Soundation unveils new studio and visual identity

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Nordoff Robbins named official charity partner of Rock Choir

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

CEO Alison Wenham steps down at WIN

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Global Underground set to release latest edition in its city album series with GU42: Patrice Bäumel - Berlin next March

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Kacey Musgraves, George Ezra and Andy C presented awards to celebrate first time achievements at the SSE Arena, Wembley

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

MTV honours its top 20 music videos of 2018

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Help Musicians UK's new Do It Differently Fund announces first 22 awardees

Pivotal new fund for independent music creators offers nearly £60k of holistic support across creative, wellbeing and business   Help Musicians UK (HMUK) today celebrated the first 22 music creators who have received funding from the charity's first ever Do it Differently Fund – which...more

13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Flohio, Ms Banks, Novelist, Big Zuu and more: Behind the scenes of the first ever grime and rap songwriting camp

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13 Dec 2018 | Press release

Rightsholders unite in calling for an effective solution to the value gap

As Commission, Parliament and Council meet in Strasbourg to negotiate the Copyright Directive, a broad coalition of rightholders have called for them to remember the original objective of the legislation, which is to correct the distortion of the digital marketplace caused...more

12 Dec 2018 | Press release

Little Mix, BTS, The 1975 and Hollywood megastars host their own Christmas Day show on BBC Radio 1.

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12 Dec 2018 | Press release

Statement from Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music.

Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive of PRS for Music said: “I would like to congratulate Paul on his appointment and look forward to working with him in his new capacity as Chief Executive of the MPA Group of Companies. Paul has given 22 years...more

12 Dec 2018 | Press release

AWAL Signs Worldwide Recordings Deal With Singer-Songwriter Ella Vos & hwyl records, LLC

Following Massive Success of "Words I Never Said", Ella Vos Takes Career to Next Level with AWAL AWAL, Kobalt's recording company, today announced a worldwide recordings deal with Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and visual artist, Ella Vos. The AWAL recordings deal...more

12 Dec 2018 | Press release

Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten partner with Warner Bros. Records for launch of new label, Facet Records

Vinten Will Also Serve as A&R Consultant to Warner Bros. and Warner/Chappell Music  Warner Bros. Records (WBR) today announced that the company has partnered with award-winning songwriter Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten, most recently Co-Head of A&R for Warner/Chappell Music, to...more

12 Dec 2018 | Press release

Sony/ATV signs Ella Mai to worldwide publishing deal

Sony/ATV Music Publishing has signed a worldwide deal with Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Ella Mai whose breakthrough hit “Boo’d Up” is one of the biggest singles of the year. The award-winning song climbed to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100,...more

19 Dec 2018

  • BASCA plans new strategy; makes appointments. (see News)

  • Global recorded music revenues forecast to show increase of 8.2% in 2018. (see Analysis)

21 Dec 2018

20 Dec 2018

18 Dec 2018

  • Ed Sheeran scores highest gross for a touring artist in a single year. (see News)

17 Dec 2018

  • CEO Vick Bain leaves BASCA. (see Business)

  • BPI to push for royalties from US radio plays in future trade agreement. (see News)

  • Music Industry Workforce Diversity Survey shows progress, but more to be done. (see News)

14 Dec 2018

  • Industry groups back calls for the European Parliament to "correct the distortion of the digital marketplace". (see News)

13 Dec 2018

  • Alison Wenham to step down from WIN. (see News)

  • Tencent ends first day trading up 8.6%; looks to subscription model. (see Business, Digital)

  • Paul Clements appointed CEO of The MPA Group. (see News)

  • Final ruling on the Blurred Lines case. (see News)

12 Dec 2018

  • Tencent Music prices shares at bottom of targeted range. (see Business)

  • Industry bodies and artists sign letter calling on the Government for an alternative to Brexit. (see News)

11 Dec 2018

  • Government commits £2m to fund the ongoing Get it Right anti-piracy campaign. (see News)

  • Ed Sheeran's Shape of You becomes the first track to reach 2bn Spotify streams. (see News)

10 Dec 2018

  • Apple acquires Platoon. (see Business)

  • BBC's Sound of 2019 longlist announced. (see News)

  • Grammy awards nominations announced. (see News)